Friday, May 15, 2009
For as long as I can remember, I’ve known myself to be a Palestinian. And like many of us Palestinians who have never been to Palestine, I cherished everything that bonded me to that land, the sacred land. Naturally, my earliest sense of belonging to Palestine came from my father, who was born and raised in Palestine. I vividly remember how we used to gather around him when we were kids and he would tell us stories about his adventures as a child and later as an adolescent in post 1948 Palestine. Those stories had a certain charm to them, maybe it was the simplicity of those times or their connection to a place we were raised to love and yearn to without even seeing it for ourselves.
My father’s stories were priceless, but if I was to think of the person in my life who’s as close to Palestine as I can get, it would be my grandmother.
The story begins sometime before 1948. We were told she was one of the most beautiful girls in Silwan, a small town in Jerusalem, and she was engaged to her cousin from her mother’s side. When her other cousin, the one from her father’s side, learned of that engagement, he got furious and thought he should marry her instead of her maternal cousin, he even threatened to kill them both if they proceeded with the marriage. Well, we can never know if he would’ve carried out his threat because her fiancé took the safe route and left her. And that was how my grandmother and grandfather got married.
But that marriage wasn’t meant to last for long, for few years down the road my grandfather who was a construction worker would fall off a scaffold and bid the world farewell, leaving her with 4 children to whom she would dedicate her life. And even though she was probably in her mid-twenties when her husband passed away, she would decline any marriage proposal for the sake of her children.
Despite all the hardships she faced, my grandmother talks about her life in Palestine with great passion and obvious longing. She would laugh to the point of tearing up when she tells stories about “Aisha”, the elderly woman who was known for her cunning and hilarious anecdotes, and she would sigh as she remembers how the neighbors once knocked her door at 3 am telling her that they came too early to the bakery and found it closed so they thought they’d hang around at her home until it opens. It was perfectly normal, “Everything was simple just like that back then” She would say.
In 1967, it was time to leave. My grandmother along with her children had to leave Palestine. Passing over the bridge, she would hand over their ID’s, and they would be burned, but she thought it was temporary and that they would come back soon. Who would’ve thought that she’ll pass 80 and still be away from her original home?
As I think of my grandmother now I realize how preposterous it is that some people would deny the existence of Palestine and the Palestinian people. I may never have been to Palestine and I may never go there in my lifetime, but I know for sure that this woman who perhaps spent most of her life waiting to go back to her original home and be among the people she loved, that woman was Palestinian and had Palestine as a land. That woman and all her stories stand as evidence to what we had and what was taken from us, that woman is a proof that I’m a Palestinian and my brothers are Palestinians no matter what anyone says, because that woman is our grandmother, and for all I know, that woman is Palestine.