Um Samir Hameed (Sha’b)



I am from Sha’b. I was 20 years old when I left Palestine. From the beginning of us leaving Palestine, the Arabs were preparing tents so that we would leave. They said to us, “You should leave because the Jews will not put up with you, they do not want you in the country. Leave now, it’s better for you”. The Arabs forced us. The women continued taking water to the revolutionaries and fighters.


At the time of a wedding, the girls and young men would line up in a single line. They would carry the clothes of the groom, the blessed groom, and they would circle with the tray, while the groom would circle on a horse.  There would be a seamstress pretending with an empty needle without a thread, just pretending.


“Shave, oh barber, with the silver razor/shave, oh barber, to satisfy him”


Clothes and a wedding dress for the bride: she would go to Yafa or ‘Akka to get the fabric, and give it to the seamstress.  She would put henna on her thumbs and feet the night of the wedding (her friends put the henna on her), and she would have her hair done as well. They would sing for the bride at the time of the wedding as well as at the time of the henna.


When I got married, I went with my mother-in-law[1] to the seamstress and she sewed my clothes and dresses. Later, when the clothes and everything were ready, we went and made the wedding at ‘Anjar (in Lebanon), and they gave me ten pounds.[2]  I bought gold from Beirut — in Sha’b there was no gold and not many traders. Most people were farmers who grew sesame, corn, watermelons, and melons.


During the Eid, they would bake ‘Eid cakes and distribute them in memory of the dead. Children would go to the swings, and buy clothes for the ‘Eid.


The hajj: There wouldn’t be more than one person in the village who would go on the pilgrimage, and the women would all sing for him:


“The pilgrim went by sea, in his hand a keela[3]/ Oh Lord bring him back safe to this family”.


The funeral: Lamenting and wailing! The dead person’s family would pull out their hair, wailing, crying, and beating their bodies. When visiting the grave, the same thing. Actually here it’s easier than in Palestine, they simply weep for a while, and wail. The neighbors used to bring cooked food for the dead person’s family for a period of three days. Afterwards the dead person’s family would cook and distribute food for three days.


I was veiled, I was committed to religion. All girls wore the veil from childhood.


In regard to maquillage, there was nothing of that sort. However, for a bride, a woman would do her makeup, wax her and put makeup on.


Visiting the sick: They would take fruits — grapes, oranges and apples to friends, but if it was a stranger they didn’t take anything for him. There was no doctor in the village they would go to the hospitals of ‘Akka or Haifa, as they were famous for that, everyone went to them. There was a bus that came everyday to the area and took people to ‘Akka.


When a boy was circumcised, there would be singing and celebration and such:

“Circumcise, oh circumciser, with the silver razor/Watch over him, oh  circumciser, until he is alright/ Circumcise, oh circumciser, with the gold razor/Be patient with him until his family comes”.


It was forbidden for a girl to love, or her family would shoot her. It was also forbidden for her to refuse a bridegroom. It had to be as her family wanted.


Women’s gatherings: Most women were busy with agricultural work, such as harvesting watermelons, and picking sesame and olives. The men would cultivate, and the women would help in collecting the watermelons.


It was forbidden to sing on the threshing floor while they were working.


During the harvest season, the young men would rent harvesting machines. But when Israel came, they [Jewish settlers] brought machines that harvested the wheat in a more advanced way.


There were two Christian families [in the village], but they moved to Kfar Yaseef.  All of them [people of Sha’b] were Palestinian and Muslim Arabs.


All of the people in Nahariyya and Tel-Aviv were Christian.[4]


There was a mosque that still stands still now. I know from my sister who lives in Palestine, and the mosque has been very much improved.


Tool: After a stone has been burned, it becomes limestone, and they make a hole, and they buried the person killed for revenge under it.


I used to have an old dress from Palestine. Once I went on a visit to Palestine, and my daughter threw it away, and even my wedding dress, because they were old.


Fishing: There wasn’t any because the sea was far. They used to bring fish from ‘Akka.


There was a well fixed in the ground as a tank with many fountains or faucets bringing forth water.


There was a spring called Al-Ayn and the water was very good and plentiful. They [women] would go collect water from there. It was far from the houses and they would go and play with the jars, and sometimes they would carry them on a donkey. If someone wanted to build he would bring water on a donkey.


Problems: There were party conflicts. Two young men were killed.  At that time there was a committee and a mukhtar but those people didn’t listen to them, so sometimes there was revenge.


The lunar eclipse: The men and the sheikhs would go to the mosque and pray for help: “Our moon! A whale has eaten our moon!”


The foodstuffs they used to make were cheese, butter and oil. People would live for a hundred years, because food was healthy and there were no chemicals in it.


The young men of the village agreed to buy arms at their own expense and to resist the Jews. Many martyrs were lost. There were no organizations, it was only those ready to defend Sha’b.  Israel would come to search for arms and take them, and sometimes they would shoot any man who had a weapon. When the Jews withdrew from our village, they would take horses, cows, and camels… Israel distributed sugar and flour to the shops at one time, or aid came from UNRWA.[5] There were many cases of corruption, people informing on other people, I mean collaborators with the army.


There was love and affection between neighbors. When someone was sick, neighbors would bring wheat, olives and tea cups.


There was no market in the village, they would go to ‘Akka.


[1]  Literally ‘my uncle’s wife’.

[2]  It is probable that Um Samir was married after 1948 in Lebanon. We could not check this as she became very sick after the interview with her was recorded.

[3] A keela was a container for liquid,

[4]  Um Samir is wrong about this: the inhabitants of Nahariyya and Tel-Aviv were Jewish.  We don’t know if she amalgamated Christians with Jews, or simply made a verbal mistake.

[5] Um Samir was not alone in confusing Israel, Britain, America — oppressors of the Palestinians in different epochs. Oral history theorists suggest that the memory works to reorganize time and events, selecting for the most meaningful.


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