Hazneh Samaían, (Umm Afif)
Testimony collected in preparation for Zochrot's booklet and tour of Suhmata, October 29, 2005.
We were fellahin [peasants]. We would sow tobacco, wheat, lentils, barley, broad beans, chickpeas, sesame, figs, sabras, and grapes. During the tobacco-planting time we would also sow other things. For example, if someone had a few sesame seeds he would plant them on the light soil that wasnít suitable for tobacco.
There were people who were land owners and people who did not have land. Say I had land, when we would plant for example onions and potatoes and broad beans we would call the people who didnít have land and let them sow our land. Our neighbor, for example, would come and help us work the land, and take a bit for her children. The women and men would work the land together and we would eat our noon meal outside, as we worked.
When we left, there were 1500 people in Suhmata. The village was larger than its neighbors, Deir al-Qasi, Maliya and Fassuta. If only we had died before we left Suhmata.
What can I tell you about the neighbors? In my fatherís and motherís time the neighbors would help one another. Relations were very good. The neighbors would come and help my father grow tobacco. There was no difference between Christians and Muslims. We had bee hives and my mother would send honey to her neighbors. To our neighbor Ayisha, our neighbor Amneh. To Heshma and Umm Hussein. I am still in touch with them, and they remember us until today. Some of them even call us from America.
In April, a few months before the occupation of Suhmata, people started to become afraid. Every time they saw something around the village they would be afraid and say ďthe Hagana has come.Ē One time some girls went with their mule to gather tobacco. It rained and they covered their heads with bags. People saw them and thought they were the Hagana. There was one man in the village who served in the Jordanian army and so he went to investigate. The girls were completely terrified. During that time people were afraid because we had heard about the massacre at Deir Yassin and about the killings in many other places.
During the harvest, Abu Afif and I had small children. My sons were three and two years old and a girl a month old. My husband told me that he would go to Lebanon and rent an apartment for us because the situation here was worrisome. We took four mules and a horse and loaded them with our belongings. But after about two months I returned from Ramish (Lebanon) to Suhmata because I didnít like the life there and how people treated us.
Before we left Suhmata we felt that the danger was near. The rescue army came and camped by Kabri. They divided themselves up into units and would eat at peopleís homes. For example, today lunch at my home and dinner at my neighborís home and so on. After a few days Jeddin fell. We did not rely on the rescue army. They didnít have tanks or planes, nothing. They only came and ate at the peopleís homes. In Suhmata there were a few young people who resisted, but there was nothing organized. The residents of Suhmata would go on patrols every night to defend the village. They had no arms. I mean, there were very few weapons Ė old, broken weapons.
The people remained in a state of fear and worry until October. People worried more and more. They took the villages of Kabri and Jeddin and nothing remained but Maliya. Although they worried the people continued to work. Once when my mother was drawing water from our well near the granary, a man came on a horse and asked her for water for his horses and a bit of straw. He took flour from the wheat, and my mother told him, ďTake from the straw.Ē He told her, ďAuntie, you wonít eat from this grain. You work but others will eat.Ē And that is what came to be.
In October we departed from Suhmata. Before us the residents of Safurriya and Lubiya and Hittin had already left. Everyone would pass by our village. We were in the village, life as usual but very afraid. I had a small baby and I sat at home, it was during the olive season. My husband and mother went to pick olives. I was at home, cooking, and suddenly I heard a plane bombing beside the house. Our neighbor had 11 heads of cattle, he made his living from them, prepared milk, labane, samneh, and lived from that. When the plane bombed, the granary caught fire and the barn burned down and all the cows died. Halil Aboud was eating breakfast. He got up and ran to see to his wife and children who were working in the garden. The plane saw him. It was flying very low. Fired on him and he died. The plane circled over the village. People started to run to the gardens and the olive orchards. My uncle Yosef Abu Awad, my fatherís brother, was injured. My motherís uncle was killed.
When we saw all of this, we gathered our clothes and people started to run. In Suhmata there were large olive orchards. Like in the orchards of al-Rama, people hid among the olive trees. The plane left.
At night my husband returned to the house to bring bedclothes. My mother told him not to bring the good mattresses (intended for guests) but the simple mattresses. He went and returned with a mattress and blanket. We could hear the bombing around us, and my husband Abu Afif would say to me, ďDonít be afraid, itís the rescue army!Ē They occupied Suhmata without our taking notice. They arrested the young people who were with us and told us to go off. All of the residents of the village went. There was one woman, Mohammedís mother, who was killed by the pool of the "Deir-Al-Qasi". They caught her before she crossed the road and shot her. We went to the village of Fassuta.
About forty people remained in Suhmata. Elderly people and also young people. They worked in the olive harvest, received 12 grush a day for picking their own olives. They stayed about until Christmas. That night the army surrounded the village, the Jews brought two open trucks. It was raining heavily. They put them on the trucks and drove them away. Among the expelled was Zakhiya Hamada who was sick. On the way she was thirsty and asked for water. My mother gathered the rainwater in her hands and let her drink. After a few minutes she asked them to light a candle because she could not see anything. My mother put her hand on her face, which was cold as ice, because she died.
The trucks reached Biríim. They took the people off and shot at them and they ran to Lebanon. My mother and another two women refused to go before they buried Zakhiya Mohamad Ali Hamada who died on the journey. They wanted to bury her but they couldnít find neither a hoe or a scythe or any other tool. They saw a pile of twigs. They covered her over in twigs, placed her in the middle of the heap, and piled the twigs around the body.
They buried her and went to Ramish (Lebanon), where Kamel al-Nahas, the grand son of my father's aunt. My aunt and my mother went to him. They changed their wet clothes, ate breakfast and lunch. A man came named Shafik Matri from Bakiya, who was at his brotherís in Beirut and passed by my grand son of my father's aunt carrying two mattresses. They asked him where he was going, he said to Bakiya. My mother had a sister in Bakiya. They asked if they could come with him. He told them to carry his mattresses, so each one carried one mattress and they went with him from Ramish to Hurfeish through the thickets and hills until they reached Bakiya. They arrived sick, and they stayed about a month in Bakiya. Later my husband went to bring my mother back to us.
I always dream that we have returned to Suhmata. There is no doubt we will return, if not us, our children or grandchildren. I wish we would return to our village, I wish we had died before the expulsion.