Exhibition, Hagar Gallery
Curator: Tal Ben-Zvi
The exhibition "Story of a Monument: Land Day Sakhneen 1976-2006" is centered on the Sakhneen monument commemorating Land Day, as a space of struggle, remembrance and identity of the Palestinian minority in Israel.
The first Land Day took place on 30.3.1976, in protest against the government's decision to expropriate 20,000 acres in the Sakhneen area for "Galilee Judaization" purposes. The leaders of the Rakakh political party, together with the heads of the Arab municipalities in the Galilee region, called for a day of general strike and protest demonstrations on the 30th of March. The demonstrations took place mainly in the villages of Sakhneen, Arrabi and Deir-Hanna. IDF forces confronted the demonstration participants, resulting in six dead demonstrators and many wounded. The six people killed were: Khir Mohamed Yasin from Arabe, Raja Khasin Abu-Ria, Khader Abed Khlaila and Khadija Shuhana from Sakhneen, Mohamed Yusef Taha from Kana and Rafet Zuheiri from Nur-Shames, who was shot in Taibe.
In the course of the years following the Land Day events, Abed Abdi and Gershon Knispel decided to build a monument commemorating the Sakhneen Land Day, with support from the Sakhneen mayor at the time, Jamal Tarabeih. On the 30th of March 1977, exactly one year after the demonstrations, the artists presented a model of the monument to the Arab Municipalities Committee and to the wide public.
The peoples of the world have created, on their creative path of civilization, expressions for their conceptions of thought, in the form of symbols and rituals which were clearly expressed by the erection of temples, places of worship, obelisques and stone monuments. In the wake of the march of humanity, and in the course of generations, these structures may have become symbols and epitomes of a past world relapsed in the passage of time, but were not entirely erased. Generations follow each other, leaving at every stage memories which cling to the present. These relics reach me in waves of sadness, through the uprightness of the palm-tree: the depth of the cactus root, a towering forsaken mosque or rusty church bell which no longer resound through the atmosphere.
What can be said today about the events of the "Land Day", that bitter day of the 30th March, 1976. I take the liberty of reiterating what I wrote a month before the "Land Day", and published in the weekly "Chotam" of 27th February, 1976. "Just when a number of M.K.s of the 'national league' were endeavoring to keep our parliament busy by trying to castigate Israeli law by means of the Jundef melodrama, and were awarded a festive review by the mass media, omens of an oncoming storm became more and more apparent in another area where Israeli justice is seriously, even fatally, ill.
From earth to earth! For hundreds of years, man has been repeating these words, which are full of equanimity and wisdom, and are within a religious, Sufi context. But for the peasant who is rooted in the soil of his land, this sentence is charged with a different connotation; here matter and soul meet in a glorious human unity. Nevertheless, when land is exposed to any danger, the peasant experiences a shattering feeling that his bond with the universe is about to be severed.
I have been asked again and again, why we made the monument to the “Land Day” at Sakhneen. In ancient times, people piled up cairns as monuments to preserve a site or to drive away evil spirits… And surely only evil spirits could force peasantry to leave their land, and only evil spirits could disturb the tranquility of peasants, labouring on their land. Is it not the evil spirit which led to the shedding of innocent blood, of those whose only crime was their protest against the seizure of their land.
Each of us summarized the completion of the monument in Sakhnin in his own way. I wrote: “With my friend and colleague Abed Abdi I erected this monument to ‘drive out the evil spirit’ and leave traces… of the acts of wrongdoing, robbery, murder and dispossession for the future generations that found it hard to believe that ‘it really happened”. And you, Abed, added: “Our joint work was the realization of a vision of cooperation between the two peoples in order to prevent a repetition of the tragedy…”
Since then, thirty-three years have passed and our vision of erecting a monument for the future generations that found it hard to believe that ‘it really happened’, has been shattered.