I still remember the day in summer 2004 when, on a visit to Palestine/Israel, I stood in a field under the hot sun, staring at piles of stones covered with cacti and undergrowth. These were the remains of Zir’in, a Palestinian village destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948. Like hundreds of other towns and villages—an estimated four out of five Palestinian communities in what became Israel—its inhabitants became refugees, prevented from returning home.
There may not be much trace left of Zir’in, but across Israel you can find countless examples of this “hidden history” if you know what you are looking for, or perhaps if you are simply willing to see it. Eitan Bronstein, founder and director of the Israeli organization Zochrot, understands this distinction.
Bronstein’s family emigrated from Argentina when he was a small boy, pushed by a dire economic situation, and they settled on a kibbutz. “I was involved in the kibbutz’ youth movement,” Bronstein recalls, “and we would have celebrations and festivals at this particular site where there were these ruins I believed to be simply a ‘Crusaders’ fortress.” Much later, Bronstein would learn that these were remains of the Palestinian village of Qaqun, destroyed in 1948 and its residents expelled. Read more