A year has gone by since my husband of fifty years passed away.
It has been quite a year for me ever since that period of almost two weeks after his passing when my home was almost constantly teeming with my children, my grandchildren, my beautiful adopted daughters, my friends and loved ones all sharing banter and jokes, food and wine. It wasn’t exactly the traditional sitting “shiva,” as my Jewish friends would say. It was more like a boisterous Irish Wake and none of us is even remotely Irish! As for sitting “shiva,” this indicates the traditional seven day mourning period spent sitting with the bereaved, consoling and catering to them. In Arabic we say “aza”, and it too lasts for days – traditionally forty. However, the word “shiva” originates from the same source as the Arabic word “shifa,” and both these words suggest “healing,” which is what the mourning days are supposed to do to the bereaved.
(But, I digress; an irritating habit from an old brain where the traffic signals often cross all over each other!)
So, during this past year, I have travelled more than I ever have from Beirut, to London, to Canada, to Delaware, the Jersey Shore and New York and more to come. Family and friends made it their mission to take care of me, to console and to love me and to demonstrate to me, as well as to reaffirm to their own selves that life does indeed go on despite its sadness and losses. It has been truly phenomenal. I will forever be grateful for that truly unbelievable outpouring of love and support.
At the end of the day though, and after everyone leaves, I am alone. I am alone with my thoughts and my memories, with a reel of a fifty year movie running around in my head on a constant and unremitting basis.
Oh, yes, at the end of the day, and after all is said and done, I am alone. I am alone with a face, a smile, a word, a conversation, a shared experience and a life that has left me, but never really will; a person who is no more, but who always will be.
As I go through my days doing my home chores, running my errands, visiting with family and friends, lunch at this restaurant and dinner at that other place, as I light a cigarette and raise my glass of vodka, as I smile and laugh and sometimes get tipsy, free to come and go as I please with only my own decisions to take into consideration, with me being my sole responsibility, I also realize that there will always be that little tug at my heart that will forever tell me that I am not really alone; that I will never truly be; for having shared so much and for so many years with such a close person one cannot really ever be alone.
The passing of time (in my case, but not in all cases) has blurred the big and little hurts; the misunderstandings and the confrontations; the frustrations and the tears and only retained, in a crisp rendition, the many joys and laughter; the tender moments; the various amusing incidents and funny war memories.
Ah! The passing of time! It can end that movie, but it will forever go on replaying it.
However, that little movie of fifty years of my life has been playing in tandem – constantly and concurrently – with the movie of my seventy years of a life spent as the victim of the Israeli government and its merciless aggression. Now that movie is not in replay mode yet. That movie is still being filmed and is still playing itself out.
It is, this month, being shot on location in Gaza.
It is being filmed with live actors and actresses; live grenades and ammunitions galore; with white phosphorous bombs, missiles; starvations, sieges, torture, incarcerations, daily humiliation and abasement; continuous and unrelenting harassment; belittling, mass expulsions, expropriations, real live bulldozing of people’s homes and now “flechettes?” Really? Trying out lethal weapons, Israel? Really?!! It is, indeed, an epic movie! The babies and children being massacred are real! They were once alive before the Israeli army destroyed them. They were laughing, playing, skipping rope.
Here is little Ahmad: his mother just whacked him for spitting on his sister and right then the Israeli missile threw him sixteen feet up in the air knocking the life out of him!
Here is little Nissan: her father just sent her home because she was playing football with the boys and scoring more than them! She never made it home however! That home was just demolished by Israel taking away her mother, her siblings, and her grandmother.
It’s just another day in Gaza!
Filmed live! In full color! With real actors and actresses!
I rewind the movie.
It is 1948.
I am around five years old. My brother, Shukri, is around two. Bullets pierce our home, one zinging right into our living room, my father yelling for everyone to get on the floor, me cringing behind a chair. Then we are on a flight to Cairo; dazed, uprooted to make way for European Jews to inhabit our country. We are amongst the lucky ones. We weren’t herded off into Gaza, or to an UNRWA refugee camp.
It is 1948; the year from whence my heartaches, my family’s and the Palestinian people’s began.
It is 1948 when the Jewish terrorist organizations (named thus by Great Britain) took over Palestine and from where they have been since then rewriting its history.
I was born in Jerusalem, Palestine.
It was Palestine. I do not need a history book to tell me that. I was there! I lived it! I witnessed it! There are historical documents, passports and currency to prove that! There are people still alive who know that. They are Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The Israeli propaganda that says otherwise and that is rewriting my history is a blatant lie!
I lived it! I witnessed it! As did all Palestinian Jews.
I lived the wars!
I lived the uprooting!
I lived the refugee status!
I lived the homelessness!
I lived the fear and the terror from continuous unrelenting Israeli aggression!
I know first-hand the stories! The real and macabre experiences of my people!
I am not a terrorist. The Palestinian people are not terrorists.
We are freedom fighters. Yes, yes we are; fighting to reclaim our land, our dignity, our pride, our history and Justice. I don’t care whom Israel says we are, how it has distorted us and our history. We know who we are.
I do not need to read about how Palestine was stolen from us. I know it! I have the scars on my heart and the painful etchings in my brains! They will always and ever be a part of me. They are real! They are tangible!
And Gaza today? It’s just another morbid scene from a continuous and inexorable movie that has been playing since 1948.
It is a continuation of the drama, of the epic that will always be Palestine.
And I will go on with my life, after Gaza, after another massacre, an assassination, an invasion, just as I went on with it after my husband passed away. That’s what we must and what we need to do. And, as Palestinians, that is our duty and our calling to do. Forever if need be. We must and we will. Until Justice is rendered. And only then.
Meanwhile, I know that I am not alone in seeking this Justice for how much more desolate would I be were it not for Noam Chomsky, Gideon Levy, Anna Baltzar, Uri Avnery, Norman Finklestein, Glenn Greenwald, Miko Peled, Ilan Pappe, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jon Stewart, Israeli soldiers and organizations and countless other Jewish and Israeli people speaking up for me, supporting me, all of them demanding an end to the merciless and ignoble occupation. (And no, they are not playing at it or pretending!) So are the millions of people all over the world who demonstrated in the streets, carrying the Palestinian flag, wearing our signature kaffiyeh and shedding their tears. Amidst all the bloodshed, the terror and the disgust we might sometimes forget this incredible show of support. I know that sometimes when my blood is boiling and my anger is at its peak, I tend to forget that too. During most of this wretched month I was forgetting. I shouldn’t though.
The instant gratification that the Israeli Government and its staunch supporters are deriving from leveling Gaza and murdering innocent human beings is just that: instant, infantile, vengeful, selfish, blood-curdling gratification.
Perhaps one of the lasting impressions that this war will leave us with is that the IDF is as savage and as barbaric as ISIS, and that, while there is no parity whatsoever between the Israeli war machine and Hamas, there is certainly great similarity between the violence and brutality of the IDF and ISIS. They have both made a mockery of their religions and screwed up claims to righteousness. This is not a hopeful omen for the Middle East!
How does the movie scenario read?
Where will the next scene be shot; at what location?
When will the senselessness end and reason prevail? Ever?
When will there be Peace between Israel and Palestine?
Hope Forever or Never?
We are all going to need many, many days of sitting shiva and many, many doses of shifa to heal the deep wounds of Gaza.