The story of Arab Ein Houd and the Jewish Ein Hod, one village with two identities in the Carmel Mountains south of the city of Haifa, recounts Palestinian Arab memory covered over by Jewish memory, just as Maurice Halbwachs observes that medieval Christian memory superimposed itself on Jewish memory. A Jewish Israeli artists' colony founded in 1953 has come to replace an agriculturally based Palestinian village of traditional stone houses that traces its establishment to the twelfth century. Twentieth-century Palestinian Arab responses to dispossession, expulsion and forced depopulation from Ein Houd and many other villages are discursively rich, complex and protean. Poems, novels, videotapes, ethnographic and photographic documentation, and an array of expressive activities in diasporic communities have been and are being produced, many with the aim of remedying distortions of omission and commission that eradicate the Palestinian Arab presence on the land. Books dedicated to villages destroyed by Israelis between 1948 and 1953, for example, form part of a large historical and imaginative literature in which the destroyed Palestinian villages are revitalized and their existence celebrated. Equally important, a new Arab Ein Houd - Ein Houd al-Jadidah of the Abu al-Hayja's, a village rebuilt in Israel and named by Palestinians dispossessed of their former village - is an architectural statement of a tenacious Palestinian Arab presence.
This book centers on concepts of memory and how they inflect a reading of a specific place by Arab and Jew, each locating and localizing images, of a radically different past in a specific place: Ein Houd and Ein Hod, both Arab and Jewish. The history includes not only contested nationalist narratives of Palestinian Arabs and Jewish Israelis but also the memory of one man, the artist Marcel Janco, and the ways in which his selective memory of a seminal twentieth-century art movement, Dada, came to serve as the basis for what he and his followers proclaimed to be a new, utopian social formation: the Jewish artists' colony, Ein Hod, established by Janco in Israel in the Arab village of Ein Houd. The task, framed by writings and paintings about Ein Houd or Ein Hod, is to investigative the ways collective memories of Arabs and Jews are constructed and presented through reliance on folklore and oral history. By devoting attention to the written record in the act of being created by participants still immersed in oral tradition, the emergence of self-conscious political cultures, reinforced through acts of commemoration, is charted. The past as it is and has been represented - the inquiry into the archaeology of memory's representations following Michel Foucault - is but a facet of this study. The power of the past as it was lived and is remembered, as it is commemorated and represented, continues to limit, define, and inspire current narratives of Arabs and Jews.

Al 'Awdah: The Gender of Transposed Spaces

To trace the route from exile to the Palestinian homeland when everything is threatened - home, village, and land - the image of woman, frequently a peasant woman, comes to embody the lost Palestinian Arab houses and allows us to see past its ruin. Indeed, the Palestinian peasant woman looms imaginatively larger in the post-1948 era than she did before displacement, according to writer Emil Habibi. In his celebrated work, The Secret Adventures of Saeed the Pessoptimist, Habibi coins the word pessoptimism to express the oxymoron of the Palestinian experience in Israel. During the 1948 expulsions, the hero, Saeed, is forced to accompany an Israeli military governor. They encounter a Palestinian peasant woman and her child on the run, hiding in the fields and terrorized into silence. Eventually the mother utters a few prescient words: the name of her village and that she is trying to return, items of information extracted under duress by fresh threats of violence against her offspring:

After continuing for a few minutes he [the Israeli military governor] brought the jeep to a sudden halt and jumped from it like a shot, his gun in his hand. He raced into the sesame stalks, parting them with his paunch. I saw a peasant woman crouching down there, in her lap a child, its eyes wide with terror.
"From which village?" demanded the governor.
The mother remained crouching staring at him askance, although he stood right over her, huge as a mountain.
"From Berwah?" he yelled.
She made no response but continued to stare at him.
He then pointed his gun straight at the child's head and screamed, "Reply or I'll empty this into him!"

Saeed, the luckless Palestinian "pessoptimist" commandeered to assist the Israeli officer, witnesses this scene. Though Saeed is prepared to defend the unnamed and silent peasant woman, he narrates her terse response, words that resound through the ensuing decades. The Palestinian peasant woman answers her interrogator, the military governor: "'Yes, from Berwah.' 'Are you returning there?' he demanded. 'Yes returning.'" Readers are not given the woman's name, only the name of her former village, and her goal and desire: al-'awdah (the return). The tale concludes with the governor cursing and yelling at the woman to run to the east, never to return lest she and her offspring be shot by him: "The woman stood up and, gripping her child by the hand, set off toward the east, not once looking back. Her child walked beside her, and he too never looked back".
Under the male gaze of the colonizing Jewish Israeli and the colonized Palestinian Arab, mother and a child are chased from Berwah (al-Birwah) in the western Galilee, one of the many Palestinian Arab villages forcibly depopulated and destroyed [Nazzal]. Since its destruction, al-Birwah has gained fame as the former home, and therefore frequent subject, of one of Palestine's greatest living poets, Mahmoud Darwish.
Habibi's pessoptimist protagonist assumes the departing child fleeing into exile with the woman is male, and asks himself whether it is indeed this child who became the most eloquent and poetic voice of the Palestinian dispossession and exile: "Was he [Darwish] this very child? Had he gone on walking eastward after releasing himself from his mother's hand, leaving her in the shadows?" Habibi proposes a futuristic interpretation when both Palestinian Arab hero and Jewish Israeli governor experience an odd visual phenomenon, one the hero chooses to interpret as extraterrestrial. As memory reviews the traumatic events of 1948, the hero recalls seeing mother and child heading eastward:

At this point I observed the first example of that amazing phenomenon that was to occur again and again until I finally met my friends from outer space. For the further the woman and the child went from where we were, the governor standing and I in the jeep, the taller they grew. By the time they merged with their own shadows in the sinking sun they had become bigger than the plain of Acre itself. The governor stood there awaiting their final disappearance, while I remained huddled in the jeep. Finally he asked in amazement, "Will they never disappear?"

What happened to the mother, the Palestinian peasant woman torn from her home, who disappears into the shadows? And the child? What are the ways in which mother and child, even as they have been forced to retreat from geographical Palestine, have grown in stature? Both refuse to disappear. Why? "The further the woman and child went from where we were [. . .] the taller they grew" is a response to exile and dispossession, the rhetorical and figurative creation and aggrandizement of a set of cultural images about women. Repeated intertextually and circulated in literature, art, and folklore are tropes of the Palestinian woman as mother and motherland, home and homeland, lover and beloved.
When the poet "Umar Abu al-Hayja" apostrophizes from the Jordanian refugee camp about his unseen village, Ein Houd, he calls forth a confluence of symbols equating the feminine, in this instance, with Ein Houd, a place he metaphorically transforms into the peasant woman ululating at the traditional Palestinian wedding. House, home, and woman form aspects of the Palestinian national identity, gendered categories that derive their power and specificity from the familiar image of the nation as a female body.


Consider the possibility, not found in Habibi's novel, that the child walking into exile with the Palestinian peasant woman is not a boy, not an extraterrestrial alien, but a girl. If so, she and her younger sisters will be named after the village they were forced to flee. It is common cross-culturally in both Arab and Jewish practice to name children after close family members to ensure, magically and apotropaically if only in name, that something of the departed lives.* The right of naming is inseparable from battles over land and language, such as the right to name the territory of historical Palestine. The poet Hanna Abu-Hanna argues that, especially for the embattled Palestinian Arabs of Israel, "land (al-ard) and language (al-lughah) are the two essential bases for the preservation of our existence." Place-names are fiercely contested by Arabs and Jews - Arab names are Hebraicized by Jews, and Hebrew names are deemed redeemed when they have reverted from Arabic.
In the midst of many Arabic-Hebrew language battles, a new, post-1948 naming tradition had emerged reflecting the various fates suffered by the Palestinian Arab population. In Israel, those remaining "inside" (al-dakhil), many of whom are internal refugees from their destroyed and depopulated villages, regrouped in different locales to create new definitions of kinship structure. Post-1948 conditions of displacement gave rise to circumstances in which a person from the destroyed village of Ruways, for example, would take the surname Ruwaysi - someone from Ruways - instead of the customary clan eponymic. Village solidarity stands in place of the absent village and dispersed clan members:

The name of the original village replaced the name of the hamula, and the relationship among persons who belonged to the same original village became similar to hamula solidarity. The hamula did not disappear or weaken, but some of its basic functions were transferred to the wider kinship structure based on locality. [al-Haj 1987, 72]

For those exiled outside Palestine and in the grip of places from which they were forced to leave, another convention is to name children for the lost but not forgotten site. Toponyms are eponyms, unlike a famous Jewish Israeli example in which artist Gedalya Ben Zvi and his wife named their second son Hod (glory), to mark the first child born in the found place, the Jewish artists' village of Ein Hod - "Hod: first grown seed of this artist village" writes Norman Lewis in a poem of celebration. Among Palestinian Arabs, the practice of naming a child after a lost or destroyed place seems to be reserved for daughters rather than sons. Muhammad Mubarak Abu al-Hayja' of Ein Houd al-Jadidah chose the name Sirin for his daughter to commemorate a destroyed Palestinian village, in the Baysan district, home to the greater Abu al-Hayja' clan before 1948. Afif Abdul Rahman Abu al-Hayaja', who lives in Irbid, Jordan, named his daughter Haifa after the town where he was born. Hod chooses not to live in Ein Hod, residing instead in the town of Maale Adumim [Ben Zvi]; Sirin cannot live in Sirin because it is destroyed, and Haifa, a Palestinian in Jordan, is barred from Haifa. Examples proliferate: Nazmi Jubeh, a professor at Birzeit University, has a daughter named Baysan, the appellation of an entire district now in Israel; one of the names given to the granddaughter of sociology professor Ibrahim Abu-Lughod is Jaffa, his former home town. Also pronounced Yafa, it is a popular post-1948 name for Palestinian girls. There are more: female children are named Safad to mark a town depopulated of its Arab inhabitants and Karmil for the mountains they cannot visit. After the 1967 war, a fresh list of girls' names came into existence to commemorate the latest group of threatened places in the Occupied West Bank. Wasif Abboushi, for example, who resides in the US, called his daughter Jenin, a name that passes easily into English as Janine.
Such new, post-1948 naming traditions for daughters undercut traditional anthropological accounts of the patriarchal Arab family that use as evidence the enduring value of the male and his name, in theory, opposed to the less important female offspring, however beloved she may be within the family circle: "In the expansion and continuance of the family name, in the holding of property, the acquisition of wealth and defending of the interests of the clan, sons and not daughters were and are still the precious gifts of God" [Canaan 1927, 162]. When property and lands are confiscated and the clan dispersed to exile, the weight of place-names may supplement, if not supersede, clan names despite, or perhaps because, they are currently given to women.
The new tradition of assigning destroyed village place names to girls has some basis in earlier naming practices. Place names expand on a traditional Palestinian principle of assigning a child's name according to the special circumstances that surround his or her birth. Folklorist Taufik Canaan lists examples that read as a family album. Parents producing too many daughters, Canaan noted in the 1920s, would name the newest, youngest female Muntaha (the last), Tamam or Kafa (it suffices), Ziadeh (too much), and Zmiqna (we are tired). A long-awaited baby girl arriving after many brothers would be called Wahideh (the only one, the unique) [Canaan 1927,169].
Place possesses history and narrative. When place is gone, it is recuperated in two ways: naming the daughter and telling the story. When a father calls out to a daughter, pronouncing the name of the town or village he can no longer inhabit or visit, he conjoins a lost past and a vivid present in her person. She is surrogate, a means of linking a place in time and in space, allowing an older, dispossessed generation to address simultaneously the biological daughter and the historical motherland. The daughter's name is a mnemonic resource, but, more important, it evokes, just as she must continue to do, a prelapsarian realm of virtues and values. Place, attached as a name to a woman, thereby becomes an active agent of commemoration. By these means, Palestinian women do not become the principal narrators of the lost Palestinian history; rather, it is inscribed on their person. Nonetheless, active agency by women resides in taking on the multiple meanings of one's names, effectively so in the case of Hanan Mikhail Ashrawi, a high-ranking politician, activist, and teacher, who finds an explanation in the Palestinian naming tradition to account for her participation in historical and national events through speeches and writings:

My name means "tenderness." True to the Arab, and generally Semitic, tradition, we Palestinians attach a great deal of significance to names - their meaning and music, historical allusion and authenticity, identification and identity. More often than not our names are a form of indulgence in wishful thinking, rather than descriptive accuracy as in the case of rather homely daughters called Hilweh or Jamileh for "pretty" or "beautiful"[...] But most important, our long series of names are proof of lineage, or roots for a people uprooted, of continuity for a history disrupted, and of legitimacy for an orphaned nation.[. . .] Hanan Daud Khalil Mikhail (Awwad)-Ashrawi is my personal and collective narrative. I am Tenderness, the daughter of David, who is the son of Khalil (Abraham) from the family of Michael (also the name of an ancestor), which is of the clan Awwad (the one who inevitably returns).[132-34]

Woman as House and as Builder

[. . .] To narrate and write, and, yes, to remain selectively silent, are strategies to bring the land back into existence. All descriptions of Palestine as a contested, colonized space discursively constructed by Palestinian Arab and Jewish Israeli texts illuminate gender issues where interactions between colonizer and colonized are imagined as relations between males and females: the traditional stone house, identified as one embodiment of the Palestinian woman, is currently occupied by the Israeli colonizer, which usurpation renders Palestinians of both sexes homeless and stateless. Theoretical parallels can be drawn between the feminization of the colonized landscape and a spatial history of Palestine conceived as the indigenous woman penetrated, raped, conquered, mapped, and under surveillance by the colonizer. The Palestinian woman is made to stand for the destroyed villages and the dispossessed land. She represents the "national allegory" of the lost Palestine homeland in much literary and visual imagery as the feminine sphere reproducing, literally and figuratively, the nation.
Inside and outside spaces, nonetheless, do not easily align into stable categories of female and male. In contemporary Israel, housing construction is illegal for Palestinians, male or female, and its horrific opposite, house demolition, is mandated by the prevailing social and legal order. Gender distinction relegating woman to the inside and elevating men to the privileged outside collide with formulations that celebrate all the Palestinians of Israel, who remain on the ancestral land as the samidin (steadfast inhabitants) living "inside" in relation to a majority of the nation forcibly exiled "outside." As the Abu- al-Hayja's of Ein Houd al-Jadidah have discovered, in the territory of the "inside" - frequently consigned to the weak, the marginalized, and the female - where Arabs inhibit the locales of Israeli-Palestinian bilingual, cross-cultural contacts, there is no longer space for the fida'i (freedom fighter) and the shahid (martyr). But there is always space for the remembered past, for collective memory, and for place as memory.

* I am named, for example, after my father's mother, who was gassed in Auschwitz; my brother carries the names of both paternal and maternal grandfathers, killed in Theresienstadt and Mathausen concentration camps respectively; one of my son's given names is also that of my maternal grandfather while another given name commemorates my [Arab] husband's father; and so on.


The Object of Memory (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1999), pages xii, 199-209.
Abu Hanna, Hanna. March 29, 1990. "al-Ard wa-al-lughah." al-Sinarah.
Ashrawi, Hanan Mikhail. 1995. This Side of Peace. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Ben Zvi, Gedalya. August 7, 1991. Interview, Ein Hod.
Canaan, Taufik. 1927. "The Child in Palestinian Arab Superstition." Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society 7.4.
Habibi, Imil. 1985. The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessopimist. Tr. Salma Khadra Jayyusi and Trevor Le Gassick. London: Zed Books.
Al-Haj,Majid. 1987. Social Change and Family Processes: Arab Communities in Shefar-A'm. Boulder: Westview Press.
Lewis, Norman. 1964. "Hod, First-born Son of Ein Hod and His Crayons." In Norman Lewis, Ein Hod. Tel Aviv: n.p.
Nazzal, Nafez Abdullah. 1974. "The Zionist Occupation of Western Galilee, 1948." Journal of Palestine Studies 3.3: 72-76.