"Welcome to my house," Adnan told us in Arabic through Hanin. He was standing in a specific spot in the middle of a forest. We had driven 20 minutes from Um Il Fahim to a gorgeous and desolate spot in the woods. Until 1948, this forest was Adnan's village. The spot he welcomed us to was the exact place where his family's house had stood—he remembered every detail, every room.
Adnan and his family were expelled from the village of Lajun when he was just a child. They took their house keys and little else with them, because everyone thought that they would be allowed to return shortly. They are still waiting to return.
Two telltale signs alert you to the fact that certain areas used to be Palestinian villages: the first is the stones scattered everywhere on the forest floor, remains of buildings; the second is trees that are not indigenous to the region. Israel plants the trees to cover up the fact that there were once villages in these spots. I will quote Susanne's account of the same day: “The Jewish members of my tour group later reflected to us their horror of realizing that they had paid for these trees growing up. In their U.S. synagogues there was always a box with a sign asking for people's pocket change to 'Plant a Tree in Israel.' They thought they were helping the environment. It turns out they were also helping to cover up former Palestinian villages.”
Adnan bid us farewell and hoped that next time, he would be able to host us as guests in his house.