May 21, 2015
In Blog News
A Diaspora Series: The catastrophe
A person has only one birthplace. However, he may die elsewhere, more then once, in exile or in a homeland transformed by occupation and oppression into a nightmare.
When I was living in Egypt, I used to think that Diaspora was the hardest and most bitter savor one could ever taste. No matter how nice people are they’ll always treat you as a foreigner who immigrated to their country, with no home to return to. “The Palestinian” will always be pasted to your name, whenever they mention it. We had no equal rights, even the right to complain or raise our voices. We were always put on a lower level than everybody else.
Hassan, my 100-year-old wise grandfather used to raise my morale with his evocative and swashbuckling stories before the 1948 catastrophe. The village from which he had been exiled was his heaven on earth, as he kept his house key tied around his creased neck, dreaming of the day when he’ll open up the door and rub his hands, one more time, with the soft mud of his farm.
When I was eight years old, he once asked me to dream of something that I would buy if he gave me a fortune. Like any other child, I thought that money would buy anything you want. So I started, innocently, to set my dreams and wishes on things I would buy. As usual, I found myself in a closed circle. Whenever I shut my eyes to dream I saw Palestine. “I would buy a house beside yours in our Palestinian village,” I replied, “What does it look like?”
He closed his teary eyes, as if trying to draw a lifelike picture of his precious homeland, as if it was standing in front of him. He said: “It was always warm, full of peace and love, I’d never forget the valley, the grapes, the olive trees, the fig and orange trees, all of them decorating the land as if it were a Palestinian varicolored dress. Being surrounded by your family, smelling the wafts of fresh air every morning in your own land was the happiest life anyone could ever ask for.”
He took a breath, and his voice started to be filled with anger:
“But, the British mandate in Palestine was an inconvenience to say the least. They pretended to be our protectors and friends when their real goal was to facilitate Zionist immigration. We realized it only when the Zionists attacked the village of Deir Yassin killing every living soul mercilessly. Sadly, it was too late. The rumors spread rapidly. Stories of the barbaric killings started to frighten everyone.
“We started preparing to defend our village with very limited resources. The Zionists attacked the village on November 4, 1948. We fought beside the Egyptians, but the Arab armies were led by the British Lieutenant, Glubb Pasha, who betrayed us and surrendered.
“The village was bleeding, and nobody helped. We were the prey facing a rabid dog. Many died that day, and the ones who lived were forced to emigrate. I lived there for 41 years, but I stopped counting when I left my home, my heart stuck beside the fig tree I planted when I was your age. The tree held its position immovably during the Zionist invasion.
“Now, I want you to be courageous and tough but fruitful like a fig tree.
It’s now your duty to take me back if I live long enough.”
I put that story in my heart, and made an unbreakable promise to him,
I’m now counting the days until I see this land free.