Fadwa Tuqan

فدوى طوقان
  •  Birth1917, NABLUS, PALESTINE 

Fadwa Tuqan was born in Nablus. Her father was Abd al-Fattah Tuqan and her mother was Fawziyya Amin Asqalan. She had five brothers—Yusuf, Ibrahim, Ahmad, Rahmi, and Nimr—and two sisters, Fataya and Adiba.

She attended elementary school in Nablus at the Fatimiyya school and later at the Aishiyya. She had barely completed five years of study when she was removed from school under pressure from her brother Yusuf for “social reasons” and forced to stay at home.

She was greatly influenced by her brother Ibrahim.  After he graduated from the American University of Beirut and returned to Palestine, he was determined to help her continue her education and to act as her guardian. She was able to escape to some extent from the harsh conditions of her home life when she decided to move to Jerusalem to live with him. She had contemplated suicide more than once, and the move to Jerusalem might have removed that thought from her mind for good.

Thanks to Ibrahim, who taught her to write poetry, a new phase of her life began. She started to become aware of her individuality, humanity, and right to education, and she took private lessons in English. She sent her poems to literary magazines in Cairo and Beirut, using pseudonyms. When they were published, her confidence in herself and her literary abilities increased.

After the deaths of her brother Ibrahim (in 1941) and her father, and then the Nakba of 1948, she began to take part, though from the sidelines, in the political life of the fifties. In 1956, she travelled to Stockholm as part of a Jordanian delegation to a peace conference, a trip that also took her to Holland, the Soviet Union, and the People’s Republic of China.

In 1956, she joined the Cultural Club established in Nablus by Walid Qamhawi and was an active member of it. This marked the beginning of her career as a poet. Through the club she met Kamal Nasir, a poet and member of the Jordanian parliament, as well as the poet Abd al-Karim al-Karmi (Abu Salma). She also met some leaders of the nationalist movement in Jordan such as Abd al-Rahman Shuqair, whom she hid in her house when he was pursued by the Jordanian authorities and helped escape to Syria in 1957.

In the early sixties, Fadwa left for England and lived for two years in Oxford, where she studied English language and literature. That trip left a deep impact on the development of her poetry and her personality.

When she returned to Nablus, she decided to remove herself from family and people and so built a house of her own to the west of the city. However, the disaster of 1967 drove her to once again take part in the public life of Nablus, now under occupation, and to commence a series of poetic and journalistic disputes with the Zionist occupier and his culture. That disaster transformed her poetry, moving it from personal and social subjects to poetry of resistance.  Eventually her poetry became more comprehensive and human in theme, treating subjects like life and death, love, nature, family, and societal repression.

Tuqan was uniquely open and bold in her confessions as shown in her two-volume autobiography, which dealt with her private life and the social and political life of Nablus and the customs of its residents. She voiced her rejection of many of these customs, which in her view stifled the pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment so important to her. In that same work she dealt with her political and cultural activity, her resistance to occupation, and her contacts with Palestinian poets living in areas occupied in 1948.

Tuqan was elected to the Board of Trustees of al-Najah University when it was founded in Nablus in 1977. She wrote the university anthem and was granted an honorary doctorate by the university.

Tuqan, known as the “Poetess of Palestine,” is considered one of the most prominent cultural figures of Palestine. Between 1952 and 2000, she published eight collections of poetry. Selections of her poetry have been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Persian, and Hebrew. She was awarded a number of prizes and medals, including the annual Sulayman Arar poetry prize; the prize of the Union of Jordanian Writers in 1983; the Sultan Uways prize of the United Arab Emirates in 1989; the Jerusalem medal of the PLO in 1990; the prize of the World Festival of Contemporary Writing, Salerno, Italy, in 1992; the Tunisian cultural medal of 1996; and the PLO prize for literature in 1997. Several books and university theses have appeared about her and her work in a number of Arab and foreign universities, in addition to many articles and studies in Arab and foreign journals. The Palestinian novelist Liana Badr produced a documentary film about her life and poetry entitled “Fadwa: A Poetess from Palestine.”

Fadwa Tuqan died on 12 December 2003. She was almost 85 years old. Four years before her death she had suffered from a brain clot, which severely impaired her vision and her reading and writing. She was buried in Nablus.

Her death was announced by the Palestinian Authority to the world and to all who are concerned with culture, literature, and thought. The announcement ran as follows: “We announce the death of the great poetess of Palestine, an innovative and original talent, a daughter of Nablus, the mountain of fire; daughter of Palestine, educator, fighter for justice, cultural icon, exceptional literary figure, winner of the Palestine medal: the poetess Fadwa Tuqan.”

Selected Works

صدر لها، ما بين سنتي 1952 و 2000، ثمانية دواوين شعرية. وجمعت أعمالها في: “الأعمال الشعرية الكاملة”. بيروت: دار العودة، 2004.

[The Collected Poetical Works]

Some of her poetry were translated into English, German, French, Italian, Persian and Hebrew.


“أخي ابراهيم”. يافا: المكتبة العصرية، 1946.

[My Brother Ibrahim]

“رحلة جبلية، رحلة صعبة: سيرة ذاتية”. عكا: دار الأسوار، 198.

[A Mountainous Journey, a Difficult Journey: An Autobiography]

“الرحلة الأصعب: سيرة ذاتية”. عمان: دار الشروق، 1993.

[The Most Difficult Journey: An Autobiography]

Translated Works

A Mountain’s Journey: An Autobiography, Translated by Olive Kenny and edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi (London: Women’s Press, 1990).

Le Rocher et la peine: Mémoires 1, Traduit de l’arabe par Joséphine Lama et Benoît Tadié (Paris: l’Asiathèque Langues du monde, 1997).

Le Cri de la pierre: Mémoires 2, Traduit de l’arabe par Joséphine Lama et Benoît Tadié (Paris: l’Asiathèque Langues du monde, 1998).


بدر، ليانة. “ظلال الكلمات المحكية: حوار مع فدوى”. القاهرة: دار الفتى العربي، 1996.

ديكان- واصف، سارة. “معجم الكتّاب الفلسطينيين”. باريس: معهد العالم العربي، 1999.

شاهين، أحمد عمر. “موسوعة كتّاب فلسطين في القرن العشرين”. الجزء الأول. دمشق: المركز القومي للدراسات والتوثيق، 1992.

كامبل، روبرت. “أعلام الأدب العربي المعاصر: سير وسير ذاتية.” بيروت: المعهد الألماني للأبحاث الشرقية، 1996.

لوباني، حسين علي. “معجم أعلام فلسطين في العلوم والفنون والآداب”. بيروت: مكتبة لبنان ناشرون، 2012.

Abdul Hadi, Mahdi, ed. Palestinian Personalities: A Biographic Dictionary. 2nd ed., revised and updated. Jerusalem: Passia Publication, 2006.


Fire in a harvested field

Rahma Ibrahim Al-Haj, who was not older than seven, didn’t know anything of the world except her village of al-Tira, which at the time had a population that did not exceed 6000 people. Despite being a village where things rarely happen, what Rahma witnessed on July 19 in 1948 made up the scenes of the most important event of her life, and of many others like her.

In the months preceding that day, Rahma would hear her elders speak of the number of Zionist forces—50,000, a number she had only then just heard for the first time. This was a force of armed fighters backed by air and naval forces, as well as tanks and artillery. They were met with 7000 Palestinian fighters in semi-organized groups, as well as 3000 Arab volunteers, and dozens of others from Germany, Turkey, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Africa, and even a small number of English volunteers.

The women would speak about the massacres taking place in neighboring villages as though they were speaking about outer space. Women  raped, children slaughtered, pregnant women miscarrying, men lined up and killed with bullets—all of  this was just talk, until al-Tira’s turn came. Suddenly, all the rumors were verified.

When she saw groups from the Haganah distributing flyers that threatened the villagers and warned them of cooperating with the Arab Liberation Army, Rahma ran. Before she and her family and their neighbors could recover from the scare of the leaflets, the Zionist special forces, under the guise of Arabs, raided the village in search of volunteers. These operations were labelled “violent surveillance,” which aimed to enter unarmed and unfortified villages at night and remain for a few hours, killing whomever leaves their home. After a few days, a struggle began which would evolve into two months of protracted confrontations and steadfastness. The men of the village took out the weapons hidden in the ceilings and wells, and gave battle to regain the village’s fortunes.

On July 16, the Jews entered the village. Until that moment, 13 men were martyred. Some of the fighters withdrew outside the village, while 30 men were taken to an unknown location, which was later discovered to be the prison of Acre. Soldiers had gathered those that remained from the village, choosing 300 men and women, and placing them in 20 buses that took them to al-Lajjun. In each bus, a group of Jewish guards armed with machine guns accompanied them. Upon arriving at the border along which Iraqi forces were stationed, the Jewish guards kicked them out, making them flee towards the Arab areas while firing bullets at their heels.

On July 19, the twenty-fifth day of Ramadan, the remaining villagers took stock of their losses. Recognizing that their days in the village were numbered, they gathered what they could in order to leave. They carried their clothes in bindles, while women hid house papers, birth certificates, and small amounts of money in their chests. The Jews returned to the village, where only 60-80 elderly people remained, some of whom were blind. Afterwards, everything happened quickly. The Jewish guards cried out:

Saa’, Saa’, let’s go, let’s go.

Empty streets of Tirah 1950

Everyone climbed onto buses under Jewish guard, made up of 10-15 individuals. They reached an area East of al-Lajjun at around eight PM. The buses stopped on the road to Afula near some new houses that were recently demolished. The villagers of al-Tira were commanded to get down as they carried their bindles in their hands. They sat in a circle around 200 meters from the main road in a recently harvested wheat field. They were informed that they were near Arab lines. The guards handed over the residents to other guards from a nearby colony, and it was later found out that they were Jewish settlers that had taken over the police station, and wore hats that resembled police hats. After a long day of travelling in Ramadan, the villagers grew thirsty and requested a drink of water. After a long wait, the settlers returned with gallons of something that resembled water and poured it over the heads of the residents as they sat over their bindles on dry grass. Rahma detected the smell of gasoline and ran.

The guards lit the villagers on fire and left them to burn, shooting whoever tried to run.

Rahma Ibrahim al-Haj says in her testimony: “I ran and hid under a rock until the morning. I saw the fire ablaze and people screaming and crying out for help. In the morning, I went to the place of the burning. When my sight fell on the charred bodies I was engulfed with horror. I didn’t stay for a single moment to count them. I ran until I reached the village of Zalafa. There, I fell on the floor from exhaustion and fright. The residents of the village took care of me and then took me to Jenin.”

It is not completely known how many survived the burning, because the survivors were separated and sought refuge in the camps of Nablus, Irbid, Damascus, and Sidon. Some of the United Nations observers were able to record the testimony of 10 out of the 15 people believed to have survived. Those that were burned alive did not exceed 55 people.


  • Abu Sitta, Salman. “Dirasat Filastin wa Huquq al-Aradi al-Mughtasaba [A Study of Palestine and the Rights of Usurped Lands.
  • Abu Sitta. Right of Return.


Samiha Khalil

سميحة خليل



Samiha Khalil was born in the town of Anabta. Her father was Yusuf al-Qabaj and her mother was Halima Tuqan. Her husband was Salama Khalil. She had four sons, Khalil, Saji, Samir, and Samih, and one daughter, Sa’ida.

She was educated at a private elementary school in Nablus for two years and completed her elementary education until the seventh grade in Tulkarm. Her parents then sent her to the Friends boarding school in Ramallah.

During the General Strike and the Great Rebellion her father was mayor of Anabta. He encouraged the wealthy inhabitants to donate foodstuff for distribution to the poor. With her own eyes she witnessed how British soldiers broke into her house and used their bayonets to slit the bales of rice and flour. When her father loudly protested that these bales were meant for the poor, he was violently pushed aside and he fell to the floor. The young girl never forgot that scene and also never forgot that the British killed five of her cousins during the Great Rebellion.

At age seventeen her parents decided that she should get married because she had completed the second secondary class. She married Salama Khalil from the town of al-Taybeh. Her husband worked as a teacher, later becoming a headmaster in schools in Qalqilya, al-Majdal, Gaza, and Ramallah. He supported her desire to complete her education once her children had grown up. She finished the curriculum of the last three years of secondary school in nine months and sat for the general secondary exam (the tawjihi) with her son Saji; she was more than forty years old when she enrolled in Beirut Arab University to study Arabic literature. The Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 prevented her from travelling to sit for her final third-year exams, and so she was forced to abandon her university studies.

She had devoted herself to relief work with the refugees ever since the Nakba of 1948, and along with other women she collected money, clothes, and food. In fact she devoted her entire life to humanitarian relief and collecting funds for the destitute. In 1952 she founded the Arab Women’s Union in al-Bireh and served as its president. In 1965 she and other women established Jam‘iyyat in‘ash al-usra (the Family Revival Society) and remained its president until she died. She took part in founding the Bireh section of the General Union of Palestinian Women and attended the General Congress in Jerusalem in 1965 organized by that union. A year later she was elected secretary of the Executive Committee of the General Union and became a member of the Palestine National Council.

Samiha Khalil led demonstrations, the most notable of which was one against the Baghdad Pact in 1956. She was in the forefront of that massive women’s demonstration, which began in Ramallah and included students of the Female Teachers Training College and the women of al-Bireh. In Jerusalem, women and female students participated in the demonstration. The following day she led another demonstration, which brought together women from twenty-seven villages of the West Bank. She was reported to have stated at that time: “We killed the Baghdad Pact. We kept demonstrating until it expired.”

The 1967 catastrophe was a radical turning point in her life. She rushed to the aid of refugees, especially the villagers of the Latrun region whose villages Israel destroyed immediately after its occupation of the West Bank.

In 1973, she became a member of the command council of the Palestinian National Front in the West Bank, a political front that brought together Palestinian institutions and public figures drawn from the trade unions and political parties. In 1979, she was elected a member of the National Guidance Committee, which was the highest authority of the Palestinian people inside Palestine. She was the only woman on that committee.

The occupation authorities arrested her several times for interrogation and imprisoned her twice. In the early 1980s the Israelis placed her under house arrest for two and a half years and prevented her from travelling for twelve years. Despite these restrictions she managed to represent Palestine’s women in more than twenty congresses worldwide, and she delivered speeches and explained her country’s cause in international arenas. Her leadership role was best seen through her presidency of the General Union of Palestinian Women in occupied Palestine and her presidency of the Family Revival Society.

She would ask women to donate whatever jewelry or antiques they could spare. The proceeds from the sale of these together with food items, pastries, and sweets would be donated to children of martyrs. She could thus fulfill her four objectives: saving and educating children, putting mothers to work, enshrining the principles of volunteer work, and protecting heritage.

Samiha Khalil played a leading role in founding a popular Palestinian museum in Ramallah. This included wax figures and a model of the village of Sammu‘ and its battle.

The preservation of Palestinian popular culture was among her top priorities. Through her Family Revival Society, she founded the Committee for Social Research and Heritage in 1972 and became a member of the committee whose first published study in 1973 was entitled Qaryat Turmus ‘Ayya: dirasa fi-l turath al-sha‘bi [The Village of Turmus ‘Ayya: A Study of Popular Culture]The following year the committee issued a journal called al-Turath wa-l mujtama‘ [Heritage and Society].

She was an honorary member of the Union of Arab Lawyers and an honorary member of the Arab Women’s Union.

She was a firm believer in total equality between men and women. She ran for the presidential elections in 1996 opposite President Yasir Arafat. She won 12 percent of the vote, thus enshrining a democratic and enlightened tradition in Palestinian political life.

She was the recipient of several awards and medals, including the Jerusalem Medal for Culture, Arts and Literature in 1991. She thus thoroughly deserved her common sobriquet: The Oak Tree of Palestine.

Samiha Khalil lived an ascetic life since the family had no income apart from her husband’s salary. But she was a careful housewife and performed all domestic duties by herself with help from her children.

Khalil published as many popular tales as she could collect in Majallat al-turath wa-l mujtama‘. She wrote zajal poetry (which spread among her intimates) and recited it on national occasions. She wrote a book of zajal called Min al-intifada ila al-dawla [From the Intifada to the State]. She also published many political and social articles in local newspapers.

She died on 26 February 1999. Her tombstone carries this inscription: “Samiha Khalil: She fought for the freedom and independence of the Palestinian people.”


أبو فخر، صقر. “سميحة خليل سنديانة فلسطين”. “السفير- ملحق فلسطين”، أيار/ مايو 2011.  

الخليل، ساجي. “لمحات من الجانب الإنساني في شخصية سميحة الخليل”. موقع “جمعية إنعاش الأسرة”:

عبد الهادي، فيحاء. “أدوار المرأة الفلسطينية في الثلاثينيات، المساهمة السياسية للمرأة الفلسطينية: روايات النساء، نصوص المقابلات الشفوية”. البيرة: مركز المرأة الفلسطينية للأبحاث والتوثيق، 2006.   

لوباني، حسين علي. “معجم أعلام فلسطين في العلوم والفنون والآداب”. بيروت: مكتبة لبنان ناشرون، 2012 .

“ملف من الأرشيف: سميحة خليل”، في الموقع الإلكتروني “جدلية”:


Dead sea fact

10 Dead sea facts you didn’t know
Almost everyone knows that The Dead Sea, a salt lake shared between Palestine and Jordan, is one of the world’s most unique sites in the world, but did you know these interesting facts about it? Check yourself

Dead sea

Planning a trip to Palestine? You probably won’t miss the Dead Sea. But what do you really know about it? Here are some interesting facts about this natural wonder:

  1. Why is it salty?
    The Dead Sea’s salinity is 34.2% (compare with the Mediterranean’s 3.5%). It is the fourth saltiest body of water in the world, ranking behind Antarctica’s Don Juan Pond and Lake Vanda, and Djibouti’s Lake Assal. One of the reasons for the high salinity is that the Dead Sea doesn’t pour out. Additionally, the arid desert climate causes evaporation, increasing salinity.
dead sea
  1. Is it possible to drown in it?
    Although whoever enters the water immediately floats, you should keep in mind that it is still possible to drown in the Dead Sea. This happens when swimmers get caught in strong winds, flip over and swallowing the salty water. Always make sure to only enter proclaimed beaches, in the presence of a lifeguard.
  2. Can you dive in it?
    Believe it or not, you can also dive in the Dead Sea! It takes unique diving skills, and those who possess them will enjoy spectacular geological salt formations.
  1. Why is it called The Dead Sea?
    The high salinity means that no life can evolve in the Dead Sea, which gave it the moniker “Sea of Death”. But are there absolutely zero life forms in the Dead Sea? Not exactly. Some bacteria and fungus can survive in these waters.
  2. Does it have other names too?
    The Dead Sea has the most names of any other place in Palestine. It is known as the Sea of Death, Sea of Salt, Sea of the Arabah, the Primordial Sea, and many others.
  3. How low is it?
    The beaches of the Dead Sea are located 430 meters below sea surface, making it the lowest place in the world.
  1. How big is it?
    The Dead Sea stretches over 51 KM and is 18 KM from side to side at its widest.
  2. Why is it so popular?
    The Dead Sea is a popular tourist destination for many reasons, one of which is its medicinal values. The water of the Dead Sea contains 26 beneficial minerals, and the air contains minimal amounts of dust and allergens compared to other places in the world. , many rub themselves with the black mud found at its banks, which is said to relief different skin issues.
  3. Is it one of the Seven World Wonders?
    Due to its unique qualities, the Dead Sea was a finalist in the Seven World Wonders contest.