“When We Fled” Explores Palestinian-Canadians’ Stories of the Nakba


May 15th is designated Nakba Day by Palestinians. It commemorates the “catastrophe” that befell the Palestinian people as they were violently expelled from their homes and villages by Zionist militias in 1947/48. In remembrance, NECIP launches a video series documenting the stories of these victims.

The Catastrophe

While May 15th is the day chosen to commemorate the Nakba, it didn’t happen on a single day. It was process that started in December 1947, the day after the UN vote to partition Palestine, and continued for more than a year. By the time the new state of Israel had signed armistice agreements with its Arab neighbours, more than 10,000 Palestinian civilians had been killed and over 750,000 expelled from their homeland.

And in a sense it can be said that the Nakba continues today, with thousands of Palestinian refugees trapped in refugee camps like Yarmouk in Syria, Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, and camps in Gaza and even inside the West Bank. Those who escaped from Palestine scattered around the world, seeking refuge as best they could. Gulf countries, Europe, Australia, America. But a small number – we don’t  know how may exactly but perhaps as many as1,000 – ended up in Canada and became Canadians.

Although it took place 67 years ago, those who lived through the horror of the Nakba still remember it clearly. They remember the Zionist militias, the shelling, the bombing, tank attacks, and the humiliation of running and hiding like scared animals. They also remember the loss of their homes and villages and even loss of family members. The youngest Nakba survivors are now 67 years old. Those who remember it are in their ‘70’s and even ‘80’s or ‘90’s.

Sharing Their Stories

You may have already encountered these survivors. They work in your offices, they volunteer at you community centres, they provide daycare for your children. Although they are beside you, you may never have known that in their lifetime they experienced deadly fear, terrible violence, shattered families, abandoned homes and permanent exile.

These life stories rarely see the light of day, and this is why the National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine (NECIP) has launched “When We Fled”, a video series aimed at sharing the first person stories of Palestinian-Canadians who survived the Nakba.

Our first episode tells the story of Samiha Barakat who was just 6 years old when her family fled her home in Jaffa. Her life would take her to Gaza, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, and eventually she would settle in Canada.

People from the Palestinian community willing and able to share their first person or family accounts of the Nakba are encouraged to contribute their personal stories to the series.

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