Sepia Prints (2014 - Present)
Portraits of Denial & Desire Sepia

Elias Wakim. Digital Print. Sepia.
80 x 60 and 110 x 80 inches
John Halaka © 2015

Elias Wakim.  Born 1926, El Bassa Palestine.  Lives in Malia, Israel.

Elias Wakim was 22 years old when he and all of the Christian and Muslim inhabitants of El Bassa were kicked out of their prosperous village in 1948.  While the majority of the people of Al Bassa were driven out of their homeland, Elias Wakim was fortunate in the sense that he became an internally displaced refugee and resettled in a town called Malia.  When I interviewed him, he took me to his native village, which except for its three churches and part of one of its mosques, was completely destroyed.  On the ruins of El Bassa, an Israeli industrial town called Shlomi has been built.

After looking into the ruins of the churches and mosque, Elias Wakim took me to the remains of Al Bassa’s cemetery. The place was in total ruin, with the once decorated mausoleums destroyed and desecrated.   Wakim gently prompted me to look into a hole that had been blasted in one of the mausoleums.  After my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized that I was looking at human remains, human bones that were mixed with trash that was dumped on top of them, as well as the remains of small animals that had fallen into the mausoleum and died.  The rotted coffins were all broken and all of the skulls were missing, but human bones were clearly disturbed and had been kicked together.

As I stared with surprise at the desecrated remains of one of Al Bassa’s pre-1948 citizens, Elias Wakim told me in a soft voice “that’s my father.”   Even with the graves vandalized and the remains defiled, he insists that his father’s bones stay in his native village.