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Memory (on Nakba Day)

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“It was my 18th birthday. I had gone to get a haircut because we were expecting visitors. There was a bombing at Jaffa clock sq. and I stole my brother’s bike and cycled like never before. It was the area my father worked. I went and the bombing had turned my father into broken limbs.” My grandfather told me as he held tears back. Palestinian men don’t cry he used to say.  “It was a Zionist bombing. And there was baba…one arm in a corner and the rest of his body in another. It was January 4th, so it was cold. I remember seeing a jacket. And I held my fathers dismembered body.” Now in his late 80’s, sido can still recall every gruesome detail.

“That, sweetheart, is the story of thousands of Palestinians. It is our story then, and it is or story now.”

I sat on my grandfather’s couch as he told and re-told me stories of Jaffa pre-1948. Always emphasizing the scent of the mountains, the air and the touch of the soil “Our sweat and blood is in the soil, we are its children, sido.” He would say.

As his memory slowly begins to fail, sometimes mixing up his grandchildren, he can still tell you the stories of Palestine in perfect detail. Explaining every flower prick and the scorching rays of the Summer heat in July. Such recollection acts as the burden and savior of Palestinians. The stories etched within our memories, sliding off the tongues of our forefathers. It is within that memory we find pain, and within that memory we implement our existence.

Al-Nakba, unites us as Palestinians, a divided people. 

We remind ourselves and the world that it is not over, that the residue of al-Nakba extends to today and we are here. Disfigured and broken, our identity unites under the catastrophe that has sprinkled us across the globe, between the hostility of new countries and the nostalgia to a home some of us have never seen.

It is the time where we are not Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, we are not Gazan’s or West Bank ID holders. We are not the refugees tormented by the memory we’ve carried through tongues and old keys. We are Palestinians and our memory remains. It is the reminder that we will continue to dig our existence to reclaim our right to scream and echo this is home.

Al-Nakba commemoration transcends the lamentation of our exile and occupation. It is the standing monument that despite the bets, we have not forgotten. “You cannot forget something that is ongoing, and is in your face constantly” Sido would say.

As his body lays wrinkled and arced inwards, my grandfather always implored his grandchildren to write and remember the stories he would tell us. “Carry it in your heart, write and record it. This is what you have” he would whimper between sips of tea, always with extra sugar. “They have scattered us across the world but we are not ash, Sido. We are alive, and breathing. We are the collective memory, and you will hold on to it.”

Nostalgia for a disfigured identity

Palestinian identity is a fluid one. And the Nakba’s residue is not only the result of the Zionist movement, rather it precedes it with the occupation of Palestine by former empires.

However, as a result of the Zionist movement, Palestinian society has been dissected into sections: West Bank (Green ID holders) Palestinians, Gazans, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, Palestinians with Blue (Jerusalem ID’s), refugees and those in the Diaspora. We know the color of our documents before we can utter the word Palestinian. However, despite the institutionalized efforts and colonial narratives, a time in history unifies us and provides us with close affinity that otherwise may have been destroyed and scattered.

Our very existentialism is buried underneath documents, temporary residences, dual citizenships and homes in foreign countries that we have assimilated into or into states we were banned to integrate within.

Our collective memory is being butchered through the systematic efforts to mutilate our Palestinian consciousness.

This oral narrative passed on through generations acts as a compass for dispossessed Palestinians.

It means that despite the differences in geographical location and different experiences with the occupation, we are still able to construct a collaborative identity weaving within it our mutual narrative. That of our grandparents and parents.

We memorize roads that have been replaced with Hebrew names, now banned from us; and UN resolutions that have failed us; resistance fighters that have died in the name of Palestine and those that have been killed because of their Palestinianism. It is within that memory that we find our identity.

Mariam Barghouti

Mariam Barghouti is a translator and journalist based in Ramallah.

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7 Responses

  1. just on May 15, 2015, 4:15 pm

    Thank you for this, Mariam.

    “This oral narrative passed on through generations acts as a compass for dispossessed Palestinians.”

    Oral, written, and pictorial remembrances such as this are hugely important so that the “collective memory” cannot be mutilated, no matter how hard those that try to do so would have it. It cannot be done.

    “We are Palestinians and our memory remains. It is the reminder that we will continue to dig our existence to reclaim our right to scream and echo this is home. ”

    I’ll scream with you. Many more will join until it becomes a deafening chorus, impossible to ignore.

    (Good luck with your studies~ you write beautifully.)

  2. Jackdaw on May 16, 2015, 2:26 am

    In February 1948, two consecutive bombings targeted the Jews of Jerusalem – one targeting the ‘ Jerusalem Post’, the other Ben-Yehuda Street.

    Scores died.

    • eljay on May 16, 2015, 8:17 am

      || Jackdaw: In February 1948, two consecutive bombings targeted the Jews of Jerusalem – one targeting the ‘ Jerusalem Post’, the other Ben-Yehuda Street. … Scores died. ||

      A tragedy, one for which the perpetrator(s) should have been held accountable.

      But the tragedy did not and does not justify the creation or existence of an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State”.

    • Kris on May 16, 2015, 10:32 am

      Awful. Why would anyone target the Jews of Jerusalem?

      “A statement issued by the Arab High Command the following day claimed full responsibility and said the explosions were in retaliation for an Irgun bomb attack in Ramla. ‘Unless the Jews adhere to the rules of war, we shall continue indiscriminate reprisals on a bigger scale.’ said the communique.”

      Maybe they were referring to events like these:

      • The Al Abbasiyah Massacre – 13/12/1947 A group of Irgun members disguised as British soldiers attacked the village of Al Abbasiyah and opened fire on its residents sitting outside a village café. They also bombed a number of their homes and planted several time bombs. Moreover, British soldiers surrounded the village and allowed the killers to escape from the northern side of the village. They killed 7 and severely wounded 7 others 2 of whom died later including a 5 year old child.

      • The Al-Khasas Massacre – 18/12/1947 3 Zionists from the “Maayan Baruch” kibbutz attacked and shot 5 Arab workers on their way to work. During the attack, one of the Zionists was stabbed and killed prompting the commander of the Palmach third battalion, Moshe Kelman, to ordere a retaliatory operation to burn the homes and kill the men in Al-Khasas. The commander’s report notes that 12 were killed, all of whom were women and children.

      • The Jerusalem Massacre – 29/12/1947 Irgun members threw a barrel full of explosives near Bab al-Amud in Jerusalem which resulted in the death of 14 Arabs and the wounding 27 others.

      • The Jerusalem Massacre – 30/12/1947 The Irgun gang threw a bomb from a speeding car killing 11 Arabs.

      • The Balad Al-Shaykh Massacre – 31/12/1947 A joint force of the first Palmach battalion and a brigade led by Haim Avinoam attacked the Balad Al-Shaykh village killing 60 civilians, according to Zionist sources. Those killed included children, women and the elderly, and dozens of homes were destroyed.

      • Al-Sheikh Break Massacre – 31/12/1947 Zionist terrorist groups raided the village of Al-Sheikh Break, killing 40.

      At the beginning of the civil war, the Jewish militias organized several bombing attacks against civilians and military Arab targets. On 12 December, Irgun placed a car bomb opposite the Damascus Gate, killing 20 people.

      On 4 January 1948, the Lehi detonated a lorry bomb against the headquarters of the paramilitary Najjada located in Jaffa’s Town Hall, killing 15 Arabs and injuring 80.

      During the night between 5 and 6 January, the Haganah bombed the Semiramis Hotel in Jerusalem that had been reported to hide Arab militiamen, killing 24 people.

      The next day, Irgun members in a stolen police van rolled a barrel bomb into a large group of civilians who were waiting for a bus by the Jaffa Gate, killing around 16.

      Another Irgun bomb went off in the Ramla market on February 18, killing 7 residents and injuring 45.

      On 28 February, the Palmah organised a bombing attack against a garage at Haifa, killing 30 people.

      A list of attacks by Irgun:

      You can read about many more terrorist attacks by Zionists during that period here:

  3. bintbiba on May 16, 2015, 8:32 am

    Their memory is encrusted in the soil beneath their beloved olive , apricot, citrus , oranges ,almond trees, their jasmine, violets, rosebushes, za3tar , sumac , khobbeizeh , bathenjan, etc… etc… etc…

    65 years of ongoing memory ( Blatant International Violations, Injustice, Illegal Occupation…) certainly means something in the realm of Present Reality… …trumps 2000-3000 years of thinking about it !

    Jackdaw et al notwithstanding !!

    • just on May 16, 2015, 8:46 am

      That’s right, bintbiba.

      You and yours, Mariam Barghouti and her family, and millions of other Palestinians cannot ever be “erased”. The memories, the scents, the images, the stories, the real ties that bind you cannot be broken. It also certifies the very rightness of this struggle against the cruel colonialists~ today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

      Who can forget what this wonderful Palestinian woman has already been through, courtesy of Israel?:

      “Skinny jeans, cockroaches and a kangaroo court—Mariam Barghouti’s diary of a Palestinian in an Israeli prison” – See more at:

      “American citizen, translator and student—Mariam Barghouti arrested and detained in West Bank” – See more at:

      • bintbiba on May 16, 2015, 9:17 am

        I thank you, ‘Just’ for your ,as ever, kind remarks and support for the Palestinian People of

        Mariam Barghouti is a wonderful writer as well as a member of that indomitable family of true Palestinian fortitude and Sumud.

        How much more suffering will have to be endured before the World wakes up to what evil it has been complicit in…. even aiding and abetting !

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