By: Raneen Jeries
Kuwykat was a village in the Acre sub-district of the western Galilee. Today it's recognized as a site whose history apparently goes back to the Canaanite period. Kuwykat is one of the many villages in the area whose residents were forced to leave during the nakba, some to the nearby villages of Yassif and Abu Snan, but most to Lebanon.
The villagers participated in the Palestinian rebellions and in the battles, until Kuwykat was captured in July, 1948, during the first stage of Operation Dekel. Today only a few of the village houses remain, and its magnificent olive trees still strike root between the ruined buildings, reminding us of another time...
In January, 1948, Kibbutz Habonim was established on the village lands, and as time went by it changed its name to Beit HaEmek. Among those who joined the kibbutz were new immigrants from England, Hungary and Holland.
On Saturday, 6 September 2008, Zochrot led a tour to the area of the village in which about 70 people participated, including a few members of the kibbutz. One of the uprooted villagers, Wafiq Natzra-abu Hatam, who was born in 1935, accompanied us, as well as some of the second generation of those uprooted. We erected signs commemorating the village, and distributed a booklet, "Remembering Kuweikat" that we prepared especially for the tour. It tells the story of the village, and includes interviews with the refugees.
We first stopped near the village cemetery, near Abu Hatam's home. There he told us the story of the village, and we erected a sign next to the cemetery describing the site.
We continued to the kibbutz, walking between its buildings, surrounded by many olive trees, some of them hundreds of years old.
We stopped inside the kibbutz, among a number of buildings that had once been part of the village. There Abu Hatam's son, Qassam Natzra, recounted his parents' journey following their expulsion from the village.
We continued, stopping next to a large building in which the kibbutz established its museum, and there Judy Ben Et told us the story of Beit HaEmek. She had arrived with her family in the 1950's. Judy helped Zochrot organize the tour, and made possible for us to conduct it safely, despite the opposition of some kibbutz members.
We concluded the tour at the kibbutz swimming pool, next to which is a beautiful, large building that today serves as the kibbutz social center. Sixty years ago it was Kuwykat's school. Wafiq Natzra continued his fascinating account of the school and of his childhood.
We erected a sign referring to the school, but a few minutes later one of the kibbutz young people arrived and threatened to remove it after we left. He looked into the eyes of one of the people who had been uprooted from the village, and said: "This isn't Kuwykat's school; it's Beit HaEmek's pub."