Wadi Salib was once a vibrant neighborhood and home to wealthy Palestinian families. Aviani shared a story from a former Jewish resident who grew up in one of the multi-family homes owned by a Palestinian family. She said that in Arab homes, gardens were planted in the courtyards between buildings. She remembers her childhood, growing up playing in the beautiful and magical gardens. In April of 1948, on the eve of Israel’s War of Independence, Palestinians fleeing violence left their homes and were later denied the right of return.
After the Palestinian families fled, the Jews who remained tried to maintain the gardens, but lacked the knowledge to care for them properly. The gardens withered and died.
After the war, the Israeli government placed newly arrived immigrants, mostly Mizrahi Jews from North Africa, in these homes. These Mizrahim faced discrimination from the already established Ashkenazi community and government. Few resources were allocated to their neighborhoods, and the once distinctive community of Wadi Salib became neglected and impoverished. Protests against this unequal treatment, including hunger strikes and demonstrations, culminated in a “revolt” in July of 1959 when police shot a local resident, Akiva Elkarif. Crucially, for me, these Jewish protests, including hunger strikes and demonstrations, were supported by Palestinians.
Walking through the streets of Wadi Salib today, looking at the shells of the formerly grand Palestinian homes, I longed to witness a time when children played in verdant gardens.
With development, these buildings and the history they represent will soon be gone, but it’s our responsibility to keep the memory of a past shared existence alive.
We are told in Genesis 2:15, “God settled the human in the garden to till and to tend it.”
The gardens of Wadi Salib represent a past when all residents, Jews and Palestinians, flourished. As humans put here by God, we are charged with tilling and tending the hope of a future wherein all people in the land live in equality and dignity.
As we prepare to receive the Torah anew, I pray that once again gardens may blossom for all those who live in this parched land.