Above, left and right: Many child survivors were left homeless and orphaned by the massacre

Below: Children were loaded onto trucks then abandoned on the streets far from their ruined homes


No longer alone

One eight-year old girl was soaked in blood; Mohammed feared she had been wounded. He didn’t want her to die in this truck. Barely able to speak, she told him her name was Thoraya and assured him she wasn’t wounded. Her aunts had protectively hid her behind them when the terrorists entered their house.

The women had been stabbed, their gold earrings and gold bracelets forcibly removed, but Thoraya had remained safe and protected by their bodies, which fell over her and which she felt stiffen over the hours. It was only when one of the terrorists returned to make sure all the jewellery had been removed from the corpses that she had been found and taken to the truck.

Hind bathed Mohammed and dried him with a warm towel. Then grasping his arms inside her tightly clenched fists, she looked directly into his eyes and pledged: “You will never, ever be alone again, I swear.”

For the ensuing week, Hind worked with Adnan Tamimi to locate the surviving children of Deir Yassin – 55 in all. In light of the brutality of the attack by the Irgun and Stern Gang militias, it was surprising to some that so many had been spared. Trucks had dispatched the children to the Muslim quarter where they had been dumped on street corners.


Above: The children who fell victim to the Deir Yassin massacre are remembered at the Dar El Tifl memorial

Dar El Tifl – a family’s legacy

Long before the massacre of Deir Yassin, which would become the major milestone in her life, Hind had put aside thoughts of marriage as she watched her homeland crumble under the onslaught of European Jews.

The Husseini family of Jerusalem was about as close to aristocracy as Islam recognises. Her father, a judge, had died when she was two years old. Being the only daughter of a family of five boys, she was pampered to the extent of preparing to pursue a higher education, but protected in the sense that it was deemed unwise for her to attend a university in Europe with World War II approaching.

After she completed high school at the English College for Girls in Jerusalem in 1937, she began teaching at the Islamic Girls’ School. She again broke with tradition when she left the family compound to live in her own apartment after she accepted a post in 1945 with the United Women’s Society Organisation.

Now, this pioneer Palestinian feminist realised it was time to return to the family home with her 55 babies. She had only 135 Palestinian pounds in the bank, but Hind wrote in her journal: “I will live with these children or I will die with them.”

Above: Hind Husseini addressing students at Dar El Tifl


“I will live with these children
or I will die with them...”

Concerned that Zionists were attempting to undermine the history of the Palestinian people, Hind Husseini found another passion: the preservation of Palestinian arts and crafts. She began collecting pottery, old furniture, and vintage hand-embroidered dresses; she participated in many symposia in neighbouring Arab states that dealt with Palestinian handicrafts. Eventually Hind established a folkloric centre and museum exhibiting baskets, inlaid furniture, brassware, and national costumes of the Palestinian people.

A future for the children of Deir Yassin

Hind’s family was sympathetic to her calling. They turned over to her the elegant Dar Husseini (Husseini House), a house her grandfather had built in 1891 and in which she had been born on April 25, 1916. So on her 32nd birthday, just two weeks after the massacre of Deir Yassin, Hind renamed the stately mansion Dar El Tifl (Children’s House).

Thereafter, construction always seemed to be going on in the compound. Two four-storey buildings were built; schoolrooms were opened in standing structures. Teachers and yet more teachers were hired. Orphans were rarely turned away.

In 1963, Hind determined she should learn the very latest in educational skills and attended the University of Hamburg for three years.

Over the years, she remained steadfast in ignoring offers of millions of dollars for her property in the traditionally upscale Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Shortly before her death in 1995, she took the ultimate step to protect it by registering it as a possession of the Waqf (the Islamic religious authority).

Sheikh Jarrah has often been the focus of serious attempts to drive out its Palestinian residents, but Dar el Tifl continues its work serving the children of Palestine and preserving its culture.

Read more about the children of Deir Yassin, the legacy of Hind Husseini and the orphanage today here.


Above: The Arabic inscription on the plaque of the memorial at Dar El Tifl