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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To the land I will never know..

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To the land I will never know ….
I think I know you through abstract pictures I have drawn in my mind about you. I pictured the birds singing over the old Jerusalem city. I felt the breeze over your beaches in Yaffa and Haifa, I touched the sand in my hands. I smelt the trees spread all over Akka. I walked through your countless masajed and churches. I walked through the crowded streets of Gaza. I breathed your air. I stopped breathing when I saw your breathtaking god-given beauty.

To the land I will never know ….
I think I know you when I hear fayrooz singing ‘zahrat al ma’athen’. When she says ‘our eyes travel to you everyday’, I feel  myself walking through Jerusalem and then praying in masjed Al Aqsa.
I think I know you through Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry. There’s on this land what is worth living, the lady of lands. the mother of the beginnings and the ends. It was called Palestine, its name later became Palestine. My lady, I deserve, since you’re my lady. I deserve life. Through his words, I picture a beautiful land that has been deprived of happiness, deprived of love, deprived of her beauty.

To the land I will never know ….
I think I know you when I see a picture of the handala drawn by Naji Al-Ali, the refugee child. A picture so simple yet describes much of the struggle of the Palestinian people for justice and self determination.
I think I know you through some traditional things we held unto with our dear life. The beautiful toob I wear and the Koofiah I keep in my closet. I think I know you when I eat zeet and zaatar in the morning and I eat msakhan for lunch. I think I know you when I see a picture of Yaser Arafat and when I watch your news on Al Jazeera.

But the truth is; my human right to know you  has been stolen from me. I will never know you, I will never know how it feels to touch your land, to breath your air or smell your trees. I will forever know you in my heart, my mind and my soul through abstract thoughts I have created for myself so I feel like I know you, my beloved Falasteen.

 

 

 

We are Palestinian, we say …

It amazes me how much Palestinians are connected to their land, their heritage, their culture. Generation after generation born outside Palestine and the majority of us have never stepped a foot on this holy land, yet we are connected to it emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. We are attached to it through stories passed on from generation to generation, we are attracted to its beauty and most importantly we need to feel that we have a home and an identity.

We are Palestinian, we say … But what does that really mean to someone who has never seen that land? What does it mean to someone who hasn’t lived the real true struggle of a Palestinian living there? What does it mean to someone who has lived in several countries and has had several places to call ‘home’. Who are we really? I was born in Kuwait, raised in Australia and now residing in Canada. I hold nothing that says ‘Palestinian’ on it. I am Kuwaiti by birth, Australian and Canadian by citizenship. My parents escaped Palestine for a better life in Kuwait, only to escape again to Australia for yet another better life. Our fellow Muslim Arab countries treated us like aliens on the place we called home, on the only home we knew…

We are Palestinian, we say … We represent a different struggle than those living on the holy land. We are the true definition of ‘identity crisis’ The reality is most of us will go through life not knowing who we really are or why we live so far away from our ‘home’. We will go through life never knowing how it feels to belong, how it feels to have a land.

We are Palestinian, we say … A nationality that has a curse tagged to it, you are immediately looked down upon, you are immediately treated differently by your own people. Unless you are lucky enough to spend years in the West to get a citizenship, then your curse is removed and you become as worthy and human as others.

We are Palestinian, we say … Yet we live thousands of miles away from this land, some of us don’t speak the language and some of us cant even point to a village on the map where we ‘originally’ came from, for the simple fact that it doesn’t exist anymore! Yet we still call ourselves Palestinian, we still love this part of our crushed identity.

We are Palestinian …

 

Photo credit: Funky64 (www.lucarossato.com) / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

I am Palestinian

A poem I wrote back in 2002

Handala Facing the Sea

A child without a home,
A bird without wings,
A human being with a lost soul,
I am the one that doesn’t belong and the battle cry of freedom echoes through my corridors and every fiber in my being.
I stand against those who stole my beautiful land with a few rocks and stones in my hand,
Not afraid – for truth is with me and God is on my side.
I face tanks, guns and bombs every single day of my life.
I feel so lonely in this cruel, harsh world that has labelled me a “terrorist” and labelled the killer a “Freedom fighter”.
They came and stole my land, kicked me out and killed my mother and father.
They took away my hopes and dreams and made me an orphan, an orphan that has been rejected out of every spot in the world.
A rejected human I am, who has been silent for the last 54 years of my life.
I’ve seen my parents dead, my three sons tortured and shot dead in front of my own eyes,
Their blood has filled my hands and my tears have never stopped,
Yet when I finally decide to respond to this cruelty, the world labels me a terrorist.
I wait for the death angels to come and take me every single second of the day,
While people of this world run away from death, I run to death with my own two feet.
And when I die, a choir of angels will honor me.
I am the footsteps of our beloved prophets walking through Bethlehem & Jerusalem & praying in Al-Aqsa mosque
I am the tears of mothers weeping over their dead sons.
I am the thirsty one and nothing will quench my thirst except the return of Palestine.
I am the desperate cry of liberty,
And no matter what you take away from me Israel, you will never, ever, ever take away my identity or my love for my country.

“While people of this world have a home to live in, my home lives in me”

Photo credit: Mαzen from Hadhramout / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/programmer/2297324529/”>Mαzen from Hadhramout</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com/re/3e3965″>Foter.com</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>