After Solmaz Sharif
“To walk in the world is to find oneself in a body without papers, not a citizen of anything but breath,” –Kazim Ali
Palestine | May 15, 1948 | Arab-Israeli War
When it starts raining bombs, my great-grandmother is preparing dinner. It’s hot outside. The neighborhood is panicking. Soldiers begin forcing people outside, forcing them to walk, forcing them to leave their homes. Evacuate. Vanish. They tell them they will return to their homes once the war is over. This is a lie.
When it starts raining bombs, my great-grandfather isn’t home. It’s afternoon. The desert sun hangs in the sky. My great-grandmother is panicking. My great-aunt is 18 months old. My grandmother is 10 days old.
When it starts raining bombs, my 10-day old grandmother is unnamed just like thousands of people who will soon be dead. Maybe it’s 10,000 people. Who knows? In a war, everything is a lie. My great-grandmother ties a cloth around her neck, uses it to cocoon my grandmother. She carries my great-aunt in the other arm, then walks out the door.
She will never see her home again.
Nakba: Meaning disaster or catastrophe in Arabic marks May 15, 1948, when 700,000 Palestinians were evacuated from their homes and made refugees.
Refugee: “One that flees; especially: a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution” (Merriam-Webster).
May 15, 1958 Nakba: Marks the day Israel was born.
Hijra: Means migration, in Arabic.
My great-grandmother walked.
She walked among hundreds of thousands of people. She walked until her feet bled. She walked until her thirst made her tongue swell and yellow. She walked and carried two babies. She walked and worried about her husband. She walked and listened to an infant screaming in her arms.
People were dying around her. Palestinian bodies were dying around her. Palestinian bodies were getting shot at. Shot through. Palestinian blood lined the street.
This is how a country is born.
“We write for Palestine with blood” — Ghassan Kanafani
There is mud coursing through the crevices of my great-grandmother’s hands.
When she finds a well, there are so many people huddled around it that she dips her shawl into the wet mud underneath everyone’s feet, raises it into the hot sun, and allows the dirty water to meet her tongue.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
My great-grandmother walked. For miles. Until she got tired.
Desperation is heavier than love.
She thought about abandoning my grandmother. She thought about abandoning my great-aunt.
She couldn’t carry two.
When a man asked if he could help carry my great-aunt, my great-grandmother said yes.
When a bullet entered the body of the man’s brother, he left my great-aunt under an olive tree.
When my great-grandmother reached a refugee settlement, she found my great-grandfather.
When they searched for my great-aunt, they couldn’t find her.
“I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a single word: Home” — Mahmoud Darwish
In another version of this story, my great-grandmother leaves my great-aunt under an olive tree. I imagine her now, choosing which tree to surrender to, which branch to place the body of her 18-month-old baby under.
Perhaps she hesitated. Did she say goodbye? Did she cry? Look back? Perhaps she had already given up, thinking my great-aunt would die, anyway.
Twenty-five days. That’s how long it took to find my great-aunt, to bring her back home. My dad says 90 days. Others in the family disagree. Either way, a Christian couple picked her up. They named her Sara. Her real name is فريال (Feryal).
Is empathy stronger than war?
My great-grandmother and great-grandfather named my grandmother in the midst of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
They named her Jehad. Meaning, the struggle, in Arabic.
Palestine Israel | June 6, 1967 | Six-Day War
Is this what ethnic cleansing looks like?
My father is six years old. He lives in a refugee resettlement camp in Palestine. Home is a house built from mud, rock, and asbestos with two small rooms in it. My father was born a refugee.
“Where we live in the world / is never one place. Our hearts, / those dogged mirrors, keep flashing us / moons before we are ready for them” — Naomi Shihab Nye.
Casualties during the Six-Day War: Jews and Israelis (700 dead), Arabs and Palestinians (18, 000 dead).
What is the difference between war and genocide?
My father remembers migrating from home. Explosions. The smell of fire burning in his nostrils. The sound of the blasts.
He remembers mulberries. Hunger. Eating so many of them it made him sick.
He remembers my great-grandfather pushing him to safety amongst a crowd of people.
Walking. Walking. Walking.
250,000 Palestinians displaced.
“each photo is an absence, / a thing gone, namely / a moment, sometimes cities . . .” — Solmaz Sharif.
Palestine Israel | 1974
My great-grandfather hasn’t seen his home since 1948. 26 years.
An unfamiliar 60-year-old Jewish woman greets my great-grandfather and father at their her front porch.
Pomegranate trees line his her front yard. Behind his her house is a 100 acre farm that seems to go on forever. My father looks out, imagines my great-grandfather’s hands, tucking seeds into the dirt, waiting for something to grow. My father looks out and imagines his childhood, the childhood he could have had had it not been stolen. My father looks out, his eyes in mourning.
There is nothing political about the way she invites them under the porch roof, away from the scorching sun. There is nothing political about the way she pours them black tea. There is nothing political about the way she yearns for her son’s safety, who is in the army, fighting on the Israeli side.
There is nothing political.
Barberton, Ohio | 2008 | Gaza War
A shaky kettle. Boiling water.
Dad is making black tea in the kitchen. Reporters on Al Jazeera are discussing the war.
Bombed school buildings. Bombed bodies. Bombed children.
If you say bomb enough times, it begins to mean nothing.
I am 12 years old. If you hold a globe and ask me to point to Palestine, I probably can’t find it.
Dad has been depressed for weeks.
Casualties during Gaza War: Jews/Israelis (13 dead), Arabs/Palestinians (over 1,000).
“Israel has the right to defend itself” – Former US President Barack Obama.
“Israel has the right to defend itself” – Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton
Imagine each period as a shattering. An ending of a life. A brother. A mother. A life, dead. Another body to miss …………
The following words are taken from President Trump’s speech about Jerusalem on December 6, 2017 in which President Trump declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, thereby destroying any hope for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. When I came into office, I promised to look at the world’s challenges with open eyes and very fresh thinking. We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past. Old challenges demand new approaches. My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize that that city—and so importantly—is Israel’s capital. This act passed Congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority and was reaffirmed by a unanimous vote of the Senate only six months ago. Yet, for over 20 years, every previous American president has exercised the law’s waiver, refusing to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem or to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Presidents issued these waivers under the belief that delaying the recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace. Some say they lacked courage, but they made their best judgments based on facts as they understood them at the time. Nevertheless, the record is in. After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result. Therefore, I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering. I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement. Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace. It was 70 years ago that the United States, under President Truman, recognized the State of Israel. Ever since then, Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem—the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. Today, Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government. It is the home of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli Supreme Court. It is the location of the official residence of the Prime Minister and the President. It is the headquarters of many government ministries. For decades, visiting American presidents, secretaries of state, and military leaders have met their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem, as I did on my trip to Israel earlier this year. Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world. Over the past seven decades, the Israeli people have built a country where Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and according to their beliefs.Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque. However, through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have declined to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In fact, we have declined to acknowledge any Israeli capital at all. But today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done. That is why, consistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act, I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This will immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers, and planners, so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace.In making these announcements, I also want to make one point very clear: This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved. The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement. Without question, Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in those talks. The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides. In the meantime, I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif.Above all, our greatest hope is for peace, the universal yearning in every human soul. With today’s action, I reaffirm my administration’s longstanding commitment to a future of peace and security for the region. There will, of course, be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement. But we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a peace and a place far greater in understanding and cooperation. This sacred city should call forth the best in humanity, lifting our sights to what it is possible; not pulling us back and down to the old fights that have become so totally predictable. Peace is never beyond the grasp of those willing to reach. So today, we call for calm, for moderation, and for the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate. Our children should inherit our love, not our conflicts. I repeat the message I delivered at the historic and extraordinary summit in Saudi Arabia earlier this year: The Middle East is a region rich with culture, spirit, and history. Its people are brilliant, proud, and diverse, vibrant and strong. But the incredible future awaiting this region is held at bay by bloodshed, ignorance, and terror. Vice President Pence will travel to the region in the coming days to reaffirm our commitment to work with partners throughout the Middle East to defeat radicalism that threatens the hopes and dreams of future generations.It is time for the many who desire peace to expel the extremists from their midst. It is time for all civilized nations, and people, to respond to disagreement with reasoned debate –- not violence.And it is time for young and moderate voices all across the Middle East to claim for themselves a bright and beautiful future.So today, let us rededicate ourselves to a path of mutual understanding and respect. Let us rethink old assumptions and open our hearts and minds to possible and possibilities. And finally, I ask the leaders of the region — political and religious Israeli and Palestinian; Jewish and Christian and Muslim — to join us in the noble quest for lasting peace. Thank you. God bless you. God bless Israel. God bless the Palestinians. And God bless the United States. Thank you very much. Thank you.
“wish I could just run barefoot in every refugee camp and hold every child, cover their ears so they wouldn’t have to hear the sound of bombing for the rest of their life the way I do” — Rafeef Ziadah.
“your history may be written in ash and rubble, / this does not mean you should be the one to set yourself / ablaze first; / not Today; / you will love yourself” — George Abraham
I come from a country that no longer exists on a map.
I’ve never been to Israel Palestine.
I am the child of immigrants. I am an immigrant.
I am a child of refugees, a father whose blood is streaked with gunpowder, grandparents who barely escaped the bombs and missiles.
America prefers I forget my country. My language. My people.
Israel prefers me dead. One less body amongst bodies to kill.
I prefer me alive. In protest. Keffiyeh wrapped around my neck.
It’s 2018 and at the immigration office in Cleveland, they ask my mother for her country of origin. She writes Palestine.
“We do not recognize Palestine as a country.”
I recognize Palestine as a country.
Though I’ve never been to Israel Palestine, I know it through my father’s eyes, the way they water when he talks about Palestine.
I know it through the cactus fruit and pomegranates he used to bring home.
I know it through the olive trees my great-grandfather planted.
I know it through the way my father’s heart beats to the sound of a 70-year-old war, clings to the hope of one day returning to his homeland, is marked with red, green, white, and black.
I know it through the way this long and painful history bleeds through my body just as it has bled through my father and great-grandfather’s body.
I know it because our voices will always be louder than their erasure.
My dad, Khalil, and great-grandfather, Aarif. My great-grandmother, Latifah.
 Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-11104284
 Source: https://www.britannica.com/event/Six-Day-War
 Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6709173.stm
 Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28439404