Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Palestine: The Gift of Going Home

Friends, I went home.

And it was such a gift.

It was waking up every morning to that white bright sunlight of Palestine, and not being able to believe that I was actually here.  The smell of toasting Arabic bread and frying white cheese, the rhythmic pounding of stone masons outside, the slanting rays of the morning white sunlight, smooth tile under my sandals -- all of these welcomed me home.

It was walking the old familiar streets of Jerusalem, streets where I knew every stone, every curve of the sidewalk, every step embedded with memory.

It was also moments of being a stranger in my own land, in bewildering disorientation as we whipped down highways that I had never seen before, drove past settlements and walls that had not existed, finding myself a stranger in my own land.

It was walking my children and husband through all of the sacred spaces of my homeland, crowded with pilgrims and tourists, letting their eyes rest on the same sights and scenes that was the backdrop of my childhood.

It was popping in to say hello to an old classmate, spending long, leisurely days with old friends and dear family, days that lingered into night, with elaborate, beautiful meals, coffee and fruit, all of the children playing around us, while we settled deeply into our chairs and into our friendships.

It was eating cucumbers and olives, frying orange-yolked eggs in olive oil, and watching my children pile freekeh and wara' dawali and stuffed eggplant high on their plates, and then asking for seconds.

It was biting into warm, honeyed kanafe in Nazareth, chopped salad for breakfast in Tiberias, hot falafel sandwiches from Damascus Gate,  shaved shawarma sandwiches in Bethlehem.

It was standing in front of the dryer, unloading some clothes, and then stopping in my tracks, realizing that the words in my mind were Arabic and not English.

It was turning on the faucet to wash my hands, only to find that our water had run out;  it was teaching my children to only flush when necessary, to guard the water pouring out of the faucet, to wonder if I really needed to wash that load of laundry.

It was driving and driving through the land, my eyes trying to memorize every olive tree, every curve of the terraced hills, to burn them into my heart forever.

It was opening the windows in the evening to a rush of cool air, the twinkling of Ramadan lights, and the call to prayer, my children running to see watch the wedding fireworks exploding out of the village below us.

It was entering into my parents' world for a little while, to walk down the same road that they walk, to see the fruit of their labors, the swirl of community surrounding them, and to know, also, that this chapter of their lives is slowly ending, and that this moment is almost over.

It was slipping back into the ceremony of the culture, the handshaking and kissing, the serving of coffee and cookies, remembering who to serve first, and remembering that everyone who enters our house, from auntie to washing machine repair man gets the same treatment.

It was also teaching the children that there are certain times when no matter what, they do not speak - at a checkpoint, going through security, at the airport.

It was a quiet peace, even in the crashing of mixed experiences, even when floundering in my melty identity.  The gift was that I got to be there again, and that my homeland and I got to sit with each other like old friends who meet again, embrace, and ask each other:  So, tell me how you've been?  































2 comments:

  1. I love to read your posts and I'm so happy to read of your wonderful trip home. The word home is such a comforting word to me. I am going to try more of the recipes you have posted as my son is immersed in Arabic at UT Austin. He is truly enjoying learning the language although it is very difficult. Thank you for your lovely posts.

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  2. Thank you for this lovely picture you have painted of Palestine, the ancestral home of my parents. They have longed to return and never had the opportunity to do so, but your words bring them comfort and hope that Palestine will not be forgotten. Please post more details when you have rested.

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