Canada Park

Peace will be possible when we acknowledge the wrongs of the past, embrace truth, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

Ayalon - Canada Park map

I visited Canada Park this past weekend and as you will see from the photographs it is a beautiful place only a short ride from Jerusalem off the main highway to Tel Aviv. There are paved roads and picnic spots and look offs with scenic views from almost every vantage point.

But this park, reforested with bush pine, cyprus and carob, covers over a shocking war crime that has a serious Canadian Connection.

Ayalon - Canada Park

The road to Emmaes now fringed by a JNF bush pine forest


This place is the site of the biblical Emmaus, (Luke 24) – Imwas to the Palestinians.

The village of Imwas, and two other villages were erased from the face of the earth in 1967 and since then there has been an intentional plan to erase them from history, as if they never existed.

Ayalon - Canada Park

Today the area is known as Ayalon Canada Park, and was established by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 1973, with funds from JNF raised in Canada.

Ayalon - Canada Park

There are numerous archaeological remains from ancient history of this area which was at times ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, caliphates, Crusaders, Ottomans, and the British, as part of the Mandate in Palestine. In each era, the native population changed their religion and culture to that of their rulers.

Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba

During the Nakba Catastrophe in 1948, more than 450 villages were destroyed and over 700,000 Palestinians were driven from present day Israel.  Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba became part of the West Bank under the care of Jordan.

Two decades later, there was a second Nakba for these villages.

In the “Six-Day War”, on June 7, 1967 the Israeli Forces on the orders of Yitzhak Rabin expelled the more than 7000 inhabitants of Imwas and the neighboring villages of Yalu and Beit Nuba.

The villages were destroyed – blown up, bulldozed razed to the ground. Over I400 homes were destroyed along with public buildings, places of worship and even cemeteries.

Ayalon - Canada Park, This cave was once an animal shelter attached to a Palestinian home

This cave was once an animal shelter attached to a Palestinian home

These civilian populations of Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba did not pose a threat to Israel or the powerful Israeli Army. It was simply an act of vindictiveness, and a way of pushing the border further east.

Signs: Re-writing History

Ayalon - Canada Park

There are numerous signs and plaques in Ayalon Canada Park interpreting the ancient history of the area, however nowhere in the park is there any sign or plaque commemorating or recognizing the history of the Palestinian people or the three villages and their inhabitants.

There is a deliberate and concerted effort on the part of Israel to erase the Palestinian history, to deny a Palestinian existence then and now, and the JNF has been the accomplice of the State in this endeavor.

This attempt to erase the history is done in the mistaken belief that if the history is erased the crimes that were perpetrated will be erased and forgotten and will not weigh on the conscience of the present population.

Ayalon - Canada Park

They say history is written by the victors. That may have been true once, but not anymore. We now have the ability to record history from all sides, in the written word, in photographs, in audio, in video, and in the voices of those who lived through it.

“Making The Desert Bloom”

A large format book titled “All that Remains” (The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948), edited by Walid Khalidi, records the names and details of more than 450 villages that were destroyed in the Nakba.  Since then they have been paved over, built over, turned into recreational areas and renamed without any recognition that within living memory the native population was driven from their homes and villages into the refugee camps on the West Bank and the surrounding countries.

The JNF has played a major role in covering up the war crimes of ’48 and ’67 under the guise of  reforestation and “making the desert bloom”.

This Cactus fence at Canada Park was once around a dwelling

Ayalon – Canada Park: “Making the desert bloom”: This Cactus fence at Canada Park was once around a dwelling

The Israeli narrative that the people “left voluntarily” is as ridiculous as it is farcical. Another well documented source of this tragic event is a book titled “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Ilan Pappe, an Israeli author and professor of history.

Since 2002, an Israeli NGO called Zochrot (Zochrot means “remembering” in Hebrew) has tried to promote acknowledgement and accountability for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba, and the idea that the “Right of Return”, and fair compensation, is a necessary truth on a path to peace and reconciliation.

Although Zochrot is a voice in the wilderness it was nevertheless successful after years of persistent negotiation with the park, in placing a sign at the site of the destroyed villages. The sign simply stated that the villages had once existed and pointing out simple sites such as: “In the village a spring and a few water wells have been preserved”. (You can read the entire translation in the footnote*)

Ayalon - Canada Park: The sign placed by Zochrot that was ripped up and thrown away, Canada Park, Israel Hebrew

The sign placed by Zochrot that was ripped up and thrown away

But within a short time the signs were torn down and disappeared. The park authorities suggested it was the work of metal thieves – a likely story!

A Native of Beit Nuba

I first became aware of Canada Park some years ago when I met Ismail Zayid a well known Halifax doctor, now retired.  Ishmael was born and grew up in the village of Beit Nuba. He and his family were driven out in 1967 and exiled in Jordan, never allowed to return to their native village. Never again can he sit by his parent’s fireplace and remember the past and never will he sit there with his children and grandchildren in the place where they belong – the place that belongs to them.
I wrote to Ismail that I had visited the place and left my footprints in the soil and he sent me this reply:

Dear Mel,  
Thank you for this very interesting report and your personal statement.
Your footprints in Beit Nuba will be a mark for a call for justice to eliminate the crimes and oppression that we, in Beit Nuba, and elsewhere, sustained and continue to endure. 
Thank you so much for your principled stand. 
Kindest regards. 
Ismail Zayid

The Canadian Connection

Canada Park was built with millions of dollars (initially $15 million and later additions of millions for additions and Improvements) donated by Jewish Canadian families, individuals and organisations to the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Ayalon - Canada Park

These families and Jewish organisations in Canada were largely unaware of the history of the area at the time. It was simply proposed to them by JNF that they could adopt a park in Israel, to be named “Canada Park”. John Diefenbaker, the former Canadian prime minister, formally opened the park in 1975. But as the history  became known, many of the donors felt uncomfortable, and the name was subsequently changed to “Ayalon Canada Park”

The park was built with tax deductible dollars and from a Canadian perspective every tax deductible dollar has to be replaced with a real tax dollar, so in effect the Canadian public paid for this park. The Canadian public today would be ashamed and outraged to learn that that they paid for a park to cover up this shocking war crime.

Erik Ader

Erik Ader  a  retired diplomat from the Netherlands felt shame and outrage when he discovered how his father’s brave deeds had been used to conceal the mass displacement of Palestinians. His father Bastiaan Jan Ader was a clergyman and a resistance fighter in the Netherlands when it was under Nazi occupation, credited with saving the lives of more than 200 Dutch Jews.

As a tribute to Bastiaan, the Jewish National Fund planted more than 1,000 pine trees in his memory.

Decades later, Erik learned that the forest had been planted over the ruins of Bayt Nattif, a village destroyed by Zionist forces during the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe), the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and as a response, donated 1000 olive trees to the village of Farata, a Palestinian village under Israeli occupation in the West Bank.

Ayalon - Canada Park: Erik Ader donated 1000 olive trees to the village of Farata in memory of his father.

Erik Ader donated 1000 olive trees to the village of Farata in memory of his father.

He said:

I decided to donate 1,100 olive trees to Farata via the international Olive Tree Campaign. I saw the situation in the occupied West Bank where settlers continue with impunity to terrorize Palestinian villagers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, I saw the scam of the JNF abusing my father’s name to cover up human rights abuses.” 

When his story was publicized, the commemoration stone for his father at the JNF forest over the ruins of Bayt Nattif was desecrated, in the same way as the signs were vandalized signs in Canada Park (“metal thieves”). The full story is worth reading here:

Ayalon - Canada Park

A Responsibility to Truth for Canadians

To continue to have Canada’s name associated with the scene of this crime is an insult to all Canadians and therefore I call on the decent and ethical Jewish families and individuals who contributed to the building of this park to make the following happen:

  1. Pay back the deducted tax dollars,
  2. Insist that The JNF and the Israeli Authorities remove “Canada” from the name of this park.
  3. Place permanent and durable (theft proof) signs in the park recognizing the Palestinian history.
  4. Insist the JNF pay for the planting of 10,000 (at least) olive trees in the Palestinian Occupied Territories , to replace the ones destroyed the the IDF and  the Settlers

This might be the beginning of the path to truth and responsibility and a process to enable the families of the Nakba and their descendants to return, which is their human right as confirmed by UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

Peace will be possible when we acknowledge the wrongs of the past, embrace truth, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

Mae / Dec 22 2016

Ayalon - Canada Park

*Footnote: The sign placed by Zochrot, which was destroyed by ‘metal thieves’:

The civil administration – Judea and Samaria
The Ayalon-Canada Park has an abundance of historical sites.
From Tel Ayalon-known as Ayalon, a city in the land of the Binyamin tribe, through the Aked ruins in which you can find the remains of a Maccabees fortress to the valley of springs that contains the remains of a water carrying system from the roman city Amaos-Nikopolis. In the site there are relics from the Byzantine period and relics of a crusaders fortress. In the time of the Mamelukes, in the year of 1288, the tomb of Sheikh Ibn-Jabal was built. The village of Deir Ayub that ruled the way towards Jerusalem existed in the park’s area until the Independence war. The villages of Amoas and Yalo also existed in the area of the park until 1967. In the village of Amoas 2000 people resided, they have been living in Jordan and Ramallah ever since. Near the ruins of the village a grave yard has been preserved. In the village of Yalo 1700 people resided, they have been living in Jordan and Ramallah ever since. In the village a spring and a few water wells have been preserved.

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