Saturday, July 21, 2012

One Year Later

It's been more than a year since I last wrote here. I've been busy looking for jobs, apartments, trying to get used to the idea of staying here for at least the three or four years it will take for my partner to get a Swedish passport so we can move again. There just hasn't been room for writing blog posts.

But now I've got a job. Didn't manage to find an apartment yet. Still getting used to idea of staying here (because rainy, cool Swedish summers always make me restless, and I can't help but look up UN jobs in Beirut or Nairobi, secretly wishing I had never left Palestine). But I have space for the blog again. And the other day, I decided to change my mind about things. Granted, my job isn't what I dreamed of (more about that in another post), and I really want to get my own place. But on the other hand, I'm close to my family. And thanks to Swedish housing policies, I have to stay at my parents' place probably for another six months at least, which sucks on the one hand, but is pretty darned lucky on the other. I get all this extra time with my mom and dad that I know I will cherish until the day I pass away.

In one week, I'm turning 30. I don't particularly like the idea. I'm getting more and more gray hairs and wrinkles, and my life isn't at all how I imagined it would be. But since I decided to change my mind about things, I will focus on what inspires me. So I'm going to write a series of blog posts on women in my life that are a source of inspiration.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Soldiers and Holes in My Heart

I never thought I'd say this, but I almost miss the Israeli checkpoint soldiers. Not, obviously, because they're particularly friendly, but because they gave me stuff to write about in my blog.

What do I write now that I'm back in Sweden? About a rude person in the subway? Rainy summer days?

Or the two holes in my heart, perhaps.

Yes. I have two holes in my heart. When I left Egypt many years ago, it was as if a corner of my heart had attached itself to the great city of Cairo and as the plane lifted, I could feel a small hole rip open as that part of my heart refused to let go.

For years now, I have had that small hole that just won't go away no matter how much I try to fill it with longing, Egyptian music, and dreams of returning one day.

I do sometimes. Return. And every time I leave, it's as if that little hole gets torn open all over again and let out all the longing I put there.

A few weeks ago, I tore a new hole in my heart when I left Palestine. I think I got caught in the sabr, the patient cactus whose thick, thorny body can be cut down, but whose roots refuse to leave the soils of Palestine. No matter how many Jewish hands try to dig up and uproot Palestinian history in the land.

I think my heart got caught in the sabr on the way from my old hometown Ramallah to Areeha, and when I  reached the border control manned by Israeli guards and soldiers, it was bleeding into the sands that hide mines and memories of war and conquest.

And here I sit at the kitchen table at my parents' house in Sweden with two holes in my heart and so much longing that I'm not sure what to do with it all.

So I bake Palestinian bread with zaatar and cook Palestinian rice dishes that I turn upside down and call maqloobeh. And I read. I read a book by Susan Abulhawa called Mornings in Jenin and cry more than I can remember crying over a book for a very long time. In it is all the longing of all the Palestinians made refugees by the Jewish war for independence in 1948 and the Israeli war of conquest in 1967. A longing for a homeland lost, a longing for sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers killed, and I feel it ache in my heart too. Not because I lost anything really, but because I have these two holes in my heart that, when I come to think of it, have always been there. Or the longing for something has, anyway.

And do you know what else I do? I go through old things to make room for new things. And I find old poems that I wrote when I was 13 and 18, and songs and short stories and even books that I wrote and I wonder at my own imagination and wonder where it went. Could I write something like that now?

And then, then I almost mourn the loss of my old dreams that I left along the way. I will never be a singer songwriter now, I won't write fiction again, I think, and I almost never write in my diary anymore. And I think, "Is this what it is to finally grow up?" You apply for jobs you don't really want, move home even though you don't really want to, you do things for people because you don't want to disappoint them, and then you sit with no energy left for the things you think you really want to do. And the thing is that you stop really wanting to do them anyway, because it no longer matters.

But then I think it's just the going-back-to-Sweden blues. And maybe I'll pick up the guitar and do what I always used to do: turn my sadness and longing into songs so as not to waste all the energy that goes into feeling less-than-fantastic.

Maybe there will be a line for the soldier that pointed the gun at me in Al-Khalil, but then maybe there won't. Because why should I honor those who don't even honor the lives of their neighbors with words that pour out from the two holes in my heart?

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Israel's Right to Self-Defense

Israel can kill every Arab in the Middle East, blow up each and every country surrounding it, and I fear the world will still say it had a right to defend itself.

But Palestinians? They don't have a right to anything.

Yesterday, for the first time as far as I know, thousands of Palestinian refugees, some Lebanese, Syrians and Jordanians, marched towards the borders of Israel to mark the 63rd anniversary of the start of Al Nakba. (Before, they would have been stopped by their own regimes, but this is a New Middle East).

It was a symbolic Freedom March for Palestine and a reiteration of Palestinians' right of return to their homeland.

Beautiful in its simplicity in the middle of all the blood that is currently staining the Arab uprisings. Why shouldn't they just enter their homeland?

On the Syrian border, several did. They climbed over the fence, kissed and hugged their neighbors and brothers in the occupied Golan Heights. Imagine.

But of course, Israel had a right to defend itself against this terrible act of... not sure, but marching, I guess. (Kind of like Qaddafi and Assad are defending themselves, too).

And so Israel reportedly killed four on the Syrian border and ten at the Lebanese border, one in Gaza, and not to forget, one in Jerusalem the day before. Scores injured.

I found this picture on Facebook. It's of a young Palestinian man in Lebanon carrying his grandmother towards the border yesterday.

"I will take my grandmother home," he said.

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