Personal reflections on the Nakba

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We shall meet awhile
After a year
After two years
And generation…

And we were rejuvenated, Death and I,
In your first front
And in window of your house.
Death and I are two faces-
Why now do you flee from my face,
Why now do you flee?
Why now do you flee from
What makes wheat the earth’s eyelashes, from
What makes the volcano another face to jasmine?
Why now do you flee?

I sip kisses
From the blade of knives.
Come, let’s join the massacre!

I am he in whose skin
The shackles etch
A likeness of the homeland

May, 2005; my mother, Amneh Abdullah Ahmed Eid, made a decision that she could no longer endure her ongoing Nakba! Was it a coincidence — though I hardly believe in such coincidences — that she, with the rest of the Eid clan, was forced out of her paradise, Zarnouqa, in May, 1948, 57 years earlier? She had been only 19 then, with a baby whom she would lose 2 years later.

Am I being sentimental?!

What do I know about Zarnouqa? What is it that connects me to that “forgotten,” destroyed village, turned into an industrial zone? When I decided to post Amneh’s photo on my FB page, I wrote “Zarnouqa” under it! Why?

Ben Gurion thought I would “forget” after Amneh died. But as Edward Said said so eloquently: “every Palestinian knows perfectly well that what has happened to us over the last six decades is a direct consequence of Israel’s destruction of our society in 1948…The problem is that a clear, direct line from our misfortunes in 1948 to our misfortunes in the present cannot be drawn, thanks to the complexity of our experience.”

Why is that even though I was born 16 years after the Nakbah, I have these recurring nightmares – the same nightmares as Naji Al-Ali used to have? A nightmare of hundreds of thousands of people, including my parents, being forced out of their homes en masse! Mother, wearing a thoub (Palestinian dress) carrying a child, but looking backward. I am there, but not there! And I wake up sweating. Carl Jung would have called it an archetype from the “Palestinian Collective Unconscious.”

The day Amneh died, she opened her eyes to ask whether my father had returned from Jaffa! She had made a decision to erase 57 years of dispossession, regardless!

The day she died, I wrote this:

Olive Trees Do Not Die.
Is there a sky without birds?
Is there a life without a promised land?
Is there (a) Palestine without (a) Zarnouqa?
And is there (an) Amneh without (a) Hafez?

NO. Amneh Abdullah Eid, born in 1929 in the village of Zarnouqa, had decided not to put up with Israel any more.

From Zarnouqa to Deir el Balah; from Deir el Balah to Gaza city, from Gaza to Nusairat refugee camp back to Gaza to Nusairat again, where the birds stopped flying, where she lost the only Man she had known for more than 60 years. For 57 years she had been waiting, with him—her Man, the Si Sayyed of her life, the ‘light of her eyes,’ the Palestine of her heart, the Zalameh of her family, the Nasser of her “political” world—to return.

Four months ago, Hafez Abdulhafez Eid, also born in the village of Zarnouqa, had his appointment with the ‘birdless’ sky. He fixed his wings, forgot to say goodbye, and took off. From his flat, surrounded by his granddaughters, Abu Marwan, as he was known in the densely populated camp, could not bear the emptiness of the sky any more. For 57 years (minus 4 months), he had been away from Zarnouqa, the big heart was tired; all brothers had already set sail, three sons had left prematurely, and Umm Marwan had been bed-ridden for 7 years. What is a (wo) man’s heart? Where can it take you? It can take you to the sky; to your promised land; to ZARNOUQA.

But Hajjeh Um Marwan insisted that the 57th anniversary of the Nakba take place without him. “Let Israel celebrate its birthday tomorrow. I am flying back to Zarnouqa today. Zalamaty cannot fly alone in the empty sky.” Over the last ten years she lost two sons, beside the child she had lost three years after the Nakba, suffered two massive strokes, fought gangrene and won the battle, lost Zalametha. And missed me!

Wing in wing, Hafez and Amneh Eid are flying back to their promised land.

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This jolted my soul.

Especially today, when the loss of loved ones and dispossession is so visceral. I will carry this with me, and mourn for your losses and hope with you that they are home in their Zarnouqa.

Beautiful, sad. Thank you.

The old die and the young, in even greater numbers, continue and re-invigorate the struggle. The Israelis thought they were ejecting some voiceless peasants into oblivion. A couple generations later, they find they are up against intellectuals, academics, engineers, doctors, teachers, and artists, mothers and fathers, in every part of the world. Back to Zarnouqa, it’s only a question of time.