Ein Hod, described as a picturesque village enfused with Israeli art and culture, an artists’ colony with galleries, museums festivals and exhibits, a lover of art and culture’s dream. What couldn’t be more perfect?

The problem with this utopia is that it is built on Palestinian land expelled during the Nabka in 1948. Unlike other depopulated Palestinian villages and towns like Kwaykaat, Manshiyya, Berwah, Ruwais and al-Hadatha, Ayn Hawd was left intact, filled with Palestinian homes. After one short-lived attempt at agriculture, Ein Hod became an artists colony 1953. The village’s mosque was converted into the Bonanza Bar/Restaurant. Any attempt to return to their homes was denied.

The expelled residents of Ayn Hawd relocated only a stone throw away, on their own land,  in orchards and pastures. In post WWII, the new State of Israel drove Palestinians from their homes in an ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinian people. The Palestinian homes were left intact and unoccupied. The Palestinians were denied the right to return. Rather than leave, they pitched tents and lean-tos just outside the village. So close, but so very far away.

The previous residents were now considered to be a “present absentee”. The were absentee since they were displaced from their homes, but present since they hadn’t left the newly found State of Israel. They remained within the State of Israel, living in unrecognized villages, villages that don’t receive any services or support from the Israeli government. As Muhammad Abu al-Hayja, founder and director of the Association of Forty, stated “It means that your village doesn’t get any services at all – no electricity, no running water, no schools, no medical clinics… It means that you are cut off from the rest of the world – not just the larger outside world, but even from Israel and what goes on there”.

When looking at the Ein Hod website, one can almost hear the music from the festivals and see the cobbled streets. “Ein Hod is a picturesque artists’ village, the only one of its kind in Israel and one of the few such villages in the world. Nestled in natural vegetation and bordered by an ancient olive grove, it lies on the western slopes of Mt Carmel, in a breathtaking landscape looking out toward the sea and the Crusader fortress of Atlit. The Ein Hod Artists’ Village – for lovers of art, landscape and nature, a perfect place to spend a few hours a full day or a few days.”

While the tourists stroll the streets, artists paint and sculpt, the absentee present Palestinians (now Israeli citizens)  live a few hundred yards away from their ancestral homes without electricity and running water, ignored, forgotten and deserted by the State and the world.

The constant pressure from the State to pack up and leave has not severed Muhammad’s connection to his land, his life and his history.

“After I began to understand what was going on in this country, I began to feel like I know who I am. I am a native of this land, and his is actually my country – the stranger is the one who came from outside and refused to recognize me. I live in my own country. My people and my ancestors are buried here. I belong to this land. I do feel like a stranger amonth the Jews, and they feel like I am not of their world. But I am not a stranger to this soil.”