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Resistance in Barbara
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כדילתרגם לעברית
Posted by Abdel Gabbar Adwan on September 28, 2001
As one of the sons of the mokhtar (mayor) of Barbara , Hussein Ibrahim Adwan, (Abu Matar), I feel obliged to enrich the site with stories and memories from our village.

Regarding the resistance against the British mandate and their policy of assistance to the Zionist movement in settling Jews in Palestine, the people of Barbara fought several battles. Two of these battles were recorded in the former PLO Dairy Notes, year 1965-66. I remember a lot of details from the evening talk around the fire in Al Majlis where most of the men and some of the women from the village sat every night in our house in the refugee camp in Raffah where most of the residents of Barbara took refuge after 1948.

I was born in 1952 but the nightly sessions left me with a clear picture of Barbara's geography and life there. I visited Barbara in 1974 and again in 1978 at which time it was still possible to find many reminders of the former village structure. The school was in use as a grocery store cum restaurant. The school toilet was still in the same location and being used, the village water tower was still standing beside the school, the cement house of Abdel Hafiz Adwan, near the main road was still standing, remnants of the formerly famous Barbara grapes, known since Roman times could be found everywhere among the sand dunes, returning to their wild state, the cactus plants which formed the borders of individual plots of land were still standing guard amongst the rubble. At this time the Jewish settlers were living in a small enclosed area with barbed wire fences to the rear of the school.

Barbara lies at an important point on the main Gaza-Jaffa road parallel to the rail link which ran from Egypt, through Palestine to Lebanon, Syria and beyond. South of Barbara, near the village of Deir Suneyd was the only existing Jewish settlement in the Gaza district, the next Jewish location to the north was Tel Aviv. In the mid 1930's Barbara residents resolved to stop Jewish movement along the main road in order to isolate the settlement which had been constructed as an easily defensible military outpost. The mokhtar led the action to barricade the road in order to force the settlers to disclose what they were transporting. The settlers refused and started reinforcing their trucks with metal plating which enabled them to evade the villagers and push through the barricades. They travelled in armed convoys with greater firepower than could be mustered by the villagers. Barbara's residents conceived the idea of capturing an entire convoy. They dug under the road in two places, laid explosives and hid on either side of the road. As the convoy passed the explosions were triggered and the trucks could neither advance nor retreat. I myself saw a photograph of that which my father took but which has since been lost. The British soldiers came to mediate and the settlers were released after about 12 hours on condition that they no longer used this road. This was the first battle of Barbara.

The second battle of Barbara was conducted against the British Mandate in the wake of the famous 1936 General Strike. The British started diverting troops from Egypt into Palestine by train which as we know passed close to Barbara. Aware of their strategic location the villagers decided to do what they could to disrupt enemy troop movements. Initially they sabotaged the tracks. The British resorted to sending a decoy truck down the track in advance of the train to examine track condition and remove possible bobbytraps. The mokhtar worked out that the explosive must be placed in the short time between the decoy passing and the train arrival. A boy from the village was hidden under the sand near the track with wired explosive which he placed on the track immediately after the decoy passed and the villagers then pulled him back by means of a rope attached to his foot. This worked well but could not be repeated as the British increased patrols along the track as a result of the derailment. In a further attempt at sabotage the villagers dismantled part of the track and used the rails to reinforce the cement roof of their enlarged school building, where among others the martyr, Kamal Adwan, started his education. In 1974 I saw these rails in the roof of the former school, then being used as a restaurant.


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