Meet the Palestinian family who have tended the graves of our war dead for 60 years

13 May

Over the years, little has changed: there are still two alpine plants in front of each headstone, a rose at least every four or five graves. Planting is ‘generous’, says Richardson, intended to evoke an English country garden. All grass must have straight edges; weeds are a no-no.

‘It’s a bit like a juggernaut,’ admits Richardson. ‘We’re tinkering at the edges.’

Each generation of the Jaradah family has passed on its horticultural knowledge to the next. Ibrahim Sr established the nursery, between the house and the cemetery, where they grow all their own flowers. In time, he taught Essam which would flourish in the heat, and which would not. They have had success with bougainvillea, chrysanthemums and jasmine, but not with roses. ‘We wanted to grow them,’ says Ibrahim Jr, ‘but the plants did not succeed.’ 

The family’s horticultural roots – and its connection with the commission – go back even further than Ibrahim Sr. His father, Rabie, was also employed by the commission as a gardener, beginning work in the 1920s in a cemetery in what was then Palestine. In 1947, as plans were drawn up to create the state of Israel, the family, like thousands of other Palestinian refugees, fled to Gaza. Ibrahim Sr, who was nine at the time, remembers how they rode there on camels by moonlight. Within a decade, his father had died and he had taken over from him.

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