On 30 March 1976, while thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel were protesting against the expropriation of their lands, Israeli security forces shot and killed six of them and injured many. Had Israeli security forces been able to foresee the consequences of this foolish act, they might have practiced the highest level of self-restraint. They would have probably been pleased had the protesters simply gone home. They would have done anything but kill them.
Since that day 35 years ago, Palestinians everywhere have honored and commemorated the memory of those six young protesters on what has become known as Land Day.
Politics has always been part of any Palestinian’s life — and it seems inconceivable for Palestinians to disengage themselves from politics. When they are angry, it is politics that angers them; when they are hopeful, it is politics that gives them hope. Sometimes politics starves them. And sometimes when they die, they die due to politics. Eventually, they become politically experienced and sophisticated.
Yet, rarely are they aware of their tragic political status. A few of them know that they do not possess a state of their own. Try and tell them this fact and it simply wouldn’t bother them.
A state is not what Palestinians would feel worried about having or losing. A state is a meaningless and enigmatic concept. A farmer never knows what “state” stands for, neither does a fisherman. A teacher would possibly know, but he or she would never feel it. All of them, however, know one simple word, one grand concept, one sacred entity. It is a reachable concrete and spiritual one: the land.
This is how they raise their children. They raise them to love their land and feel it under each step they take. These children soon start to see this land in the morning sky above, they soon touch it on the seashore, and feel it in the rainfall. A while later, they accompany their fathers to the graveyard and watch a relative embrace this very land. They would sink their bare hands into the sands and join in burying the deceased.
And while they are still little children, they blend into this land. Their love for it becomes unfathomable. Beauty, to these children, is “an olive tree growing before their own eyes.”
As they grow up, their life becomes more complicated, and inevitably more political. They start to suffer and feel the pain of living under occupation, under siege, and behind the wall. The pain of crossing checkpoints, of being discriminated against, of being bombed and fired at, of watching their siblings buried under this land. The majority of them would start to hate everything around them. They would feel angry and worried to the extent that they would abhor their surroundings. And they would curse.
They would curse a variety of things: life, Israel, politics, Gaza, Egypt, and perhaps even Palestine. These all become to them base and immoral entities. However, never will a Palestinian curse the land. Gaza, when cursed, is miserableness, wicked people, crime, hellish nights, bombing, starvation, anything … but never the land. Palestine, when cursed, is Israel’s security, political factions, the apartheid wall, settlements, checkpoints … anything, but never the land.
To the Palestinians, every day of the year is a “Land Day.” Every pulse is so land-loving; every breath soon vaporizes into the land; every tear soon waters the land, and every body eventually embraces the land — on the real Land Day.
Mohammed Rabah Suliman is a student of English literature at Islamic University and blogs at msuliman.wordpress.com.