Tag Archives: Blog About Palestine Day - Page 3

On Being Palestinian [BAPD]

In preparation for commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, I was confronted with an endless stream of possible topics to blog about. I finally decided to talk about moments that  helped define me as a person, and as a Palestinian. Then I paused for a second wondering: What does it really mean to be a Palestinian ?

Sure, the inhabitants of the land of Palestine and their descendants are by definition Palestinian. But being a Palestinian also entails an identity “package” of history, culture, common knowledge, and common experiences. This shared identity package is evolving with time, and is truly hard to explain. Yet, it is what really makes Palestinians Palestinians. Being Palestinian is not just about blood and ancestry, it is about you being part of the collective Palestinian experience regardless of where you are, be you in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Europe, America, or the moon.

So in this article, I would like to go through some snapshots of the experiences that all together form my Palestinian identity, and define me as an average Palestinian.

~~ My Grandparents ~~

My father and his family come from a village called Sobbarine (صبارين). Today, nothing remains of that village. Sobbarine used to be located on the hills near Haifa. My grandparents, and the rest of the village, used to farm their fertile land and mostly live off of what they produce. My grandfather was a very strong man; people used to talk about how he once beat a wolf with his bare hands. Around 1944, my grandparents got married, and by 1948 they had two sons and a daughter.

When the violence escalated in 1948, people in Sobbarine were terrified of the impending attack by Jewish gangs. They have heard of what happened to many other villages (such as the Massacre of Dier Yassin) and were scared for their lives.

Although some of the villagers have started fleeing, my grandfather being the tough man that he was, decided to stay with his house and land. Unlike him, my grandmother was scared for her life, and the lives of her three young children. After long discussions, my grandfather agreed to leave, and so they did.

A couple of days later, my grandmother decided to go back to her house to pick up some stuff, as there still were some people in the village. Her luck did not help her this time, and one of the Jewish gangs entered the village and started winding up young men and teenagers before she could flee.

Scared for her life, my grandmother ran and crouched inside a “taboon” (طابون) (a big clay outdoor oven traditional in Palestine) so as to hide herself from the gang. From her clay oven, my grandmother saw the gang members lining up the collected men on the edge of the hill, shooting them, then dumping their bodies into the “wad” (small valley between hills). At this point, my grandmother was certain her death is imminent.

The next day however, the gang left the village, and the few remaining terrified women left Sobbarine never to return to it again. My grandmother caught up with my grandfather who was heading inland away from the sea.

Scared to go to the populated areas, my grandparents along with other villagers camped for a few days in the woods near a village called “Um El-Fahim” (أم الفحم). Unfortunately the group did not have any food supplies with them, and edible material were very hard to come by. So the only way for those people to stay alive was to search for undigested grains in animal feces to eat. Fifty years later, my grandmother was recalling this story to me with a clear feeling of shame and indignity. She contrasted to me the dramatic life change that took place over the span of a few days. Going from living a dignified life as self-sufficient farmers, to searching for undigested grains in animal feces. Oh the inhumanity!

My grandparents settled in a city called Jenin, in what later came to be known as the West Bank. Having lost everything, they had to restart their lives from scratch.

~~ My Father ~~

Fast forward Nineteen years, my Dad was a young boy in sixth grade working in a farm in Jenin to help support his family. My dad was not as strong as my grandfather, but he was just as stubborn and twice as fearless. It was the 1967 war, and Israel was yet to capture the West Bank. On that fateful day, my father was in the field collecting tomatoes when he noticed fighter jets in the sky, and tanks rolling in on the ground. A major battle was about to take place near Jenin. Being the stubborn kid that he was, he decided to stay in the field and finish collecting those tomatoes even though all the other kids had ran away in fear.

Finally satisfied with his harvest, he went back home. But his family were nowhere to be found. They had escaped their home and took refuge in a nearby cave. My grandmother in that cave was worried sick about him, so she asked one of the older boys in that cave to go search for him one more time. Luckily, that boy found my dad and lead him to the cave. Ironically, my grandmother later recalled that she was happy that he had collected those tomatoes as their stay in that cave extended and people in the cave got to feed on them.

Fast forward another ten years. My father is now a young man in love. His fiancé (my Mom) unfortunately lives in Nablus, which is about one hour away from Jenin. I say unfortunately because at that time my father was under “city arrest”. He was not allowed to leave the city of Jenin. This was his punishment for being a “political activist”, for you see, even displaying the Palestinian flag was a punishable crime. Being the hopeless romantic that he was, he bought a gray trench coat, a tall black umbrella, and some reflective sun glasses to disguise himself and would regularly sneak from Jenin to Nablus to meet my mother and come back.

These items still exist in our household today. My dad has repeatedly tried to make me wear that coat despite my continuous complaints that I will look like an out of place 70’s character in it. I will keep these objects for their sentimental values, but I doubt I will ever wear any of them.

~~ Me ~~

After marrying my mother and finishing his doctoral studies, my dad relocated to the city of Ramallah in the West Bank to live and work. I grew up in Ramallah during the 1990’s. We lived in an apartment in a 3-story building, which used to be considered tall in Ramallah back in the very early 90’s. My earliest memories include the fresh fruits and vegetables market (the hissbeh), Israeli soldiers setting up surveillance points atop our building and the building next to us (as they usually did for tall buildings), our neighbor down the street being shot to death by IDF soldiers, and my dad getting shot in the back with a rubber bullet by the IDF –which although thankfully did not kill him, gave his back a “slipped disc”.

I might not have witnessed full-fledged Arab Israeli wars as my parents and grandparents have, but I grew up in the time of checkpoints, travel permits, and moving restrictions. You needed to obtain a special permit to go visit Jerusalem, and another (much harder) one if you wanted to visit “the inside” (Haifa, Yafa, Tel-Aviv, Nazereth ..etc). There were checkpoints at the entrances of Jerusalem and sporadically through out the West Bank, but people used to be able to get around them. However, sneaking past those checkpoints had severe consequences if caught. So I never snuck. I guess I am not as fearless as my father and grandfather were.

These movement restrictions were not just between West Bank cities, or the West Bank and Jerusalem, but they also included (and were magnified at) the West Bank’s only exit for the Palestinians, which was the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge between Jericho and Jordan across the Jordan river. Travel difficulties seemed to also follow you even outside Palestine. In airports your Palestinian Passport used to warrant you an extra search, or an extra round of questioning, or some mysterious delay during which nothing seemed to be happening.

But I didn’t know any better. I used to think that is normal. I used to think that in this day and age, it does take about a day to cross borders. My grandfather from my mother’s side was a taxi driver back in the 60’s and 70’s. He used to take people from Nablus and Jerusalem to Amman, Beruit, and Damascus. He used to say that it took him only an hour and a half to reach Amman from Nablus, and about 7 hours to reach Beruit, and 10 to reach Damascus. Geographically on the map, these numbers make sense. But to me they were astonishing. For one, I was born into a world were I could not travel to Syria or Lebanon simply because I was a Palestinian. Even then, how can you freely and easily cross borders in less than a day ?!

Today, Israel’s separation wall/barrier is placed inside the West Bank deeper than all the checkpoints used to be. Entrance to Jerusalem requires an extra special permit that is awarded to the extremely lucky. The movable checkpoints inside the West Bank turned into monstrous fixed checkpoints with what looks like human cages, and new “movable” checkpoints sprouted between the old checkpoints. Nowadays even traveling inside the West Bank by car requires a permit (which are even harder to get). Last holiday season, in order to go visit our relatives, we had to apply for two permits, and we still spent a total of 3 hours on checkpoints (even though our relatives live merely 1.5 hours away from our home in Ramallah).

These checkpoints, movement restrictions, and separation wall affect many Palestinians on a daily basis. They impede people on their way to work, to schools, to the universities. They restrict the movement of patients, and has cost thousands of Palestinians their lives because they couldn’t receive proper medication and treatment. They impede businesses in conducting their transactions. They prevent many farmers from transporting their produce to city markets. They are even forcing families to grow up in isolation as it becomes harder and harder for people to connect, and we are in this 21st century.

But this is normal, or at least that is what you get to think. Regardless of the obstacles, life has to go on. Before you know it, checkpoints just become a fact of life for you. You only appreciate how messed up things are when you go out and see how to rest of the world is functioning.

~~ Conclusion ~~

For us Palestinians, only two things have remained consistently true during the past 60 years; First, life for ordinary people only gets worse every year. Second, from the minute you are born in Palestine, you are immediately a suspect, and you are continuously treated so for as long as you live. No one in the world can condone mass punishment of civilians, but punishing suspects is not a big deal.

We must be suspects! Otherwise what explains 60 years of Israel’s direct violation of numerous UN resolutions without any consequences. We must be suspects, otherwise what explains our denial of basic human rights. For me and my family, the only crime that we are suspect of is simply existing!

These stories are not unusual for Palestinians. As a matter of fact, i come from a blissed family; My parents were able provide us with food and shelter, and none of my relatives was killed. Unfortunately however, the stories of average Palestinians are much grimmer still.

~~ What Happened to These People ~~

  • My grandfather died in 1994. Until his very last day, the memories of Sobbarine stayed vivid in his mind. After his death, his will had only one request: to be buried near the cemetery’s front door so that he’ll be the first leave and go back to Sobbarine.
  • My grandmother is still alive, but the last of her three children who were born in Sobbarine died this winter. She still remembers our village through their memories. Nowadays her only wish is a fistful of Sobbarine’s earth.
  • My father has dedicated his life to our upbringing and to assist in enhancing the lives of other Palestinians. Despite receiving many lucrative offers to leave the country, he insists on staying and working for his people till the end.
  • As for me, the future is still a blank page. I am finishing my education and preparing to follow on the footsteps of my dad dedicating my life to the well being of Palestine and the Palestinians.

Blog About Palestine Day

**Final Note: It was really hard to pick just one Palestinian topic to write about. There were so many things that i wanted to talk about. I picked my subject, then changed it, then changed it again until i decided on this. Even with this, i didn’t know, which experiences should i have talked about. The choice was not getting any easier. How could it ?! The daily experiences of any Palestinian is enough to write encyclopedias let alone articles.

In my article i tried to talk about how three generations of our family struggled in doing very basic things just because we are Palestinians. Yet still, i am pacing around my room thinking, were these snapshots enough ? I don’t know. What do you think ? I am really interested in your opinion.

Blog About Palestine Day — Blogs List (The Seeds)

Tomorrow is Blog About Palestine Day. So far, the response has been truly amazing. This event was kicked off exactly two weeks ago (on May 1st), and yet so far more than 200 people are known to have signed up for the event. The event got picked up and reported on by the “Global Voices Online” as well as “Now Public“. Mainstream media outlets such as the BBC World and AlJazeera English have also been contacted. Blog aggregators such as the Qwaider Planet and Dwwen have supported the initiative and advertised about it to their readers. The Facebook event also has about 150 people who have signed up for it (and growing).

Here is a short list of blogs (that i know about) that have signed up for this event. This list is absolutely in no particular order, This list is absolutely not all-inclusive, if your blog has not been listed here, please let me know so that i can add it.

These are some of the seeds, tomorrow will be the blossom, and after that i will try to compile a harvest list of the articles.

This is shaping up to be one truly spectacular event. I am anxious to see and read all your articles. Coming to think about it, with this massive number of contributers, we are almost writing an entire book in that day. This is amazing. Think of the awareness we will be raising about the Palestine and the Palestinians in just one day.

As a general tip, please use creative titles for your articles. Try not to stick to “Blog About Palestine Day”. Also, to ease the harvesting, please include a link/track-back to the original call as well as one of the event’s buttons in your post (so to aid future readers).

Thank you all for your help and support. See you on the 15th.

بعض المواضيع ليوم التدوين عن فلسطين

الخامس عشر من هذا الشهر آتٍ على عجل. إنَّ تعاونَ وحماس المدونين من كافة أرجاء المعمورة فعلاً لرائع. فحتى الآن أبدى الكثير من المدونين المميزين إهتمامهم وإنضموا لصفوف المشاركين، وأنا على ثقة بأن المزيد سيشاركنا عما قريب

في مقالتي هذه، أود أن أقترح قائمة غير كاملة لمواضيع مشيقة ممكن تداولها في ذلك اليوم. أود أن أشدد على صفة هذه القائمة بأنها غير كاملة وغير حصرية. فكما نوهت مسبقاً، كل فرد حر ومشجع للتدوين بما نبتت به بنات أفكاره. أما الهدف من وراء هذه المقالة فهو لدغدغة أفكار المحتار ومساعدته على الإختيار

ها هي القائمة

  • التجربة الفردية لأبك أو أمك أو أحد أجدادك أثناء النكبة
  • عن بلدتك أو قريتك في فلسطين
  • عن نشأت الفلسطيني خارج فلسطين
  • تاريخ فلسطين المعاصر في القرن المنصرم
  • التطريز الفلسطيني والثوب الفلسطيني
  • جدار الفصل الإسرائيلي
  • حياة الفلسطيني “العاديين” في فلسطين أو حتى خارج فلسطين
  • عن الآثار التاريخية في فلسطين كالآثار الرومانية في سبسطية أو قصر هشام في أريحا أو مدينة القدس القديمة أو غيرها
  • حياة العرب في إسرائيل
  • أن تكون فلسطينياً في هذا العالم
  • تغطية ونظرة الإعلام (خصوصاً الغربي) للقضية الفلسطينية
  • الأحداث الراهنة
  • الإنشقاق والخلاف في الشارع الفلسطيني
  • كيف يمكننا التوصل لحل للقضية الفلسطينية
  • تمثيل الفلسطينين في السينما الغربية
  • شخصيات فلسطينية بارزة

بعض المواضيع الأخرى الممكن تناولها

  • المطبخ الفلسطيني: آخ على المحاشي والمقلوبة والمسخن والقدرة وورق الدوالي والمناقيش
  • الفن في فلسطين
  • الثقافة في فلسطين
  • التكنولوجيا في فلسطين
  • العمل في فلسطين

بالطبع هذه القائمة غير كاملة أو حصرية، وإذا كانت لديك مقترحات أخرى، شاركنا إياها. كلنا متحمسون لقراءة مقالاتكم الرائعة في ذلك اليوم. ولنا في ذلك اليوم لقاء بإذنه تعالى