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Israeli Arabs torn on country’s Independence Day

Head of the Arab Joint List party Ayman Odeh explains that for Israeli Arabs, Independence Day is cause for mourning.
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Knesset member Ayman Odeh, the chair of the Arab Joint List party, recalls childhood memories of Israel’s Independence Day in the Mount Carmel neighborhood in his hometown of Haifa. His parents used to say, "This is not our day" and "We are staying home." “So we simply sat at home,” he told Al-Monitor on April 20, the morning after Israel’s 70th Independence Day celebrations. "I also remember the personal sadness in my family, of the uncles uprooted from their homes in 1948, who would return there on that day, cry and mourn their tragedy, the loss of their homeland, of the lands and the lives they had. In our city of Haifa, there were 70,000 Arabs; only 2,000 were left after 1948. Hundreds of villages were destroyed. This is what is known as a national tragedy.”

This gap between the joyous outpouring of the Jews celebrating their statehood and the personal tragedy of the Arabs is encapsulated in Nakba Day, marking the catastrophe of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Over the past two decades, Israeli Arabs have been holding events expressing broad political awareness and a collective national memory.

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