Above Al-Istiklal Mosque and below Hadar Hacarmel in Haifa is a large area of ruins. At the end of the 1950s this was still the impoverished Wadi Salib neighborhood of Haifa, whose place was etched in Israeli memory because of a series of violent confrontations between the inhabitants and the Israel Police in the summer of 1959. The commission of inquiry, appointed while the skirmishes were still going on, coined many of the commonly used terms in sociological and public discussion related to the “ethnic problem.”
Wadi Salib became a synonym for discrimination. A long process of evacuation and destruction of the neighborhood began at that point.
The fact that but a few years earlier this was a Muslim neighborhood has been completely forgotten. Even its Arab name was not enough to remind people of its very recent Palestinian past. The events of 1959 shunted aside those of 1948, and the memory of the “mixed city” gave way to the “Jewish city.”
This book brings back the previous inhabitants for a moment, but it does not remove the dust from the key and does not put the inhabitants back in their homes. The author converts the usual manner of dealing with this demand, which continues to motivate Palestinian hope alongside Jewish anxieties, into a fundamental discussion of memory and of property. At the heart of this book stand not the claim of possession and the confrontation over the right of return, but rather the presence of the former inhabitants as an absence. The Palestinian past that suddenly became “abandoned properties” meets the “ethnic problem” and grants “the Wadi Salib events” a hitherto unknown meaning.