Nakba day: “My hope is to return to Palestine and live in peace”

Today marks the 71st anniversary of the Nakba, or ‘Catastrophe’, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from or fled their homes due to the actions of armed groups during the creation of the State of Israel. More than half of the Palestinian population was displaced as hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were emptied of their inhabitants and destroyed.

Around 100,000 Palestinian refugees found shelter in Lebanon. Today there are 450,000 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in the country, and they continue to endure dire conditions including marginalisation, poverty and dependency on international aid. In our “Health in Exile” report of last year, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) set out some of the challenges resulting from restrictions to their civil and political rights in Lebanon and the ongoing denial of their right to return.

MAP has worked in Lebanon since 1982, and continues to stand firmly for the rights to health and dignity of our Palestinian refugee colleagues, partners, and the communities we serve. Here are some of the thoughts from staff in MAP’s team in Lebanon on the Nakba and their lives as Palestinian refugees:

What are some of the strongest memories you have heard from friends and relatives about Palestinian life before the Nakba?

“They used to have a simple yet happy life. They used to grow crops and eat from the food that they grew. In the village, they used to cook and eat all together.”

What do you think your life would have looked like if there was no Nakba and you stayed home in Palestine?

“For sure my life would have been much better if it was not for the Nakba and the Israeli occupation. We [Palestinians] would have been living in our own country. We would have had social security services that we are allowed to benefit from. We would have been able to benefit from the government’s public healthcare and education services and not have to rely on UNRWA to provide these services.”

When you were growing up did your family receive support from UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services and humanitarian support to Palestinian refugees?

Yes, we studied at UNRWA schools. They used to give us books and stationary for free to use during the school year. I even heard from my parents that, in the past, they were offered a meal at UNRWA schools- which was no longer the case when I was growing up. In the years following 1948, UNRWA services were very good and developed well to accommodate the needs of the refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. However, over the years, the services started to be reduced and the coverage became less and less. For example, for hospitalisation, UNRWA covers a part of the hospital bill, but the refugees are not able to afford the remaining part of the bill. Palestinians in Lebanon have very difficult conditions. I don’t think the services provided to them are compatible with their growing needs.”

What is life like for young Palestinian refugees in Lebanon today?

The life of young Palestinians in Lebanon is very bad today. I have a son and a daughter and I worry about them a lot. I know their life will not be easy. Nowadays, many employers have policies to not recruit Palestinians.”

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope the situation for Palestinians in Lebanon changes – I am not sure how- but I hope it becomes better. The situation and conditions of Palestinians in Lebanon are the worst compared to other countries hosting Palestinian refugees. For sure, I hope to be able to return to Palestine one day.”

 “My hope is to return to Palestine and live in peace.”

If you would like to support MAP’s work in Lebanon, please donate today:


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