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Oh hey, you forgot the Palestinian flag

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Food Palestinian Flag

Food Palestinian Flag (photo: Shirien)

I think it can get confusing for a lot of Palestinian children growing up in the US. At least for me, anyway. I was hella confused as a kid.

I come from a family of Palestinian refugees. My families on both sides were ethnically cleansed from their villages by Israel in 1948. So my mama and baba had grown up in Jordan before they came to the US as immigrants. As a kid, I was always a bit confused as to why my family came from Jordan but we’re Palestinian. I knew I was Palestinian, but I didn’t understand exactly.

When I was in elementary school, there was an International Week in which we learned about different cultures. For one of our activities, our teacher told us that America is a nation of immigrants, and we all came from somewhere. The teacher went around the room and asked us where our parents or grandparents, etc immigrated from. When it was my turn, I said Jordan.

One of the activities she had us do later that week was to place a pin on a map of the world indicating where our families come from. There was no Palestine in sight. Just Israel.

I went up to my teacher and said, “I think the person who made the map forgot to put Palestine? It’s not there.”

She replied, “but I thought your family was from Jordan? Jordan is right there, hun.”

I said, “Yes, we immigrated from Jordan, but we are Palestinian so that’s where we’re from.”

She apologized and seemed puzzled. She said for now, that I should just put it on Jordan since we can’t find Palestine. I did that. She also gave us these cute flag stickers from where our families immigrated. Again, I got Jordan. No Palestine flag stickers were available in the set.

There were frustrations and confusions I had a lot as a kid whenever there was something international. For example, I always wondered why there were no Palestine flags in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Everyone else had a flag there.

As I grew up, of course, I realized why our flag was never there or why we weren’t recognized on many maps. I became comforted by the fact that we still identify as Palestinians and we still hold on to our culture and traditions dearly. We still exist.

Over the years, though, I became super interested in looking at historical maps of Palestine and collecting Palestine maps and flags. Even now, I have more than enough of these trinkets displayed in my room.

Just the other day, my friend Abeer posted a link for National Flags Made From Each Country’s Traditional Foods. These flags were created to promote the Sydney International Food Festival.  They were designed using common ingredients and foods in the country that matched each flag.  Even though there were only 18 flags featured, I felt like Palestine was missing. So I made my own.

The red is tomato, something Palestinians use in so many dishes, from bamya to kayalat bandoura. We even eat it plain and simple for breakfast alongside sliced cucumbers, eggs, hummus, labne, or zayt w za’tar.

Speaking of zayt, I put black olives in for the black part of our flag. Although I personally prefer green olives over anything, there are olives of many colors, shapes, and sizes in Palestine. And of course, olive oil is essential to all Palestinian cuisine.

For the white part, I spread in some labne. Labne is cheese made from strained yogurt. You’ll find this in any Palestinian home. It’s delicious, especially when drizzled with olive oil and eaten with fresh pita bread.

Finally, for the green, I laid out some parsley. Parsley is the major ingredient used in tabouleh, a traditional Levantine salad. It’s my favorite salad, ever.

There are so many other combinations you can make with the Palestinian flag. We have such a rich, wide array of Palestinian cuisine. We’re so fly when it comes to food that Israel tries to appropriate our cuisine. Israel took our homes and our land, and the next step in attempting to erase the history and existence of a people is to appropriate their food and culture.

No matter what, though, our identity and our culture will be maintained because our people are maintaining them. This is part of our resistance. I will continue to learn my family’s history and culture and pass it down to my children one day, inshallah. I will continue cooking Palestinian dishes. I will continue doing dabke.

Even if my children grow up noticing that the Palestine flag is not recognized or that Palestine is not listed in this or that thing, they will know that Palestine is there and always will be there. Palestine will always live inside of us.

(This was originally published at Shirien’s blog Mint Lemonade

About Shirien

Shirien is a Palestinian organizer and artist based in Chicago. She blogs at Mint Lemonade.

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22 Responses

  1. Walid
    February 5, 2014, 1:37 pm

    Good story but what is “kayalat bandoura”?

    • Refaat
      February 6, 2014, 1:43 pm

      it means “fried tomatoes”… i think “kayalat” is a typo of “kalayat”(with its village pronunciation) meaning frying pan… and I gotta tell you, three tomatoes, a clove of garlic, green pepper, little salt, and little black pepper and Arab bread on a frying pan for 5-10 minutes make the best home fast food

  2. Taxi
    February 5, 2014, 1:40 pm

    Thank you Shirien, for your sad but charming and yumzy story.

    They (ehm the euro invaders) can bulldoze houses, but they cannot wipe out culture or memory of culture. Culture, after all, is quintessentially defined by it’s cuisine, so how the hell are the zionists gonna stop people eating bamya and kayalat bandoura and other Palestinian foods known and enjoyed all over the world? Are they gonna put together a menu, a list of antisemetic food, then ban them from being masticated by order of International Law? Heh heh heh, they’ll probably try it on one day.

    Bon appetite, Palestine! You live with every delicious mouthful!

    • Walid
      February 5, 2014, 3:08 pm

      Hey Taxi, what’s “kayalat”? Bandoura is easy enough but can’t make out “kayalat”; Google was no help. Could it be fried tomatoes?

      • Walid
        February 6, 2014, 1:31 am

        Annie, “ghalayet” makes it into a boiled tomatoes and somewhat close to what is described by Taxi below as an “Arabized” spaghetti meat sauce with cumin.(Arabs put cumin in everything!)

        I checked on Palestinian recipes and came up with a possibility: Banadoora Maqliya Ma’ Thoom, which is a mezze dish of fried red tomatoes spiked with crushed garlic and red pepper and sprinkled with parley. I wish Shirien would come in and solve this mystery.

      • Taxi
        February 6, 2014, 1:36 am

        ” I wish Shirien would come in and solve this mystery.”

        LOL, Walid! You probably don’t mean to, but you’re really cracking me up!

      • Refaat
        February 6, 2014, 1:47 pm

        yep… that’s the thing…

      • Taxi
        February 5, 2014, 11:30 pm


        Annie’s right, it’s a spelling thing/vernacular thing. My village cook, who is quite versed in Levant cuisine, calls it: Aklet Banadoora. It’s like a bolognese but saucier, with chunky tomatoes and with cumin and other local spices.

        Thanks, annie.

    • shishi
      February 7, 2014, 1:15 am

      It’s a very simple tomato-based breakfast food I spelled it kalayat bandoura because that’s how we say it in my family :)

      • Walid
        February 7, 2014, 3:48 am

        shishi, although your galayat recipe sounds good, I’m a big fan of tomatoes, I couldn’t find it where you had spelled it “kalayat” unless you and Shirien are the same person.

        The pot is really thickening now. With Taxi’s village cook, we’re now up to 6 in the kitchen and you know the saying.

      • Taxi
        February 7, 2014, 4:08 am

        Ah! It’s a Palestinian Bruschetta!

        Very Mediterranean dish, considering all Euro countries shore-lining the Mediterranean Sea have their version of it.

        Here’s the Italian version:

        Here’s the Spanish version:

        Yummmzy yummz!

        (Waiting now for a bot to troll and say that ‘tomatoes’ are, well… jewish).

      • Walid
        February 7, 2014, 5:07 am

        Speaking of that Jewish or Israeli invention, it’s not just them, Taxi, if you’re in the mood for good chalenge, try explaining to your cook or any other Arab that the tomato was fruit imported from elsewhere as there was a time it was totally unknown to Arabs. Even harder if you try to convince them likewise about the orange or the lemon and you’ll be lucky if they don’t run you out of the village.

      • Taxi
        February 7, 2014, 5:14 am

        I just told my village cook that tomatoes come from South America and she said: “Wallah? Helu!” (“Really? Nice!”).

        I think sometimes you (over) stereotype your people, Walid.

        Let’s be clear though: Tomatoes Are Evil:

      • Walid
        February 7, 2014, 6:15 am

        Your cook must likes you very much and this is very understandable as you are surely very nice and kind to her and she doesn’t want to displease you. Try it on someone else that’s not close to you. Tomatoes must be evil as you said, I’m addicted to them.

      • Taxi
        February 7, 2014, 7:12 am


        The ‘Humus War’ between Lebanon and isreal aside, my experience is that Lebanese will definitely wig-out when you tell them that Tabouli is isreali. They’re more patriotically attached to the chickpea and parsley sprig than they are to tomatoes.

        By the way, it’s actually true that tomatoes are very unhealthy for the human digestive system. Way too acidic. In fact, all Deadly Nightshade veggies are trouble: potato, tomato, peppers, eggplant (all grow by moonlight and not by sunlight, making them thus a food more suitable for the digestive systems of nocturnal creatures). Being mindful here that eating tomatoes will make your blood acidic and an acidic blood stream will have weak immunity against illness and disease. One way of countering the acidity is to eat the uncooked tomato in modest portions and always with small amounts of ‘crystal’ salt not ‘table’ salt, as crystal salt will help alkalize the stomach and bloodstream. The most powerful alkalizing food on the planet in fact is a Japanese plum pickled in crystal salts. It’s called ‘Umeboshi’. You can eat half of this very salty plum and in five minutes, any acidic condition and discomfort in your stomach simply vanishes. It’s also a pretty good cure for a hangover (dehydration from over-acidity). I always keep a jar of Umeboshi in my fridge as a preventative – and I always travel with one. If you’re ever gonna buy Umeboshi, be sure to get the brands that don’t use sugars and coloring – the ingredients should simply be: plum, crystal salts, filtered water. No more than one plum per day, in two doses. Umeboshi is so powerful that if you eat more than one plum a day, you will get constipation from the over-contracting effects of too much salt in your system.

        Anyway, up to seventy years ago, one had to boil tomatoes for hours on end to burn up the poisonous acids and use the cooked fruit as paste. But horticulturalists over time finally managed to create a less poisonous tomato for mass consumption.

        I personally only like the gnarly looking beef tomatoes – organic of course – and only occasionally.

        Bon Apetite!

  3. RoHa
    February 5, 2014, 8:21 pm

    “For one of our activities, our teacher told us that America is a nation of immigrants, and we all came from somewhere.”

    Most from America, I would imagine.

    • Daniel Rich
      Daniel Rich
      February 6, 2014, 1:47 am

      @ RoHa,

      Q: Most from America, I would imagine.

      R: After he read the DNA test results, the doc looked up at me and said, “It is unmistakeably clear…, you have Neanderthal genes in you.”

      I knew right there and then that some Germans would be in deep doo-doo, as I am about to reclaim some of my former caves, once I reach the old continent.

  4. annie
    February 6, 2014, 12:13 am

    thank you so much Shirien. i love your article and i loooove your palestinian flag~food art…and mostly i like your story. you’re a good storyteller. i’m reading the rest of your blog posts now. it’s beautiful.

  5. Parity
    February 6, 2014, 9:05 am

    Sherien, please give me the recipe for mint lemonade. I love that drink and have tried to make it without a recipe, but so far the results have been disappointing.

    Thank you so much.

  6. Refaat
    February 6, 2014, 1:34 pm

    the fact that you had, or have, to choose other than Palestine as our homeland or country is heartbreaking…
    In the first Intifada, israel had this brutal policy of shooting and arresting those carrying Palestine flag. I know ppl who spent 6 months in prison of possessing Palestine flag. The harsher and more bigotted israel’s hate of Palestine grew, the more attached to it we became. We painted the Palestine flag everywhere: or almost every wall, and on books, and booknotes. The Palestine flag was waving from high buildings and from very very high trees. And finally, we turned our kites and other kinds of paper and string kites into Palestine flags. Nothing prevents Palestinians from loving their flag, let alone their Palestine and their land.

  7. SQ Debris
    SQ Debris
    February 6, 2014, 4:45 pm

    “Palestine is there and always will be there.”
    True that. Just because a shelf has zionist contact paper stuck on top of it doesn’t mean it isn’t still a shelf .. with ziet zeytoun, and hummus, a sack of fresh bandoura, and a hubba-bubba sitting on it.

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