Mornings in Jenin …

” He looked on the silence at the proof of what Israelis already know, that their history is contrived from the bones and traditions of Palestinians . The Europeans who come know neither hummus nor flafel, but later proclaimed them ‘authentic Jewish cuisine’. They claimed the villas of Qatamon as ‘old Jewish homes’. They had no old photographs or ancient drawings of their ancestry living on the land, loving it and planting it. They arrived from foreign nations and uncovered coins in Palestine’s earth from the Canaanites, the Romans, the Ottomans, then sold them as their own ‘ancient Jewish artifacts.’ They came to Jaffa and found oranges the size of watermelons and said ‘Behold!’. The Jews are known for their oranges. But those oranges were the culmination of centuries of Palestinian farmers perfecting the art of citrus growing.

Mornings in Jenin is a novel written by Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa. It’s a novel that takes us through the painful history of Palestine by tracing the story of Amal’s family from 1948 right through to present day. It is one of the very few mainstream novels that depicts the story of Palestinians post 1948, nakba, the catastrophe or simply the creation of the state of Israel. And although this is a fictional story of a made up family, it really makes us feel every drop of tear and the deep pain that was felt by Palestinians throughout history.

Pre 1948, Abul Heja family; Yehya and Bassima and their two sons were living in Eid Hod, a small village in Palestine. They owned a house, lived in peace, loved their neighbours, life was simple. When one of their kids marries Dalia and has their son Ismael, the state of Israel was created. Zionists who came from all over the world, particularly Europe invaded their land, destroyed their homes and forced them out of their village and into refugee camps in Jenin. Ismael was kidnapped by Israeli soldiers, this destroys his mother and she is forever changed. They have two more children, Amal and Yousef. Mornings in Jenin allows us to understand the suffering, humiliation and the psychological effects the occupation had and still has on Palestinians. Amal grows up in cramped conditions, poverty and the ongoing fear of guns and violence.

The 6 day war in 1967, or better known as the naksa, tension became dangerously heightened. Palestinians were hoping to go back to their homes but instead Israel was left in control of the Gaza strip, Sinai Peninsula, West Bank,  East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. A quote from the novel that really describes what was happening at the time and that really pierced through my heart is ” They are slowly being erased from the world, from its history and from the future.” Palestinians were being kicked out of their homes yet again, leaving Palestine to nearby countries and to the West, and “Refugees are made refugees again.” As the author describes.

Amal’s mother becomes increasingly isolated in her misery and withdrawn from her children and from life. Her husband dissapears and she never sees him again, as is the story of many Palestinian families who loose their loved ones. Yousef moves to Lebanon, where he gets married. Amal moves to America to study and work. There, she looses herself, changes her name to Amy and lives the American life. After thirteen years of living abroad, Amal decides to go to Lebanon in 1981 where she reconnects with her brother, meets the love of her life Majid, gets married and has her child Sara. They all lived happily in Shatila, a crowded refugee camp in Southern Beirut. Where refugees fled to find safety and security, they were massacred again in the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982, where thousands were brutally killed including Majid and Yousef’s wife. All Amal wanted at that moment was to die. She seeks refuge back in America where she becomes exactly like her mother, withdrawn, miserable and resentful of her daughter.

Amal reunites with her brother Ismael, she also learns that her brother Yousef has joined the PLO and is living in exile. After decades of living away from Palestine, Sara forces her mother to visit again. Amal describes to us that after six decades of occupation, Jenin refugee camps have been transformed from what was believed to be ‘temporary’ tents to ‘permenant’ tall crowded buildings, one next to the other. The refugee camp is now labelled “the nurturing home for terrorists.” where apparently Palestinians in this region are committing crimes against Israelis living on their land. People’s faces were no longer hopeful to return to their homes, but instead they were filled with anger and resentment.

The tragic ending of the novel leaves us wondering; How did we come this far? How did the temporary tents become permenant brick homes? How did the rightful land owners become terrorists and the occupiers become the rightful land owners?

Mornings in Jenin is a heartwrenching novel that really allows us to live in Palestine through its detailed painful history.

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I admire you …..

I admire those that fight for the Palestinian cause, those that are able to speak up and raise the Palestinian flag all around the globe. It takes real courage and determination to fight for such a cause, one that is standing so fragile against the world’s strongest powers, one that has left many scarred for life and a cause that has been wounded and left to bleed alone for close to seven decades.

Dr. Mads Gilbert. Norwegian physician, humanitarian, activist and politician. .

Dr. Mads Gilbert.
Norwegian physician, humanitarian, activist and politician.

 

My heart is touched when I see individuals that have devoted their lives to spread the truth and to tell the world about the injustice that has happened and is still happening decade after decade in Palestine.

I was lucky enough to attend the 7th annual conference for American Muslims for Palestine in Chicago this year, where I felt as though I fell in love with Palestine all over again. I fell in love with that place that I long to see, long to touch, long to smell. Hundreds of people gathered there and our love for this piece of land united us. I felt a different sense of belonging and security. I felt as though I found some of the missing pieces of a puzzle that I was looking for, between these people, that shared the same love for Palestine as I did.

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There’s a famous quote that Yaser Arafat repeatedly said and that is

النضال ليس فقط بندقية، بل هو ايضا ريشة رسام، قصيدة شاعر وصوت مغني

Struggle against injustice is not just fighting with a weapon, but it is also the brush of a painter, the words of a poet and the voice of a singer.

I strongly believe this quote and I believe that we can fight with our words, we can fight with whatever we are capable of fighting with. In the end we are all fighting for the same cause. And although I know and strongly believe that fighting injustice by sacrificing yourself is the strongest form of struggle, I also believe that words can be just as strong at times. An article can change the minds of people, a poem can tell a story of Palestinian child, a song can be heard by millions all over the world, a painting can remind us of Palestine, a boycott can ruin an economy, a book can take us back home. One doesn’t have to have a weapon to be able to stand up and fight for Palestine, but we can fight in any shape, way or form. We can use whatever talent or occupation we have to fight and to tell our story to the world. This is the only way our story will survive and this is the only way we can pass our narrative from one generation to the next.

Rafeef Ziadah.  Palestinian academic and spoken word artist and BDS National Committee secretariat member

Rafeef Ziadah.
Palestinian academic and spoken word artist and BDS National Committee secretariat member

 

I was lucky enough to listen to and meet so many great individuals, ones that used their unique talents solely for the great cause of Palestine. I fell in love with each one of them and realized how truly valid Arafat’s quote was and still is. They touched me and left me inspired to do so much more. Each one of us has a role to play, each one of us can do something that can bring us a step closer to ending the occupation in Palestine, even if that step is thousands of steps away from that dream. What have we done to deserve a free Palestine?
What have we done to deserve to go back to  this land? It is only with true activism and determination that we will  witness this day. It is only with true activism and determination that our story and our history will never be erased.

Mohammed Zeyara. Palestinian public speaker and human rights activist.

Mohammed Zeyara. Palestinian public speaker and human rights activist.

 

Ahmad Tibi. Member of the Parliament at the Knesset.

Ahmad Tibi. Member of the Parliament at the Knesset.

 

Mustafa Barghooti. Palestinian physican, activist and politician.

Mustafa Barghooti. Palestinian physican, activist and politician.

 

Ghada Oueiss. Lebanese presenter at Al-Jazeera.

Ghada Oueiss. Lebanese presenter at Al-Jazeera.

Miko Peled. Israeli peace activist and author.

Miko Peled. Israeli peace activist and author.