The iPad generation 

  
As a little girl, I remember spending hours immersed in nature. Smelling fresh air, digging for worms, snails and even cockroaches. Climbing trees in the backyard…I remember sitting on a skateboard and sliding down till I reached the end of the backyard…
I remember shooting a basketball in a ring that was almost my height pretending that I could slam dunk and writing names of famous basketball players like Shaquille O’neal and Micheal Jordan on the bricks of the balcony..

  
Full of energy and life, I remember climbing up on the roof of our house then getting stuck not knowing how to come down again. With crayons and chalk, I wrote my name all over the backyard, leaving memories in every corner. If I wasn’t on my bike, I was in my roller blades, rollerblading to the stores by my house, to my primary school. 
  
I was filling up balloons with water, picking plums from the tree that filled the middle of the backyard…

As I stand on the balcony today, staring at the same backyard a couple of decades later, looking at the same walls that hold my name. Looking at the trees that gave me years of joy, I wonder what has changed ? Where have we reached? Where has the joy of childhood gone? Have our children missed out on their childhood? Have they forgotten how to play? 
  
What have we benefitted from all this technology around us? iPads, iPhones, iPods… The iPad generation has missed out on the joys of climbing, on the joys of jumping and digging for worms and snails. Hours spent staring at a screen jumping and climbing with a swipe of a finger. 

I feel sorry for a generation that will never know the true meaning and taste of getting dirty, of climbing and falling, of creating games with a pen and paper, with rocks and chalk. I feel sorry for a generation and generations to come that will never understand what it really means to be a child. 

I often hear parents saying I want to give my children what I never had as a child. Individualized iPads and iPhones, Tvs and computers in each room. Lessons in every sport and every activity. My child must be good in everything that ever existed because I never had a chance to be good at basketball, soccer, skating, taikwandoo, karate, gymnastics, swimming, jujitsu. And the list is just endless….

Sure I want my children to be good in everything too, but If I could, I would give my children a glimpse of my childhood. I would give them the rocks I played hop scotch with, I would give them the chalk I wrote my name with all over the walls, I would give them the nature that gave me so much joy as a child. 
I would give them the ability to ride, skate, swim, jump and climb with out lessons..

If I could I would give them the imagination to create and play and the ability to lose themselves in nature. 

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You are Aylan Kurdi

Three years ago, your were born .. Little Aylan Kurdi.

You were born on a land known for its generous people, for its rich culture, for its beautiful nature.. Brown eyes, brown hair, little brother to Galip, son to Abdullah and Rehan. You never saw the land we called Syria, you never felt that fresh breeze brushing off the Syrian mountains and the smell of the Mediterranean coast on a hot summer day. You never heard the numerous stories about your ancestors, about the generosity of your people, you never tasted the incredibly delicious shami cuisine. 

Instead, you were born in the midst of a vicious cycle of violence, a bloody civil war. You saw nothing but human hatred.. you felt nothing but fear… you smelt nothing but blood.. you heard nothing but the brutal sound of killing … you tasted nothing but betrayal and revenge. 

Syria, Oh Syria… What has happened to you ? We grew up learning about your rich history .. We grew up listening to stories about your educated, hard-working citizens.. we grew up watching your shows… Watching you vanish into rubble, watching your thousands of years of history disappear, watching your people being called ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum seekers’ walking bare foot in foreign countries aches my heart.. And for what reason? Who is responsible for this? Who is benefitting from this? 

Little Aylan, your picture defines the human catastrophe we live in today.. You were neglected, you were abandoned and forgotten.. And for that I have no words to describe to you how sorry I am, how much I wish I could have held you in my arms just as I hold my own children .. I wish I could have blocked away the sound of bombs dropping around you.. Ya habibi, how I wish I could have caught you when you slipped away from your father’s arms into the cold and bitter sea .. 

Little Aylan, washed ashore off of the Mediterranean, you drowned while we drowned in tears and shame for the state that we as humans have reached. How could we have watched you drown while we sat on our comfortable couches, how could we have seen your innocence stripped away from you like that?

Little Aylan, your father risked his life to cross the sees and bring you to safety after the world washed their hands from your problem and pretended your problem is not theirs… Today he goes back to the very same place he escaped from, alone, empty handed, broken hearted, to burry you, your brother and your mother.. The sea was just as cruel as the land.. 

  
Little Aylan, you are the symbol of today’s inhumane crisis… You are the Handala of the Syrian people.. You are our consciousness that has died.. You are our dignity that we gave up .. You are the innocent scream of thousands that have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to escape .. You are the cry for freedom.. you are my child…

You are Aylan Kurdi, the three year old that drowned, searching for safety.. You are not just another refugee.. 

No.. You are Aylan Kurdi ..

  

Rest in peace …

I don’t know you, I’ve never met you, I’ve never even heard of your names, before today…

But today, I meet you for the first time in my life ….

Three beautiful, bright souls, so young, so talented and so full of life. Sadly, I only met you because your lives were taken away, so brutally, so violently, by an act of pure hatred and racism.

Deah, 23 year old dental school student. Yosur, Deah’s wife, 21 year old dental school student. Razan, 19 year old architecture student. Deah and Yosur, you just got married last December. Maybe you were planning to have a baby or maybe you wanted to wait till you were done university. The world will never know your children….. Deah, you were working on a project called ‘Refugee smiles’, you were planning a trip this summer to Turkey to help Syrian refugees get their smiles back by volunteering to fix their teeth. The world will never see the smiles you fixed…. Razan, you’re talented and creative, the world will never see what amazing work you could have done …

I sometimes wonder what kind of a world we live in? I lose faith in humanity, I lose faith in doing good, because even when you’re heart is pure and you’re on the right path and you live your life in the service of others, you are still a target for hate crime.

Today I mourn, I scream, I cry tears of pain for the lives of these young souls. They could have been my daughters, they could have been my friends, they could have been my family members.

And where is the media?  How many seconds of media coverage did this get? Are we not as worthy as those killed in France? As those killed in Sydney? As those killed in any part of the world? I don’t see the media bombarding us for hours and days about this, I still haven’t heard about this being a terrorist attack, I still don’t know which group he belongs to, who inspired him to do it, who his friends are, what his nationality is, where his ancestors are from, which exact date did his ancestors  enter the United States of America. Oh that’s right, who cares!

Till when will we live this hypocrisy, this ignorance, this double standards of whose life is more valued than the other. Muslim lives matter. Muslim lives matter. Muslim lives matter. We are not just numbers. Muslim lives matter.

Terrorism has no gender, no race, no religion.

I know I don’t know you, but I am truly blessed that I got a small glimpse of your lives. I know I can’t  fix your smile and bring it back  Deah. I know I will never see your children Yosur. I know I will never see a building you designed Razan. But I want you to know that your pictures will forever be with me. You didn’t die because of war, or because of famine or disease. You died because you were hated, simply because you were a Muslim trying to do good in this world. And for that you will forever be remembered.

Rest in peace in a place much better than the place we live in…

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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.

Dear Gaza …..

I finally have the courage to pick up my pen and write down my feelings on paper … My hand is shaking.. I don’t know where to begin.. But I will begin and I will let my tears do the writing for me …

Dear Gaza,

Forgive me …..

Today marks the 19th day of this inhumane and unjust war on you. This war that has left you brutally wounded.. This war that has taken away your innocent children, your mothers, your fathers, your young men… It has taken away the walls of your schools where generations were taught… it has taken away the walls of your hospitals where the sick were given hope… It has taken away the voices of your children playing outside with their ball and replaced it with screams of fear… It has taken away the sound of your athan calling your people to come pray … It has wiped off some of your families, as if they never existed. All this was taken away from you violently, no questions asked, no explanations given. For Israel is simply defending itself!

What are you defending yourself from Oh Israel? Was that 4 year old that you shred into pieces last night really such a threat to you? What about that unborn child in its mother’s womb, the one that hasn’t even taken its first breath of life yet? Was he the threat? Or were you defending yourself from the paralysed and comatose patients you bombed in the hospital? Were they the threat? How many children will you take away from us for you to feel that you have removed this ‘threat’.

يا أمه ضحكت من جهلها الامميا أمه ضحكت من جهلها الامم

                  يا أمه ضحكت من جهلها الامم  

Oh Israel!! Don’t you understand? You can bomb, you can destroy, you can kill and take lives by the dozen. But you will never be able to take away what’s in our hearts… You will never take away the eternal love we have with this land… You will never take away the spiritual connection we have with this land…
As hard as you try… Year after year … decade after decade… deaths upon deaths… You will never succeed in erasing our history, you will never have peace of mind.. For this is our land, the land of our ancestors, the land of our olive trees. The land that you polluted with your people, your hate and your violence.

You’ve kept us in Gaza in a cage, like animals in a zoo. No rights to basic human needs. Most densely populated spot in the world! No one is allowed to enter or exit, not from your side and certainly not from the other side… You played the game well! You have our leaders bowing to you, you stripped away our dignity. Days spent at the borders to leave the Gaza strip for work or medical aid, and you can simply turn us back, back to our cage.. Simply because we are Palestinian! What crime have we committed? You played the game well! You planted your seeds in Palestine and you spread your branches all over the Arab world! In every spot of our lands, we smell your filthy presence.

كلما تذكرت ان الطائرات التي تقصف غزة تطير بنفط عربي اكره عروبتي

 كلما تذكرت ان الطائرات التي تقصف غزة تطير بنفط عربي اكره عروبتي

Wake up oh leaders of this ummah! Wake up from your beauty sleep! Look at the state we have reached! Have you seen our men sleeping on the ground on the streets? Have you heard the cries of our mothers over their dead children? Do you feel our pain? Are you even there?
Wake up oh leaders of this ummah!! Wake up before we witness the day when the Israeli flags are on top of our kabaa and our Masjed Al Aqsa is brought to rubbles just like the masajed in Gaza!

How many lives will it take to move you? Have you no fear from the one watching you?

And to you Gaza,

Forgive me, for words on paper is all I have to offer you. Forgive me Gaza I couldn’t hold you in my arms and give you hope for a better tomorrow. Forgive me for I have been away from you all my life.

Forgive me, Forgive us, forgive humanity…, for it has failed you..

من قلب المعاناه

من قلب المعاناه، تكتب احدى أقاربي عن آلامهم في غزه ….

الحياة في غزه شبه معدومه مش حعرف اعبرلك كتير عن مدى المعاناة اللي بنعيشها…. حياه كلها خوف من المجهول… بنام على أمل انه نصحى…. بنتشاهد على روحنا قبل ما نام تحسبا انه يجينا صاروخ واحنا نايمين… بالنهار الناس معظمها بتكون ببيوتها ماحدش بيطلع اﻻ المضطر اللي بدو يشتري غرض لﻻوﻻده….. واحنا بموسم رمضان لما بيطلع الواحد بنضل قلقانين عليه لما يرجع ونطمن انه صار بالبيت خوف مايصير قصف قريب من المكان اللي هوه رايح يشتري منه… بنخاف على اوﻻدنا يلعبوا بساحة البيت مش عايشين حياتهم زي أي اطفال في العالم .

موقفي من العرب طول ما العرب مسلميين رقبتهم لﻻمريكان والصهاينه عمرنا ما حننتصر على الصهاينه وﻻ حنقدر نرجع بﻻدنا…. اكتر اشي بيعرفوا يعملوه انهم بنامو في اجتماعاتهم العربيه….

بدناش منهم اشي بس مايضغطوش علينا علشان نتنازل عن حقنا في الحياة …. اتمنى انى نطلع من هادي الحرب بكل اللي بنتمناه…. نعيش زي الشعوب الحره ونعيش بأمان بدون خوف على أرواحنا وبيوتنا…. نسافر بدون اي عقبات، فكو الحصار عنا.

هي حياتنا من يوم ما وعينا على هالدنيا.

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