Issue No.
173, September 2012 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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     Personality of the Month

Rose Shomali

After 23 years in exile, Rose Shomali returned to Beit Sahour, her hometown, with a permit that she received just two days before her father’s passing that allowed her to come back for his funeral. “How can the maximum of grief and the maximum of joy meet together?” she asked. “These opposing feelings inspired me to write about my own diaspora (taghreeba).” In her five published poetry books, Shomali reflects on the Palestinian situation at different times and different places, trying to give collective meaning to moments of human weakness and strength.

Shomali highlights the different roles of Palestinian women. She addresses the martyrs’ mothers, “Ah, mother sickened with blackness: How could I write your poem without missing a drop of the pain?” Being a women’s rights activist, Shomali illuminates the strength and determination of all women’s rights activists: “So tender / she breaks a rib whenever she walks / So hard / she keeps walking / when the last rib breaks / She says: let me undo this breast and go on naked.” Shomali also writes about her own mother, and in doing so, reflects on the suffering of mothers deprived of their sons or daughters. “My mother is not skilled in coining words / Her tales are threads of yearning / On the touch of her prosaic hand / the tale grows with the night and reaches maturation / So the work is done.” (The selected verses are parts of poems translated by Dr Basem Ra’ad.) Other poems address the siege of Ramallah, the Separation Wall, annexation, and arrest. While showing the ugliness of the Occupation, Shomali also shows the opposite side, celebrating the Palestinians’ steadfastness.

One of the experiences she refers to is her experience in Tel al-Za’atar Refugee Camp. She says, “There, I learned much more than I learned in the university. I owe much to Tel al-Za’tar’s women who taught me to be brave, to think and plan collectively, to use local resources, and to deal with calamity with courage.” This experience was the beginning of Shomali’s engagement as a women’s rights activist. She became a member of the administrative committee of the General Union of Palestinian Woman in Lebanon, and, through this position, she worked with women in various refugee camps in Lebanon.

Not only do women capture her attention but children as well. “I integrated my ideas of children’s rights and gender equality in everything I wrote or produced, such as a video clip titled Palestinian Children’s Dream and a 16-episode television programme titled Nakhla and Us. In both productions, she was a co-writer with Majdi Shomali, her brother. She also worked with children to create stories about the June 2002 siege of Ramallah. The stories were published in Shu’ara’ Magazine with her testimony on the siege. “Children can surprise you in how much they can be creative and resilient,” she said.

Shomali believes that children should be provided with the best, and that children’s literature should be child-oriented, leaving space for inference and creativity. “They are the future, and what we offer them represents our vision of the future.”

Shomali resigned from her job as the general director of the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee to dedicate herself to writing and to children’s literature. Her book Palestinian Women: Political Participation and Decision Making has just been published in Arabic by the Palestinian Research Center. Shomali concludes, “Whatever I do, I do it with love, whether it is poetry, children’s stories, research, translation, or working with the grassroots. This gives me a feeling of satisfaction and makes my life more meaningful.”

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