Abu Jamal stood near the road near "Karmey Lachish". he was born in the village of Kbebe which was destroyed in 1948. Abu Jamal stood there and told us about life in the village before it was ruined. He stood and told us the names of the neighbors who lived next to the house where he used to live until he was driven away in Operation "Yoav" - which was part of our Independence War.
When we stood there and heard his story I couldn't remember what it reminded me of. On the next day I remembered. It reminded me of a twenty-four years ago experience, an experience from another place. My wife Ruth and I, with her family, her daughter, her son-in-law and grandchildren, stood in a narrow street in Zigburg in the Rhein valley. The name of the street was Holtzgasse. On the right were two-story buildings, some of them with stores in the front. On the left, just across from where we stood, were men working bulldozers and tractors wholabored on "redeveloping the main area of the town", as we were told.
From 1939 until that visit, my wife hadn't wanted to return to Germany and to Holtzgasse street where she had been born. She didn't agree to return to Germany until she decided that her daughter and grandchildren should see where she came from and where she grew up. Ruth didn't want to speak with the locals so she asked me to ask them some questions, and I did.
"Excuse me", I said to a senior that was passing by, "Was this where house no. 48, used to stand here in front of us?
"Yes, kind of," he answered.
"And where was the synagogue?"
He pointed ahead at the street and said: "Yes, the synagogue was there in the yard. Beyond it lived the Valershteins. Did you know them?" he asked me.
I explained that I was there as the spokesman of Ruth who was born and grew up in her parents house in "Holtzgasse no. 48, Zigburg", as she wrote in childish hand-writing in her prayer-book, which is now at her daughter's house in Manchester, England.
I realized that it's the same story, and yet it's a different story.
My wife Ruth Hirschfield left the house where she had been born in Zigburg in January 1939 and went to Manchester to save herself, hoping to bring all of her family to a safe place in England. On the first of September, before she could get all of the permits for her family, the war broke out.
Zigburg was declared as an area "clean of Jews". Her father who was born at the same house in 1875, her mother and her fifteen years old sister, Helma, were driven away to a work camp in the next village, Moch, and from there in 1942 to a collection camp and then jammed in a train wagon, east, to an unknown destination. In the thick German documentation book which is located now in "Yad V-Shem", then entry appears: "disappeared in the east".
I stood on Saturday between Karmey Lachish and listened to Abu Jamal's story about the houses and his neighbors and thought: "This story is familiar." It took me a day to remember the questions I asked as a representative of my in-laws, the in-laws whom I never met because they were killed by the Nazis and their helpers as part of the final solution, in order to have a Germany clean and empty of Jews.
Once again I thought about Kbebe, Abu Jamal's village which was erased and destroyed but whose residents and their offspring remained alive to testify about the destruction of their village and other villages.
Photography: Eyal Ofer.