Australia - I do not recall a time where I lost touch with my Palestinian self. I grew up a Palestinian child, a fourth generation 48 land Palestinian in exile, and now am a Palestinian woman, still in exile. I get my political thought from my father, who influenced my awareness on Palestine and how my family experienced the Nakba. I get my strength and pride from my mother, and all the virtues of the Palestinian culture and how to never forget. It seems like an endless story of tragedy and loss, yet we persist. We persist for our freedom, for our rights and for justice. But one may ask why the persistence?
When you grow up hearing tales from your grandparents of lands that stretched for miles, and them running around in the fields as children, when you hear of the way they describe the delicious Jaffa oranges, the taste of sweet figs and plums, and the crunch of fresh green almonds dipped in grains of salt. When you hear your grandparents share their darkest moments and their trials and tribulations during the Nakba, and you see that sadness and anguish in their eyes. When you hear your parents’ recollections of their one and only visit to Palestine as teenagers, and how it was the best time of their lives. You grow up with a want, an incessant need to go back to the land, back to your roots, and run through those fields, and laugh and cry, and dance and sing, and shout “فلسطين ! يا فلسطين !” (Palestine! Oh Palestine!). Imagine that? Someone that never visited their home land, because of an apartheid state, feel that strongly. It was always a dream, always in my mind, “I will return, even if for a day, I will return”.
That dream came true, and the day finally arrived in 2011, after 25 years, I packed my bags for ten glorious, magical days in Palestine. What killed me, being interrogated by an occupying force to enter my homeland. My thoughts raged “How dare you? How dare you do this to me, to my mother, to my father, to my grandparents and my great grandparents, to all Palestinians? How dare you?” whilst I sat and waited calmly but with a fierceness in my eyes, until that damned blue and white paper came, and I was let through. They were only ten days, but without a doubt, like my parents, they were the best ten days of my life. Jericho, Nablus, Hebron, Jenin, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Al Quds (Jerusalem) how I loved you. It was a whirlwind of emotion, a spiritual connection, and a pure love. When I left, a part of my soul stayed, waiting for me to return. I will return.
Unfortunately I was not able to visit my hometown of Al Tira and currently I am only able to read statistics on my village and how it flourised with agriculture, schools and mosques, but sadly statistics on when my village was destroyed and ethnically cleansed, and how currently, instead of my grandfather’s childhood home, illegal settlements stand. I recall my grandfather showing me our land deeds, sharing his stories, and seeing his yearning to return. For you seedo, I will return.
The concept of returning holds a great value to every Palestinian. Remember the Palestinians exiled and their struggle for justice on World Refugee Day. Hear their stories, share their sorrows, but also give hope and support, for one day, we all will return.