Edna Yaghi’s Column
On April 9, 1948, while Haganah forces attacked the village of Castel, Irgun and Stern Gang units massacred the inhabitants of the peaceful village of Deir Yassin. The Israel Defense Forces’ report admitted the massacre of 254 Palestinian men, women and children and said that it was a “decisive accelerating factor” of the Palestinian exodus. One Israeli soldier present at the slaughter described how the Irgun forces “shot everyone they saw in the houses, including women and childrené”
Just before Jewish terrorists massacred the villagers of Deir Yassin, Abdul Qader Husseini was slain at Castel. Husseini was the charismatic and brave leader of the Palestinian resistance. His death was a great loss to the Palestinians for it deprived them of exceptional leadership just when they needed it most.
Both the Deir Yassin massacre and the death of Husseini were the disasters that broke the spirit of the Palestinian resistance during the first 10 days of April.
The Irgun Gang assaulted Deir Yassin from the southeast while the Stern Gang attacked from the east. The assault began during dawn. It was a Friday. The village of stonecutters had been at peace with their Jewish neighbors and did not want fighting to break out in their area. But when some sentries caught sight of the invading forces they alerted the sleeping village. Those who were lucky enough to flee did so, others stayed behind to defend the village. Many, especially women and children had no time to escape. The British colonists had made sure that Palestinians were denied access of weapons and many a time, Palestinians who were caught with guns or even just the possession of one bullet were imprisoned. This law left the Palestinians mostly unarmed or poorly equipped, while the Haganah, Irgun and Stern Gangs were heavily armed and trained in subversive warfare and terrorist actions.
The village was bombarded by mortar attacks from 3 different directions. By noon, all resistance was silenced and the Jewish invaders moved in to perform their “cleanup operation” which took them from house to house where they machine gunned homes and then threw in grenades. It didn’t matter who was in the houses. Men, women and children were brought out and lined up against a wall and shot. It was not enough that helpless women and children were savagely killed, but members of these Gangs ripped open pregnant women’s stomachs with knives. One lady tried to save the fetus of a female whose stomach was bayoneted but the Jewish forces shot and killed her in the process.
Some of the men from the village were rounded up, loaded on trucks and then paraded through the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem before they were taken to a stone quarry and shot in cold blood. Some surviving women and children were forced on trucks and released at the Mandelbaum Gate, Jerusalem.
A representative of the International Red Cross later described how he had gone to Dier Yassin after April 9, to see if there were any survivors. He could tell that the “cleanup” had been performed with machine guns, grenades and then finished off with knives. He saw a female member of the Gangs rush past him, a mad gleam in her eyes. In her hand she held a long knife still dripping with the blood of those she had helped murder.
On the morning of April 9, as the innocents were being massacred in Deir Yassin, Abdel Qadar Husseini, the most revered of all Palestinian fighters was being buried in Jerusalem at the sacred Haram al-Sharif.
Also in Jerusalem, his cousin, Hind Husseini, coordinator of the Arab Women’s Union, mourned over the death of her relative. She also tried to listen to the news of the war over the radio. She heard a knock on her door and when she went to open it, she was met by 6 orphaned children from Deir Yassin. She immediately took them into her home. Some were covered with blood and others were too frightened to speak. Some of the children had not been slaughtered along with the adults because they hid under beds or their parents shielded them with their dead bodies.
For the next week, Hind worked with Adnan Tamimi to locate the surviving children of Deir Yassin. They found 55 in all. Hind put aside all thoughts of marriage and decided to dedicate her life to her babies. Her family was sympathetic to her wishes and gave her Dar Husseini, the home her grandfather built and the place where she was born. On her 32nd birthday, just 2 weeks after the massacre at Deir Yassin, Hind renamed the mansion Dar El Tifl (Children’s House).
Hind dedicated her life to the orphans that she had found or who had found her. She made caring for the children her full time job and worked diligently to provide them with an education and help them find homes or jobs later on. With the help of others, she created a school for girls that educated more than 1,450 females from preschool to the 12th grade. Eventually, Dar El-Tifl offered college course, credits and graduate degrees. Today, 250 orphans live at Dar El-Tifl.
Hind died in September 1995. Thousands of people have been positively affected by this saint’s benevolent generosity and her noble dedication. The orphans of Deir Yassin will never be able to forget the tragedy they witnessed the day of the massacre. Their scars will last for generations to come. But Hind was there to give them hope and to give them love.
Lest we forget however, every day Israelis commit new Deir Yassins and the slaughter of the innocents continues.