Sakhnin is a Palestinian village nestled between the mountains of Israel’s Galilee and is known for at least 3,500 years of agrarian tradition. It wasn’t until March 30, 1976, however, that the people of Sakhnin put their village on the map by starting another tradition that would become central to not only Arab citizens of Israel but to Palestinians everywhere.
Land Day is now the annual commemoration of a general strike and simultaneous protests from the Galilee to the Negev. These actions came in response to Israel’s announcement that they were expropriating 20,000 dunams (about 5,000 acres) of land in the Galilee—much of which was Palestinian owned. The first nonviolent uprising was in Sakhnin, and protests quickly spread across Israel. Israeli soldiers and police killed six unarmed civilians and injured more than a hundred others.
One of the most significant things about the events of 1976 is that it was the first time Palestinians inside Israel acted against the ongoing confiscation of their lands. People living in the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanese refugee camps quickly organized their own demonstrations in solidarity.
Today marks the 34th anniversary of Land Day and the tradition thrives.
This morning, Jewish and Palestinian Israelis stood together in the Negev to demand equitable distribution of resources. In the West Bank, Palestinians and international supporters nonviolently protested the separation wall that continually cuts off farmers from their fields and stalls the peace process. Palestinians in Gaza confronted the buffer zone that now includes land that once provided for most of their agricultural needs. «Every day in which the Palestinian people hold on to their land is Land Day,» said Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad earlier in the week.
High in the Galilee today, the people of Sakhnin are also honoring the tradition that started in their backyard. Their struggle is far from over, but their connection to the land lives on and has become an enduring symbol of the Palestinian struggle.
Grassroots International works in Sakhnin, Israel with our partner the Ahali Center for Community Development.