بيتهم – Their Home

Some of the best times in my life are those one-on-one’s with my nieces.  As I’ve mentioned before, children could be a great source of knowledge, driving you to discover things about yourself, the world and teaching you a lesson or two, just like the lesson on courage I learned firsthand today when I took my niece to the theme park. Not being very courageous when it comes to theme park rides, I learned today how you can derive that courage from your children as I looked at her screaming happily as that ride went up and around in the air.

But from time to time, you have to be the one giving the lessons. And it’s not an easy task if you ask me especially when you’re standing face to face with that notorious “WHY?” and you really don’t know, or at least don’t know how to put it. And I was faced with something of the sort today when we came home and my niece went digging around for something to keep her busy.

Slightly below her eye-level she spotted a large, appealing book. It was “Palestine: The Exodus and the Odyssey” by  Tamam Al-Akhal and the late Ismail Shammout. It’s one of my favorite books, and it’s especially close to my heart that it’s signed by both of them,  on the same year Ismail passed away, and I’ve dedicated a part of this blog for this book few years ago.

So, Ghazal, my 4 year-old niece, grabbed the book thinking it’s a story and told me to read it to her.  We sat down with the large book on our laps, and as soon as we open it one of Ismail’s paintings came into view. It was “THE SPRING THAT WAS” and it showed Palestinian men and women in the fields, collecting oranges. Naturally, she asked me what the was and I told her those are Palestinians collecting oranges, and I reminded her or Handala which was a subject of a prior discussion.  As we flipped through the pages we were staring at another, less pleasant painting, “TO THE UNKONWN”, which showed Palestinians being driven out of their ancestral homes in Lydda at gunpoint.  Ghazal was confused, a look of dismay on her face. She asked me what that was about so I told her that this is where Palestinians were kicked out of their homes. As we turned the pages the horrifying scenes kept coming in. Ghazal was desperately trying to find any sign of these people returning to their home, or “Bait-hom” as shereferred to it. “That’s bait-hom”, she would point at a certain picture and say that hoping that I’d agree and tell her that they were back, but I couldn’t. She looked really concerned for them, asking why they looked so sad and beaten up, expressing her compassion with the word “Haraam” (poor things) repeatedly.

And then came the question I couldn’t answer, or maybe I was afraid to. She asked: “How will they go back to their homes?” I paused for a few moments, then said: “They have to kick the Israelis out and reclaim their homes”.

Then we reached a painting by Tamam Al-Akhal called “JAFFA- BRIDE OF THE SEA”. There were people swimming, others collecting oranges, people in boats, beautiful houses, among other things. Ghazal brightened up when she saw it and said with confidence that this was their home, they are back at last. I couldn’t burst her bubble; I told her it was true. They were back.

What else can you say?


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