The villagers of Biram had initially welcomed the Jews because they sympathised with them over their sufferings at the hand of the Nazis in Europe. They even fed them as honoured guests and gave them their beds while they slept in lofts. Such was the hospitality of the Christian Palestinians in the village of Biram as elsewhere in Palestine. Later the very same European Jews threw out the women and children from their very homes. They were later given refuge in the nearby village of Jish. The men were taken away in truckloads to live in refugee camps in Jordan. The residents of Jish had been slaughtered and their bodies were buried in a shallow mass grave which was discovered by the Biram children while playing football.
After the Jewish soldiers had left the men went back to claim their homes in Biram but the soldiers turned up again and chased them away. Later the Israelis sent the air force and flattened all the homes in the village to lie in ruins. Only the picturesque church stands today as mute testimony to the fact that Christians had once lived and thrived on this part of Occupied Palestine.
At the time of Israel’s creation by the UN Christians amounted to 20% of the population. Many of them had fled the Israeli persecution. Today they amount to less than 5% of the population.
But the Christians of Biram have not given up their claim to their ancestral land.
Demand to return to Biram
Not wanting to upset the Western sponsors the Israeli Supreme Court in 1951 had allowed the Christians of Biram to return to their village, but to this day succeeding Israeli governments have refused to abide by the Court decision even though the hoary claim that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East resonates in corridors of world powers and the world media ad nauseam.
Today descendants of Biram’s Christian community have encamped in the national park where the town is located demanding that Israel honour the SC decision and allow them to return to their beloved Biram.
In an ironical twist the Israeli authorities have warned the protesters that they are trespassing on state land and have asked them to leave but the Palestinian Christians are sticking to their guns.
Father Afif Makhoul is the head of the Biram church and he hopes to bring the community back together to settle down on their own land. He told Al Jazeera that it is not his role to make a political statement. ‘But as priest of Biram I believe the parishioners should come back to their church’.