Palestine: The Pain of Exile

Palestinian refugees are one of the biggest displaced populations in the world, with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) providing assistance for some 4.7 million registered refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Millions more displaced and emigrant Palestinians live around the world. However, their attachment remains strong to the home they, or their parents or grandparents, left behind. Two bloggers in Gaza have written about the pain of exile.

Earlier this week the Libya-sponsored aid ship Al-Amal (“hope”) attempted to sail to the Gaza Strip (but was forced to change course for Egypt). In Gaza, blogger Kalam was thinking of someone he wished were on the ship:

ترتدي وشاح الصلاة وتحمل مسبحة بين يديها وتدعو الله عز وجل – أو ربما تفعل فقط كما ترى والديها يفعلان حينما تضيق بهما السبل- فتناجي الله أن يحقق أملها أو بالأحرى أمل جدتها في رؤيتها واحتضانها وتقبيلها.
هي هلا التي لم تكمل سنتها الأولى في الحياة بعد، ولكنها تحمل بالوراثة كل مشاعر الفلسطيني المغترب، فهي ابنة للاجئ لم من يرى من أرضه شبرا واحدا طوال حياته، ولأم تعيش مشتتة الفؤاد بين الوطن والغربة بين الأهل والزوج بين الأم والبيت بين الأخوة والأبناء، فعقلها وجزء مهم من قلبها هناك وأهلها وبقية قلبها وذكرياتها هنا.
She wears a prayer scarf and holds prayer beads between her hands, and asks God – or maybe she is just doing what she has seen her parents do when things get tough for them – she appeals to God to make real her wish or more accurately her grandmother's wish to see her and hug her and kiss her.
This is Hala, who has not yet completed her first year of life, but she carries the inherited feelings of every Palestinian exile. She is the daughter of a refugee who has seen not a single inch of his land his whole life, and of a mother who lives with her heart split between her homeland and a foreign country, between her family and her marriage, between her mother and her home, between her siblings and her children. Her mind and an important part of her heart are there, and her family and the rest of her heart and her memories are here.

Hala, on


Kalam continues:

هلا ابنة أختى الصغيرة التي تعيش في ليبيا ولا تستطيع القدوم إلى غزة – التي أصبحت قبلة الجميع هذه الأيام- تسبح الله عز وجل وتدعوه أن يسمح لها بالقدوم إلى غزة، فهي لا تتمكن من القدوم بسبب صعوبة الحصول على إقامة لها في ليبيا، الأمر الذي لا يضمن لها العودة إلى هناك حيث والدها النازح – لا يمتلك رقم هوية – وبقية عائلتها، تبحث هلا عمن يقول لها “يا هلا بيكي في وطنك”، تبحث عن من يوصلها لحضن جدتها الحنون، التي تعشق أي صورة لها أو مقطع فيديو تظهر فيه.
هلا تنتظر وكلها أمل، أمل أكبر من السفينة الليبية القادمة إلينا هنا، والتي كم تمنيت أن تكون معهم لأقبلها، حين يصلون سأرى في كل واحد منهم جزء من صورة هلا، وسأسألهم لماذا لم تأتوا بـ هلا معكم؟؟؟!!!
Hala is my young niece who lives in Libya and cannot come to Gaza – which has become everyone's focus these days. Praise God and ask him to allow her to come to Gaza… She is unable to come because of the difficulty of getting residence in Libya, which means she cannot be sure of returning there where her father who is a displaced person – he does not have an identity number – and the rest of her family are. Hala is searching for someone to say, “Welcome to your country”, and is searching for someone to put her in reach of the affectionate embrace of her grandmother, who adores any picture of her or any video clip in which she appears.
Hala is waiting full of hope, a hope larger than the Libyan ship coming to us here, which I have wished so much she were on so I could embrace her; when they reach I will see in every one of them a piece of Hala's image, and I will ask them why they did not bring Hala with them.

Also in Gaza, Kawther Abu Hani listens to her mother reminisce:

نفسي اعرف شو صار لبيتنا الصغير اللي تركنا في الناصرة قبل سنين, كيف صار شكل الجبل؟ و يمكن تغيرت ريحة الزعتر؟.. قديش كبرن صحباتي و صرت عندهن مجرد حكاية لاولادهن.. يا الله حتى ما احضرت عرسهن, كان نفسي اعيش مراحل عمري معهن و أكتر شي كنت استنى اليوم اللي نوعى فيه ع الحب و ننسى اللعب تنحب حتى ننهم.. يا الله بس هم الحب مش زي هم الاحتلال. اسا انا اتزكرت.. دايما بتزكر..
“I would love to know what happened to our small house which we left in Nazareth years ago… What do the hills look like now? And perhaps the scent of thyme has changed… How old my friends have grown, and I have become just a story for their children… Goodness me, I didn't even attend their weddings. I wanted to live through the stages of my life with them, and most of all I was waiting for the day on which we would learn about love and forget about games, when we'd fall in love until we became depressed. Oh dear, but the worry of love is not like the worry of [the Israeli] occupation. Now I remember…” She is always remembering.

1 comment

  • Robby

    How sad the Arab world would not welcome their displaced brothers 60 years ago. How cruel to have a child born into refugee status rather then being a citizen of the country they are born in. How debilitating to sentence new borns to a life on welfare.

    How rediculous that three generations of Palestinians have been born into, live under, and in eventually die never becoming a citizen of their host countries.

    How cruel of the Arab world to cram the so-called “right of return” down the throats of millions knowing damn well there is littel chance it will be realized in their lifetimes.

    Passing refugee status down from generation to generation is nothing less then an apartheid system implemented by the Arab world.

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