San Jose Peace & Justice Center
Pal FlagPalestinian culture and remembrance was observed on May 15, 2008 at the Santa Clara County Government Center with flag raisings, music, folk dance, poetry readings, awards, and untold stories of how immigrants fled violence and repression in Palestine to come to the United States.

On the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Day of Catastrophe (Yom al-Nakbah), May 15, 2008, Santa Clara County officially observed its seventh annual Palestinian Culture Day. Pete McHugh, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, opened the program with the raising of the American and Palestinian flags at the Santa Clara County Government Center in San José.

Then moving into the Isaac Newton Senter Auditorium, the overflow crowd of some 200 people listened as Samir Laymoun spoke about the significance of Palestinian Culture Day. The program included Palestinian songs, poetry readings, and children dancing the debkah (Palestinian folk dance).

Three personal narratives were presented about the experiences of immigrants fleeing Palestine amid catastrophe, and the on-going violence and repressive military occupation of the Palestinian territories. Joseph Lewis, Dr. Michael Nathanson, and Karimah Al-Helew recounted how and why they and others were forced to leave Palestine and their hopes for a future of peace and justice in the Middle East. The combination of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim narratives symbolized that the only peaceful solution is a shared future for Israelis and Palestinians of all religious communities with full democracy and equality.

Yom al-Nakbah marks the tragic ethnic cleansing that took place in 1948-1949 in which over 700,000 Palestinians were systematically driven from their homes in 531 villages, towns, and localities in order to make way for the State of Israel.

In honor of Samir Laymoun for taking the initiative to officially observe Palestinian Culture Day and service to the community, Pete McHugh presented an award from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

The program was followed by a reception with a sampling of Palestinian food and sweets.

The record attendance at this year's event indicates that, despite unbalanced media coverage and U.S. government policy, community support for recognizing Palestine and the plight of its people is higher than ever.

by Sharat G. Lin


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