OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – As world leaders descend on Israel to celebrate its 60th birthday, thousands of black balloons, kites and flags will darken the sky above occupied East Jerusalem) as Palestinians commemorate the loss of their homeland.
"On May 15, we will release 21,915 (365 days x 60 years) black balloons into the sky of Jerusalem," reads a statement for a campaign launched on the social networking site Facebook.
So far, some 2000 members have joined the "21,915 Black Balloons over Al-Quds" campaign.
Organizers, the Palestinian Higher National Committee for Commemorating Nakba, has appealed to all Palestinians to take part.
"We call on you to participate by wearing black cloths and flying black balloons, kites and flags."
The balloons will carry inside letters from Palestinian kids expressing their thoughts on Nakba and their future.
On May 15, Palestinians, whether inside the occupied territories or in Diaspora, commemorate Nakba Day, when Israel was created on the ruins of Palestine.
On April 18, 1948, Palestinian Tiberius was captured by Menachem Begin’s Irgun militant group, putting its 5,500 Palestinian residents in flight. On April 22, Haifa fell to the Zionist militants and 70,000 Palestinians fled.
On April 25, Irgun began bombarding civilian sectors of Jaffa, terrifying the 750,000 inhabitants into panicky flight.
On May 14, Jaffa completely surrendered to the much better-equipped Zionist militants and only about 4,500 of its population remained.
Organizers say the campaign aims to counter Israel’s high-profile celebrations of its emergence "on the ruins of our people, villages and cities."
"We aim to turn the skies over Israel’s celebrations," reads the camping statement.
US President George W. Bush arrived in Israel earlier Wednesday to lead a chorus of world leaders taking part in Israel’s birthday bash.
Palestinians hope their Nakba memorials will mark the flip side of Israel’s celebration.
"Let people know that there is another side of the story, a side of heartache, suffering and dispossession," says the campaign statement.
Organizers plan to fly the balloons just as Bush makes his speech in the Knesset on Thursday.
"This will be the answer to Bush’s speech and the American positions which are hostile to our cause."
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has reprimanded Israel for its birthday gala.
"I direct my speech to the people of Israel, to say, how can you?
"How can you celebrate while the Palestinian people are crying out in pain? How can you feel freedom when you seize the land and the liberty of another people?
"How can you celebrate and the Palestinian people are suffering from your settlements and the crimes of your settlers and the siege of your state and the conduct of your occupying army?"