Saturday, 21 July 2007

The road to Emmaus - the road to nowhere

Luke 24: 13-16 (NIV)
"Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him."

Emmaus (or to give it its Arabic name, Imwas) no longer exists.
Not that it's just been worn away by the sands of time - it was a thriving community until 1967 - when the Palestinian population was forcibly evicted by the Israeli army, and subsequently the buildings were razed to the ground. The reason given was that space needed to be made for the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road, not just the road itself, but an area of land surrounding it to ensure its "security".

According to Palestine Remembered the village had a population of around 2000, many of whom had already suffered during the Nakba of 1948. Photos from before (1958) and after (1968) tell a damming story:

During the invasion, an Israeli soldier took photos of the villagers leaving, their homes being bulldozed and the soldiers at work. The first image, containing a boy waving a white flag in surrender, was one that I found particularly moving.

Hardly anyone realises this historic place has been destroyed. If such a place - with a name that resonates for all Christians - can be ignored, what hope is there for any of the other places that have suffered a similar fate? And do you know what's there now? A park, built with Canadian money.

Ahmed Abu Ghoush, who spoke to us, comes from the family to which most villagers belonged. He's now part of an organisation called Imwas Families, who are fighting for recognition of their plight and the restoration of their land.

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