Dear, this is Handala

Today I was playing a game with my 4 year-old niece, who is completely out of touch with her roots, to say the least. Maybe it’s normal for a 4 year-old girl but I remember when I was very little I knew my family came from Palestine, despite the fact that I thought Palestine was the capital of Amman.

Be that as it may, the game was that I show her a card and she tells me what’s on it. One of the cards, fortunately, had a picture of Handala hanging up the flag of Palestine. So I asked her what that was, and to my utter mortification she said with some intimidation: Swiper!

Now in case you don’t watch too much cartoons let me introduce you to Swiper. Swiper is the evil fox from Dora The Explorer, and for my niece “Swiper” means anything or anyone scary, much like Abu kees or Abu Rejl Masloukha. So you can imagine how that resonated with me, that was profanity.

So, I decided to give her some idea who Handala was, with the help of my good old friend Google. We looked up some pictures for Handala, and I told him his story: “Handala is a little boy who is mad because they took his home. Israel took his home”. I dug up a key chain I had bought a while ago with Handala and the map of Palestine. She was confused why he had no facial features and even said she didn’t like him, but I explained that he’s turning his back because he’s looking at his land, where his home is in Palestine, and because he’s sad. She seemed to understand and I daresay she empathized with him, and they became friends as she told me she now likes him.

She put the key chain on the desk and went to play, I thought she’s forget about it, but to my surprise she came back as they were preparing to leave and took it, trying to hook it to her pants. I told her to come so that I can hang it for her but she said “it’s okay, I put it in my pocket!” You might think I’m exaggerating but the way she came looking back for the key chain and the way she was telling people about this boy, “Handaba” as she pronounced it, and the expression on her face as she tucked it away safely in her pocket, all that gives me a feeling I can’t even begin to describe.

Maybe one day, in sha’a Allah, she will get to know so much about where her family originally comes from, and she will remember that it all started with a little boy who was mad, and sad, and was looking back at his land.

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The Rain Washes… Nothing

They say the rain washes it all. Well, I don’t know about that.

The rain my wash the slime on the surface and the dust hanging in the air, but there are certain things no rain can wash. Those things tucked deep down in the trenches, deep down where no sunshine or rain can reach…

The trenches of the human soul, or mind or psyche, I really don’t know. All I know is that those things the rain can’t wash away are the same things you can’t talk away, not even with your closest friends, sometimes not even with yourself, but there’s that itching need to get them out, and you just can’t do it for the life of you…

So,  you try to find a way to put them out thee for the world to see. Some way, using metaphors like rain and occasional photos to express a story whose details are a mystery to everyone but you, hoping that someone will understand yet at the same time hoping they won’t, perfectly aware of the paradox.

And you deny, and you pretend, and you rationalize, but in the end you know you have to live with it, because no rain can wash it, no matter how many winters pass by.

 

The Dark Side of Mansaf

This is the grease my mother scraped off the surface of the Mansaf today. I realize this might make me lose points on the “Jordano-meter”, and some people might claim I’m sabotaging tourism but you’re advised to take it with a grain of salt. Moral of the story: Everything has its problems, no matter how much you love. But of course you can reform Mansaf and make it more friendly to your arteries, like what my mother did, she took off the bad stuff to make the Mansaf healthier for everyone, which basically applies to everything in life: take the scum off and make things better. That’s pretty much the jest of it, it doesn’t mean you’re sabotaging the Mansaf and it certainly doesn’t mean that you hate it!

Unthinkable

It was an ever-present fear,  a vague and unidentified feeling that something could and would happen. Why not? Terrorism was running rogue through the region, especially with the war on Iraq and the whole mess it created, so it seemed like just a matter of time before it knocked on our front door, and the theory didn’t take much time to prove valid. In fact, it was more of an anticipation  rather than an irrational fear. I remember that whenever I heard about a fire or any other unfortunate accident I would have those doubts and questions as to whether it was a terrorist attack. Each time it would turn out to be nothing of  that nature, but the anticipation would not go away, until that one tragic day.

I remember standing in front of the TV, hearing about the explosion in one hotel, still leaving room for the possibility of being just an accident, but then as the news came in that there were 3 explosions in 3 different hotels, I knew there was more to it. Yet, what I didn’t know was that this would go down history as one of the worst days in the history of the country.

For the next few days everything seemed black. I remember a TV presenter who was dressed in black with no make-up on and a big frown on her face. It turned out she lost a cousin in the attacks, a cousin whose only crime was going to attend her friend’s wedding, and she winded up dead. She looked away from the camera and bit her lip in an effort to fight back tears. In the coming years I would learn about other people who lost mothers, fathers and other family members in the heinous attacks, and each time that would open up and old wound and pose the question: How could any human being be capable of something like this?

It didn’t take the national security forces long to catch the criminals and bring them to justice. Jordanians, for once, seemed to overlook all their differences and took the streets side by side to show unity, solidarity and support to those who had lost family and loved ones in that horrendous act of aggression, as if to say: Your loss is our loss, we are one.

One strange thing is that ll that fear and anticipation vanished as of that one tragic event. Somehow, I saw a newfound hope and confidence that, God willing, we will never witness anything like this again. There was this reassuring feeling that despite everything and despite all our differences, Jordanians in the end are one people who know how to stick together in the face of adversity. There was this renewed confidence that we are a people who base their relationships with the other on respect, compassion and common good. And of course, it was a confirmation that we do have one of the strongest intelligence apparatus in the world, which is something one has to admit regardless of any reservations on their other roles.

May God protect Jordan from any harm, and may this day be only something to remember and learn from -learn how to be one hand at all times- and may it never be repeated.