74. Yafa! (Jaffa!)
Written by Mahmoud Salim al-Hout
Performed by Reem Kelani
From the CD Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora (Fuse Records, UK 2005)



Here’s an extract from a biography of Reem Kelani by Andy Morgan on the BBC Radio 3 website:

Reem Kelani not only sings the songs of her Palestinian homeland with grace and emotional power, she can also talk about them at length. Her in-depth knowledge of Palestinian culture has turned her into Palestine’s unofficial cultural ambassadress in the UK. Both Reem’s parents, who came from Jenin and Nazareth, were keen amateur musicians and as a young girl growing up in Kuwait, Reem would bring audiences to tears with charged renditions of popular songs about her ancestral home.

After moving to the UK in 1989 and subsequently giving up a career in Marine Zoology, Reem devoted herself to music full time and began performing and giving workshops around the capital. With the money she made from teaching and making programmes for the BBC, Reem financed trips back to Palestine and Lebanon to record folk songs on her DAT.

She was especially entranced by the music of refugees from Galilee, an area which used to have one of the richest repertoires in Palestine before its people were dispersed by the Nakbah, or ‘catastrophe’ of 1948.’ [1]

And here’s Reem Kelani herself, telling us about the poet Mahmoud Salim-al Hout:

Jaffa born poet, mythologist and translator Mahmoud Salim al-Hout (1917-1998) represents the generation that lived through the Nakbah (the ‘Catastrophe’) of the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.

Al Hout wrote Yafa! after losing all his manuscripts while fleeing Jaffa. As the lyrics suggest, it left him with painful memories.

This rendition is in the time-honoured Arabic singing tradition of quasidah, an ornamental vocal improvisational form based on a poetic text in classical Arabic. It is sung in free-rhythm, and in this case employs a continuous state of question-and-answer with Zoe Rahman’s taqasim (instrumental improvisations) on the piano.’ [2]

Yafa! My tears have dried up;
I weep for you with stricken eyes

Will I ever see you?
Will I live long enough?

How are your sister towns?
How are they?

I long for them
As if each were a paradise
And those we left behind?
Those we left for dead…
I’m weary! I’m weary!
But in my weariness
I only complain to God
And no one else…


If you’d like to know more about the Nakbah, there’s this:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Nakbah?

The word ’Nakbah’ means ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic. The Palestinian Nakbah refers to the forcible expulsion of nearly 800,000 Palestinians from their homes and properties between 1947 and 1949 by Zionist movement militias, which later became the Israeli army. This expulsion was part an overall ethnic cleansing campaign by Israel. Since then, Israel has committed countless human rights violations against the Palestinian people.

How many Palestinian refugees are there?

Today, the original Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as their descendants (who are also refugees), number roughly 6.8 million*. For six decades, Israel has consistently refused to allow the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. During the war of 1967, in which Israel launched an unprovoked attack on its neighbours, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were made refugees, many for the second time.

What happened to the homes and villages of the Palestinians who were expelled?

Between 1947 and the early 1950s, Israel destroyed 675 Palestinian villages. Many Palestinian homes were simply demolished. Others were occupied by Jewish immigrants from other countries. Still others are standing empty today.

Why should Israel let the refugees back?

The right of refugees to return to their homes and properties is a right long guaranteed under international law, as embodied in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1949. Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on the condition that it implement Resolution 194. And resolutions like General Assembly Resolution 3236 1974 reaffirm the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

Why won’t Israel let the refugees and displaced persons back?

Israel defines itself as a state for the Jewish people, with a large Jewish majority and control of the government in the hands of Jews only. Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their right to return because they are not Jewish. No state in the world has a right to deny people their rights because of religion or ethnicity; no state has a right to be racist.

What about Palestinians who are not refugees or displaced persons?

In addition to the millions of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons, millions of Palestinians live either within the borders of Israel itself or under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These Palestinians are continuing to suffer from the effects of the Nakbah as well. Israel denies the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many of whom are also refugees, even the most basic rights. The Palestinians living within the borders of Israel have more rights than other Palestinians, and many of them are citizens of Israel, but they are also denied equal rights with Israeli Jews. Many people, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, have called Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights a form of Apartheid.

How is the US contributing to the continuing ethnic cleansing Palestinians?

The US has been Israel’s biggest friend. The US has vetoed almost every United Nations resolution calling on Israel to stop its human rights violations against Palestinians and to allow Palestinian refugees to return. The US also gives billions of our tax dollars in direct and indirect aid every year to Israel. The US government recently announced that it will give Israel $30 billion over the next ten years in military aid alone. Our money is funding Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ rights.

What can I do to help?
Educate yourself! Go to some of the Links we have on our Learn More page for a list of useful web sites where you can learn more. Then act! There are many ways you can help, such as by writing to your Senator or Representative that you want the US to stop giving billions of dollars a year of your tax dollars to Israel.

Our Letter to the United Nations

The following letter will be presented to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon during our Nakbah commemoration rally on May 16, 2008.

H.E. Ban Ki-Moon

Secretary-General of the United Nations

The Nakbah—the catastrophe that Zionism has inflicted upon the Palestinian people—has continued for sixty years. In 1948, the Zionist movement forcibly expelled nearly 800,000 Palestinians from their homes—over two-thirds of all Palestinians—and has denied them their right of return. It destroyed over 400 villages and changed their names, as though they had never existed.

Since 1948, Israel has committed countless human and civil rights violations against the Palestinian people. These violations include a denial of the following fundamental rights under international law: the right of return guaranteed to all refugees, the right to a home, the right of self-determination, the right to freedom of movement, the right to food and the right to education. In contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other human rights instruments, Israel has imposed a brutal and illegal occupation on an indigenous population; stolen Palestinian land and resources by force; transferred its own population into occupied territory; practiced collective punishment; imprisoned and tortured hundreds of thousands of Palestinians without due process of law. With the world watching, Israel has imposed a system of Apartheid on all Palestinians living in historic Palestine.

From the beginning, the international community has been complicit in Israel’s crimes, either through silence or through direct economic, military and political support. Most appallingly, instead of taking punitive measures against the criminal, the international community punishes its victims, as with the ongoing siege of Gaza.

Today, we stand at the door of the international community to hold you accountable for your role in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people and call upon you to fulfil your moral and legal obligations to act. Your complicity must end today.

The time has come for you to follow the lead of civil society groups around the world and impose a comprehensive system of boycott, divestment and sanctions upon Israel. You must work to end all forms of violence and Apartheid against the Palestinian people and facilitate the return of all Palestinian refugees to their original homes and villages, as embodied in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. Today, sixty years after the Palestinian catastrophe began in 1948, we demand that the nations of the world right their historical wrongs.

Endorsing Organisations

1. Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, USA 2. Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition-New York, USA 3. Al-Damir Association for Human Rights-Gaza, Palestine 4. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, NY Chapter (ADC) 5. ANSWER Coalition 6. Arab Cultural Forum 7. Arab Muslim American Federation, USA 8. AWAAM (Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media) 9. BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugees’ Rights, Palestine 10. Committee for Open Discussion on Zionism 11. Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Palestine 12. International Action Center, USA 14. Jews Against the Occupation (JATO) 15. National Council of Arab Americans, USA16. Network of Arab American Professionals Political Committee – N.Y, USA 17. New York City Labour Against the War, USA 18. Palestine Land Society, London-UK 19. Palestinian American Congress, USA 20. Palestinian BDS National Committee 21. Right of Return Congress 22. The Canadian Islamic Congress, Canada 23. The Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism, USA 24. The One Democratic State Group-Gaza, Palestine 25. University Teachers’ Association, Palestine26. WESPAC, USA 27. Women Of A Certain Age

To find out how to endorse our letter, please email us at info@nakbah1948.org.’ [3]



[1] Andy Morgan, July 2004,www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/womad2004

[2] Reem Kelani, Sprinting Gazelle – Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora.

[3] www.nakbah1948.org/FAQ.htm



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