Saint George and Palestine

 Children's Art Competition

The Life of Saint George

The Dragon Story

Lydda

Al Khader village near Bethlehem

Palestinian traditions about Saint George and Al Khader

A tale of Al Khader

Saint George and  England

How the village of Taybah got its name

Saint George / Al Khader Links

You Tube video on Muslims and Saint George

Downloads and book orders

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Audeh Rantisi was an 11 year old Refugee from Lydda. Extract from his book  Blessed are the Peacemakers: The Story of a Palestinian Christian. ISBN No. 0-86347-581 7  

... Outside the gate the soldiers stopped us and ordered everyone to throw all valuables onto a blanket. One young man and his wife of six weeks, friends of our family, stood near me. He refused to give up his money. Almost casually, the soldier pulled up his rifle and shot the man. He fell, bleeding and dying while his bride screamed and cried...

After more than four decades I still bear the emotional scars of the Zionist invasion. Yet, as an adult, I see what I did not fully understand then: that the Jews are also human beings, themselves driven by fear, victims of history's worst outrages, rabidly, sometimes almost mindlessly searching for security. Lamentably, they have victimized my people.

And in Death March 

DAY THREE This was the day most would die.

The heat felt worse than ever, and the lack of water began to take its toll. Many of us —  staggered and fell by the wayside, either dead or dying in the scorching heat.

Scores of pregnant women miscarried, their babies left for jackals to eat.

I can still see one infant beside the road, sucking the breast of its dead mother.

The wife of my father’s cousin, Yacoub, became so thirsty she could go on no longer. She slumped to the ground and died. Not being able to carry her, we wrapped her in cloth and, after saying a prayer, left her body beside a tree...

 Some people were so thirsty and desperate that they drank their own urine.

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On 12th July 1948 Lieutenant Colonel Yitzhak Rabin signed an order that "The residents of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age." Yitzak Rabin later bacame Israeli Prine Minister.

After attacking Lydda 
Ben-Gurion would repeat the question: What is to be done with the population?, waving his hand in a gesture which said: Drive them out!.
'Driving out' is a term with a harsh ring, .... Psychologically, this was on of the most difficult actions we undertook.  
Yitzak Rabin diaries published as 'Soldier of Peace'

Great Suffering was inflicted upon the men taking part in the eviction action. [They] included youth-movement graduates who had been inculcated with values such as international brotherhood and humaneness. The eviction action went beyond the concepts they were used to. There were some fellows who refused to take part. . . Prolonged propaganda activities were required after the action . . . to explain why we were obliged to undertake such a harsh and cruel action.  In the New York Times  October 22, 1979

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Newspaper reports

Kenneth Bilby  a New York Herald Tribune, correspondent  accompanied the Israeli attackers. 

Moshe Dayan led a jeep commando column into the town of Lydda with rifles, Stens, and sub-machine guns blazing.  It coursed through the main streets, blasting at everything that moved ... the corpses of Arab men, women, and even children were strewn about the streets in the wake of this ruthlessly brilliant charge.

A British correspondent in The Economist

The Arab refugees were systematically stripped of all their belongings before they were sent on their trek to the frontier.  Household belongings, stores, clothing, all had to be left behind.

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Count Folke Bernadotte UN Special Mediator to the Middle East 

Before we left Jerusalem, I visited Ramallah, where thousands of refugees from Lydda and Ramieh were assembled. I have made the acquaintance of a great many refugee camps; but never have I seen a more ghastly sight than that which met my eyes here at Ramailah ... There were plenty of frightening faces in that sea of suffering humanity. I remember not least a group of scabby and helpless old men with tangled beards who thrust their emaciated faces into the car and held out scraps of bread that would certainly have been considered uneatable by ordinary people, but was their only food-.  And what would happen at the beginning of October, when the rainy season began and the cold weather set in?  It was a thought one preferred not to follow to its conclusion.

A former vice chairman of the Swedish Red Cross during World war two Count Folke Bernadotte was responsible for saving at least 6 500 Jews from Nazi concentration camps. On 17th September 1948 he was assassinated by members of the Zionist terrorist Stern Gang acting on the orders of Yitzak Shamir, who later became an Israeli Prime Minister.

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UNITED NATIONS RESOLUTION 194
Dec. 11, 1948

General Assembly Resolution 194

  

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible

 

 

 

 

Lydda 
The home town and burial place of Saint George


Lydda Mosque and the Church of Saint George 1896

The tomb of Saint George can be visited in Lydda. It is very close to Ben Gurion international airport, for visitors flying to the Holy land. The tomb is under the Greek Orthodox church of Saint George. If the church is locked the key is available from a house opposite. Sharing a courtyard garden with the church is a mosque named after Al Khader and Omar. The earliest account of a visit to his tomb is by the pilgrim Theodosius from about 530.

Saint George’s Day

Saint George’s feast day is on 23rd April at the height of spring. In Palestine this is celebrated according to the Julian calendar followed by Orthodox Christians. So they celebrate Saint George’s day on the western 6th May.

On 16th of November, the day when tradition states that Saint George was buried, there is a festival that marks the end of the Olive Harvest. In Lydda and in Al Khader Christians and Muslims attend these festivals.

The Death March from Lydda

Israeli soldiers moved into Lydda on 11th July, 1948. 19 000 Palestinians lived in Lydda but its population had been swollen by refugees from Jaffa and from outlying villages to about 40 000. 

Palestinians taken prisoner were executed in the Dahmash Mosque The people were forced to leave the town, usually without most of their belongings. Some who were slow to hand over valuables to the Israeli soldiers were killed. 

This was during a very hot summer. Temperatures reached 40 degrees centigrade. The refugees were short of water. It was three days before they reached safety near Ramallah. By then at least 350 had died of thirst or exhaustion.

Israelis now call Lydda Lod. Today just 20% of the population of Lydda/Lod are Palestinian.

The expulsions from Lydda and the nearby town of Ramleh remain a deep scar in the collective Palestinian memory. This is because of the numbers expelled, the number killed and the horrors of the death march. But this was not the only horror of the 'Nakba' (catastrophe) for the Palestinians that accompanied the foundation of the state of Israel. About 750 000 Palestinians were expelled from the new state of Israel. Many of those who were able to remain in Israel became 'Internal Refugees' with their property, homes, businesses and land confiscated. 418 Palestinian villages were entirely depopulated. 

Sands of Sorrow is a 1950 documentary about life in Palestinian Refugee Camps. In the early years conditions were so bad that 4 out of 5 kids under the age of 6 months died because of disease and malnutrition.

The Website Palestine Remembered is an excellent source on the 'Ethnic Cleansing ' of Palestinians in1948. For Lydda go to this page. For quotes from Israeli sources about Lydda go to this page.


The Road to Nowhere by Ismail Shammout 1930-2006. He was expelled from Lydda in 1948. The plight of the refugees is depicted in many of his most famous paintings.

In '48 Israel Did What It Had to Do
The full article can be read on the Zionist website Palestinefacts

Israeli Historian Benny Morris - Monday, January 26, 2004 Los Angeles Times

On July 12, 1948, Israeli soldiers battling the Arab Legion and local irregulars in the towns of Lydda and Ramle, just south of Tel Aviv, were ordered to empty the two towns of their Arab residents. Over two days, between 50,000 and 60,000 inhabitants were driven from their homes. Many were forced to walk eastward to the Arab Legion lines; others were carried in trucks or buses. Clogging the roads, tens of thousands of refugees marched, shedding their possessions along the way.

The expulsions, conducted under orders from then-Lt. Col. Yitzhak Rabin, were an element of the partial ethnic cleansing that rid Israel of the majority of its Arab inhabitants at the very moment of its birth. Earlier, in the 1930s and 1940s, a near consensus had emerged among Zionist leaders on the necessity of "transfer." They believed that it was critical to buy out or drive out the Arab inhabitants from the areas destined for Jewish statehood, both to make way for Jewish immigrants and to remove the Arabs who opposed, often violently, the establishment of such a state.

...  one way or another, transfer was accomplished; 700,000 Palestinians left the country, and the refugee problem that has haunted Israel ever since was born.

...Had the belligerent Arab population inhabiting the areas destined for Jewish statehood not been uprooted, no Jewish state would have arisen, or it would have emerged so demographically and politically hobbled that it could not have survived. It was an ugly business. Such is history.

Israel's decision was not unprecedented, nor was it necessarily immoral... Had most Palestinians not left the country, there would be no Israel today.

Benny Morris on what happened in Lydda

On July 12 [1948] Ramle and Lydda were occupied by Zionist forces and a curfew was imposed. At 11:30 a.m., many Lydda inhabitants, shut up in their houses, took fright at the sudden outbreak of shooting outside. Some rushed into the streets, only to be cut down by Israeli fire... In the confusion, many unarmed detainees in the detention areas in the centre of town – in the mosque and church compounds – were shot and killed.… At 13:30 hours, July 12, before the shooting had completely died down, Operation Dani HQ issued the following order to Yiftah Brigade: “The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age.”  The Middle East Journal”, vol. 40, No. 1, Winter 1986, pp. 86-87   [ Note how he excuses the execution of detained prisoners of war as 'confusion'!]

Benny Morris on The Death March 

 in “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949

All the Israelis who witnessed the events agreed that the exodus, under a hot July sun, was an extended episode of suffering for the refugees, especially from Lydda… Guttman [Israeli archaeologist and member of Kibbutz Na’an, part of the mainstay of the Palmach, including the 3rd Battalion that entered Lydda] described the trek of the Lydda refugees: “A multitude of inhabitants walked one after another. Women walked burdened with packages and sacks on their heads. Mothers dragged children after them…Occasionally, warning shots were heard.“

One Israeli soldier (probably 3rd Battalion), from Kibbutz Ein Harod, a few weeks after the event recorded vivid impressions of the thirst and hunger of the refugees on the roads, and of how “children got lost” and of how a child fell into a well and drowned, ignored, as his fellow refugees fought each other to draw water. Another soldier described the spoor left by the slow-shuffling columns [beginning with] “utensils and furniture and in the end, bodies of men, women and children, scattered along the way.“ Quite a few refugees died – from exhaustion, dehydration and disease – along the roads eastward, from Lydda and Ramle, before reaching temporary rest near and in Ramallah.


A drop of water by Ismail Shammout 1930-2006

Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe

In The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

On 10 July 1948 David Ben-Gurion appointed Yigal Allon as the comander of the attack and Yitzhak Rabin as his second in command.  Allon ordered al-Lydda to be bombarded from the air, the first city to be in this way.  This was followed by a direct attack on the city's centre, caused all the remaining ALA volunteers to leave: some had fled their positions earlier on learning that the Jordanian Legion units, stationed near city, had been instructed by their British chief, Glubb Pasha, to withdraw.  As both Lydd and Ramla were clearly within the designated Arab state, the residents and the defendants had assumed that the Legion would resist the Israeli occupation by force.

Deserted by both the volunteers and the Legionaries, the men of Lydda, armed with some old rifles, took shelter in the Dahamish Mosque in the city centre.  After a few hours of fighting they surrendered, only to be massacred inside the mosque by the Israeli forces.  Palestinian sources recount that in the mosque and in the streets nearby, where the Jewish troops went on yet another rampage of murder and pillage, 426 men, women and children were killed (176 bodies were found in the mosque).  The following day, 14 July, the Jewish soldiers went from house to house taking the people outside and marching about 50,000 of them out of the city towards the West Bank (more than half of them were already refugees from nearby villages) .

Michael Palumbo in The Palestinian Catastrophe

A young female member of the Palmach, recalled that a soldier 'went through the streets of Lydda with loudspeakers and promised everybody who would go inside a certain mosque that they would be safe.' Hundreds of Arabs entered the Dahmash Mosque believing that nothing would happen to them if they sat quietly with their hands on their head. But according to Ben Yehuda 'something did happen.' In retaliation for a grenade attack after the surrender which killed several Israeli soldiers, over eighty Arab prisoners were machine-gunned to death... The Dahmash Mosque massacre terrorized the people of Lydda.

British General John Glubb, Commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion, in “A Soldier with the Arabs,” Harper, 1957

No sooner were the enemy in the towns [Lydda and Ramle] than they set about an intensive house-to-house search, all men of military age being arrested and removed to concentration camps. Then Israeli vans fitted with loudspeakers drove through the streets, ordering all the remaining inhabitants to leave within half an hour...Suffice it to say that houses were broken into and women sufficiently roughly handled to give point to the warning to be clear of the town in that time.

Perhaps thirty thousand people or more, almost entirely women and children, snatched up what they could and fled from their homes across the open fields. The Israeli forces not only arrested men of military age, they also commandeered all means of transport. It was a blazing day in July in the coastal plains — the temperature about a hundred degrees in the shade. It was ten miles across open hilly country, much of it ploughed, part of it stony fallow covered with thorn bushes, to the nearest Arab village at Beit Sira. Nobody will ever know how many children died…

It is true of course that the persecuted Jews of Europe suffered far worse tortures, but these were not inflicted upon them by the Arabs of Palestine. One would have hoped that people who had suffered as much anguish as have the Jews would have sworn never to inflict on others the tortures which they themselves had endured. The Arab Legion endeavoured to fight the Israeli army but not to injure civilians. Perhaps nowadays such standards are obsolete.

Some Other Sources

The Palestinian Catastrophe, Then and Now by Sandy Tolan is mostly about the ethnic cleansing of Lydda. 

What really happened in the conquest of Lod? By Tom Segev

Testimonies of some Palestinians from Lydda

 

 

 

 

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