Kafr Bir’im (Nakba Place)

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On a trip to see a third century synagogue, we stumbled upon these more recent remains. The village of Bir’im was a Maronite Christian village whose inhabitants were expelled internally during the 1948 War of Independence. The order was supposed to be temporary. In 1952 the Israeli Supreme Court demanded that the authorities explain why the villagers were not allowed to return. In 1953 the village was razed. Descendants of Bir’im continue to rally for their right of return to the village, as do the descendants of the village of Iqrit. There’s a lot of information online about the place and its history, ancient, medieval, and modern.

Most likely descendants of the village, there were Palestinian Israeli families on a picnic at the benches set up in the park established at the synagogue site, just a little down the way from the village. You can walk up to and around the village church, which was not destroyed and which is still in use, and walk down a small decline through the skeleton of an alley past this and that architectural shell. Green, stony, and overgrown, a quiet dignity hangs over and around the place.

There’s no mystery here. It’s not fenced off. It’s there, not even hidden in plain sight next to an officially recognized  architectural park. It’s nothing I have ever seen before and something I should have seen a long time ago. An important historical place, this nakba-place needs to be part of the larger “narrative.” Whatever one’s political orientation, there’s no reason to shy away from these kinds of place and what they represent. I don’t see how one can do so with good intellectual conscience.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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