|Abu Mamun has lived in Ein el Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon since he fled his |
Palestinian village in 1948
The issue of land ownership endures as one of the most wrenching issues for Palestinians who left homes, livelihoods and land behind in 1948.
Al Jazeera's Casey Kauffman travelled to Ein el Hilweh refugee camp in the south of Lebanon where he met one Palestinian man for whom land is a matter of pride and dignity.
Abu Mamun escaped from his Palestinian village, once called Ras al Ahmar, in 1948. As he was waiting on the Lebanese border for the Arab Liberation Army to fight off the Jewish militias, he decided to go back under cover of night for his land ownership documents.
"The Israeli massacre in Safsaf was next to our town. We were scared and we ran away to Lebanon.
|Abu Mamun still has his land |
"We had nothing. I used to sneak back to my village at night to bring food and other things - like thieves in our homes stealing our own possessions.
"One night I brought all my documents. This is proof that I paid taxes and that the land is mine," he said.
Abu Mamun, who is now 90, has been in Lebanon ever since but has kept his documents and still has clear memories of where he used to live.
"I tell my grandkids they have land and a country called Palestine, so they know they have more than this refugee life here - where we do not have anything," he told Al Jazeera.
Ein el Hilweh refugee camp is only 45km away from Abu Mamun's former home in Ras al Ahmar - which is now in Israel. But it is a world apart and one that he cannot return to.
"I always think about being back and farming on my own land in my own country. There is a big difference. I remember what it was like to not be in debt to somebody else," he says.
Leaving Abu Mamun behind in Lebanon, Al Jazeera travelled to Israel to search for his old village.
There we met Saeed, a 90-year-old Palestinian man who stayed behind in Israel. He used to live close to Abu Mamun's village and knows his whole family and where they used to farm in the Ghazal valley.
|Saeed stands in the land that was|
once Abu Mamun's
He takes us to Ras al Ahmar, which has now been renamed Karem Ben Zimra. Today a Jewish community lives there and there are few signs of the past.
The Ghazal valley where Abu Mamun used to farm is a few hundred metres down the hill from Karem Ben Zimra - but most of the olive trees are now neglected.
Saeed says: "The Ghazal valley is still the same. All the olive trees are here - but they use it as grazing land for their cows - not humans."
When he return to Abu Mamun in Lebanon, we show him pictures of the land he has not seen in 60 years.
"My feelings have changed," he says looking at the pictures. "Anyone who sees his land after all this time will feel different. I am glad I got the chance to see my home again. We used to have all this land - it was all ours."
Abu Mamun says that he could go back and live with the Arab Jews. He remembers how they lived together peacefully before 1948.
But he adds that he would not return home unless the Israelis have left. Until that happens, he will keep farming somebody else's 20-metre patch of land in South Lebanon.