On this day in 1948, an advancing Israeli military marched into Umm Al-Zinat and forcefully depopulated the village at gunpoint. The soldiers then destroyed hundreds of homes, the village mosque, and an elementary school.
Having heard about the Deir Yassin massacre a month prior, the villagers of Umm Al-Zinat in the Haifa district of Palestine braced themselves for an assault. On May 15, 1948, only a few hours after Israel declared itself an independent state, the Golani Brigade’s Fourth Battalion took the village by force and expelled the villagers to nearby towns, including the Druze town of Daliyat Al-Carmel. In a matter of minutes, the 1,500 Palestinians that made up Umm Al-Zinat’s population had all become refugees.
Some villagers watched as their homes collapsed before their eyes. Others, however, were told not to look back if they wanted to escape with their lives. Nobody was allowed to take their belongings with them. The soldiers looted whatever they could and demolished anything that remained standing.
The map above reveals where each individual family lived and where they would have slept that night had there been no campaign to ethnically cleanse the land. It likely took no more than two minutes to walk from Mahmoud Abu-Khalil’s home in the north to Khalil Dabour’s store just meters from the central mosque. Only the ruins remain.
Most of Umm Al-Zinat’s refugees fled to Daliyat Al-Carmel. But before they could work on reestablishing their lives, they were gathered and transported to Jordan. A few of Umm Al-Zinat’s villagers managed to find refugee in the West Bank where they remain today. However, Israel commonly refuses to grant visas to Umm Al-Zinat’s natives, whether they live in Jordan, the West Bank, or elsewhere.
After the village was depopulated and destroyed, the land of Umm Al-Zinat was quickly distributed to Jewish settlers to farm or to the Jewish United Fund to plant trees that would hide the ruins of the village.
Today, the land is fenced off. Cactus plants still grow where they once marked property lines among Umm Al-Zinat’s indigenous population. Stones from old homes lie scattered beneath the shade of sixty-six year old trees. Palestinians living in Israel organize annual demonstrations and vigils near Haifa to bring attention to Umm Al-Zinat and hundreds of other Palestinian villages wiped off the map during the Nakba.
Umm Al-Zinat is Arabic for “Mother of the Beautiful”. Today, it stands as a stark reminder of just how ugly human beings can be.