Since my mother’s departure from Gaza, I have mastered the art of calling her. She is finally with her family in the West Bank for the first time in 12 years.
“Eltwaket” (meaning, “my tongue wrongly pronounces”), she said to me via mobile using her old yet newly-refreshed West Bank accent. “We can’t stop laughing. Your aunt Ruquia never stops telling jokes just like she always used to,” my mother continued.
The Israelis will never be able to erase our identity and language, no matter how much the European alien settlers perfect their Hebrew. My mother regained her West Bank accent in three days. She had been living in Gaza for 32 years.
I talked to her and my youngest brother Omar via Skype. The same people my mother used to talk to from Gaza used the same software program and sat next to her cheerfully. “I will send the papers to the liaison officer. He promised to renew my permit,” she said. “I am at my aunt’s house now with all her daughters and sons surrounding me.” She went there to pay her condolences, my mother told me later. Her aunt died last year as my mother was locked in Gaza.
This is Palestine. We pay condolences years later. We visit the graves of our dead years later. We never see them alive, yet we dream of a better tomorrow than the bitter life we now lead. The Israelis want to push us to the point where we feel defeated. They want us to believe that the way to any other city in Palestine, with their presence, is longer than the way to the horizon. Never lose hope. Cultivate it.
Bethlehem means “house of flesh” in Arabic. “Why is it called so?” My American friend Joe once asked my mom. “It’s where Jesus was born. Flesh has to do with babies,” according to my mother. She is in Bethlehem where she once learned how to cook msakhan, a traditional chicken dish.
There, she will learn to cook a new dish Joe will probably like as much as the stuffed carrot we had on the roof of our house in the crowded Nuseirat refugee camp.
My mother was in disbelief. She wondered several times the night she left if the Israelis would let her into the West Bank. I am sure she didn’t believe anything until she was actually reunited with her family.
We are one
Unfortunately, the Israelis have succeeded in somehow making us believe that we are two: Gaza and the West Bank. They even told us about the words to use. They divided us into categories. Gazans, West Bankers, Arabs in Israel.
But we are not just two. We are as many as the Palestinians scattered in the world. We are one. We are Palestine with all its beauty and uniqueness. We are the past, the present and the future. We are the story, the many stories. We are the three kids who were burnt to ashes in Deir al-Balah because of candles. I don’t believe that lighting a candle in Palestine will kill the darkness. It kills innocent kids in their sleep.
Israelis kills us too. The same result: a bunch of innocent kids subjected to the siege on Gaza. They steal our natural resources. “You have an electricity shortage, while in the West Bank, there is a water shortage,” my mother clarified to me. “They buy water to wash the dishes.”
Cursing yellow and green
Once, my mother traveled to the West Bank. My uncle waited for her on the other side of the “green line” — the international armistice line marking the boundary between “Israel” and the West Bank. She went through the “yellow line” which is used by “foreigners” to get in. She cursed yellow and green that day. See how the Israeli occupation spoils the beauty of colors in Palestine? Still, we love a rainbow!
I feel that our day will come like no time before. I gave up the notion that the West Bank is unreachable. Next time, my mother’s family will pay us a visit in Gaza. Segregation is born dead. It does not last for long. “My father used to tell me that peace will never come to Ireland,” my Irish friend John Hurson once told me. “Now, I live in peace. Peace and freedom will come to Palestine someday.”
The more they segregate, the more passionate we become. I see freedom coming to visit us soon. I feel it around all the time. The disturbing thing about colonizers is that they don’t learn from history. They master the greed of other inmates by heart. This brings their end closer. I can’t say a specific time, but it is close. It’s closer than my mother is to her family right now.