JEZIRET EL FADL, Egypt—
Ghafra dreams of rain. Not the brief bursts of precipitation that mix with the desert dust here a few times a year, but real rain, the kind that makes the worms come out and the watermelons grow, the kind that only falls on one place on God’s Earth: Palestine.
The last time Ghafra saw that kind of rain, she was 13. It was just before the soldiers came, droves of them from the north, west, and south. They left only one path open for Ghafra’s people to escape: west. West to safety, West to Egypt. They planned to only stay a few months, waiting out the end of the fighting.
This month marks 67 years since the war with Israel—and for Ghafra and her people, 67 years of waiting to return home.
Ghafra, now an 80-year-old grandmother, is one of 40 members of the Abu Hussun tribe who fled Beersheba, an oasis in the Negev desert in what is now Israel, in 1948. They journeyed 13 days on camelback across the Rafah border, along the Mediterranean coastline of the Sinai, and southwest to the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqeya. There, they settled on a piece of land they called Jeziret el Fadl—“Island of Favor.” Nearly seven decades later, 3,000 Palestinians remain marooned on the figurative and largely forgotten island.