As I was waiting for my visa interview the other day at the American consulate there were many Arabs and Jews there. There was a mix of Arabs and Jews applying for visas (but mostly Arabs). However, on the US citizen side there were mostly Jews. This is because many Jews that live here come from various countries like the US.
As I sat a siren sounded and all the Jews stood. That week the Jews were celebrating their independence. That day in 1948 when Palestine ceased to exist and Israel was created. That unique day in history that is celebrated by one people (the Jews/Israelis) and mourned by another people (the Palestinians). The Palestinians call that day the 'Nakba' meaning the catastrophe. Unlike what some people think, there aren't two countries here...there is one country. One day it was called Palestine, now it is called Israel because it is under Israeli occupation...That day in 1948, our identity as Palestinians ceased to exist. Our currency was no longer valid, there was no such nationality called Palestinian, and we could no longer raise our flag high. Many call my country Israel, I call it Palestine, but it is still one place, and one country.
That day in 1948 half of our people, the people of Palestine, had to leave their homes never again to be allowed to return. They still hope to return and some of them still keep the key to the home that they lost. Half of my people are refugees. They have no right to return to their original homes. Some even have no right to come back to their home country of Palestine even for a visit. I have cousins and other relatives who are simply not allowed to come back and live in Palestine (these are people who were born here, whose parents were born here, grandparents and other ancestors were born here in Palestine). Yet the newly established state of Israel chose to deny them access and not acknowledge their right to live in their home land. Below are some pictures of those 1948 Palestinian refugees leaving their homes and residing in tents in neighboring countries and other areas.
On the other side, any Jew (born anywhere in the world of any origin in the world) has the right to reside in Palestine and gain automatic citizenship in the State of Israel.
People wonder why there is conflict here...this is the core problem that many don't see. Palestinians just basically want their land and homes back...
To make this more clear to some of you, let me share with you an experience my cousin had the other day. She went to visit the home of a Palestinian family. This home rests right next to an Israeli settlement (Jews not from here who come to Palestine and live on confiscated Palestinian land). The home of this family consists of one room (about half the size of your bedroom). The room has no running water, electricity, furniture or anything. Where do they shower? right in the middle of this room using a bucket. Where do they go to the bathroom? well, behind a tree outside. The family owns nothing basically. This little house (or should I say room) has been demolished by the Israelis (and rebuilt by the family) 3 times. Why demolished? Because it is too close to the Israeli settlement and the soldiers don't want it there. They don't want this family there. Whose land is it? Well, the Palestinian head of the household says: "اشتريناها بمائة ناقة" meaning "We bought this land for 100 camels". But, the Israelis still want that family off the land and they keep demolishing their home so they would leave. Even the wooden little place the family built to keep their chickens in, has a demolition order from the Israeli soldiers and will probably be demolished soon.
The land the family uses to plant vegetables is sadly way too close to the Israeli settlement. The family risks getting shot by the soldiers each time they go to water their plants or pick their vegetables.
Why is it that certain international laws work in some countries and don't work here? What would someone do if a family like this existed in the US for example? What would you do if someone kicked you out of your home and simply took it (didn't give you any compensation or anything) and then simply said 'oh and you are not allowed to ever return to your country'?
Because of this Nakba day there were some demonstrations in various areas in Palestine. In Ramallah two Palestinian youth were killed (one boy was 15 and one was 17 years old). One of them was the friend of someone I know. This is a picture of him when he was shot. Often times when others see people like those in this picture on the news they think they are the terrorists. Look carefully and think again. Is the 15 year old who is throwing rocks at soldiers demanding his rights a terrorist? Or is the soldier who shoots him in the heart the terrorist?
I love this country (the Holy Land). Call it what you will, Palestine, Israel, but it is so pretty...I don't know what I would do if I was not allowed to ever come back. I was born in Jerusalem yet am not allowed to go to Jerusalem except when the Israelis feel like giving me a permit during the holiday seasons. And even then I have to take public transportation because even though I have a permit, my car does not.
As I walked up the hill in the mount of olives yesterday looking up at the place where I was born, I saw a Palestinian flag hanging high on an electric cable. Wow, that is a sight we don't see often! The flag would hang there until it is seen by the Israeli soldiers and then they will take it down and burn it. One day I will be allowed to live in Jerusalem and my flag would be allowed to hang high in its streets...I hope to live to see that day!
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem...where all things are possible.