Issue No.
169, May 2012 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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Children of Deheishe Camp, by Ismail Shamout.
At Erez Crossing, by Ismail Shamout.
A Sip of Water, by Ismail Shamout.
Green Hand, by Ismail Shamout.

Youth on Al-Nakba

This Week in Palestine approached Palestinian youth from various areas and backgrounds to ask them what Al-Nakba meant to them. Here’s what they had to say.

It upsets me to know that my ancestors were degraded and dragged out of their homes, and I can’t do a thing to fix that! My grandmother still draws portraits of home in her imagination, her heart trembles when she gets flashbacks, and I get goose bumps just knowing that she and another 750,000 Palestinians (half of the Palestinian population back then), suffered from the same destiny. Can you count how many long, hot summers have passed them by? Or how many cold, merciless winters slowly passed away? Can you count the nights that these people had no beds to sleep in?
I’d keep writing till my fingers bleed, my ink fades away, and my brain stops working, but I’d never say enough. But I hope that whoever reads this piece will keep it in mind and share it with others, and raise the voice of the oppressed to all nations, because we as Palestinians alone cannot carry this heavy load, and we cannot let this story pass by unnoticed.

Jehad Arouri, 16, Ramallah

There are many ways to define the essence of occupation, from the Left that accuses imperialist capitalism, to the Right that understands it in religious terms. In my opinion, Al-Nakba resulted in the cutting off of natural relationships within Palestinian society and the prevention of any possibility of future societal evolution! Palestinian ideals and the values of dignity and pride were attacked. Those who had normal, simple mentalities were overcome with paranormal colonial behaviour that deprived people of their lands and identities. These are the very reasons behind the morphing of a systematic, solid, structured society into an erratic, dispersed society. The ability to imagine the future of a population is the best indication of a strong society. Could anyone have imagined Palestine and Palestinians 64 years from Al-Nakba? Could anyone then have imagined the present Palestine free from that black past?

Ali Amer, 26, Nablus

Al-Nakba is the commemoration of sacrifices and struggles that Palestinians have made for decades by resisting the Israeli government’s insatiable desire to attain a racist objective through malicious and violent methods. It serves as a constant reminder of the stolen liberties that Palestinians strenuously work to regain.

Lana Shatat, 22, Chicago, IL, USA

For me Al-Nakba is not only one day, the 15th of May. As Palestinians, we are living it every single day of our lives. Every martyr, prisoner, refugee, and any Palestinian who is still suffering can blame Al-Nakba and the people who started it or contributed to it, Zionists or Arab leaders, and those who still participate in it. They destroyed Palestine. So every day reminds me of Al-Nakba! Every single detail in this country reminds me of Al-Nakba!

Rahaf Khawaja, 16, Ramallah

Al-Nakba will mean something to me when the parts of my country are united. Then I can say, “Yes, we will be back!” We should remember our fathers and mothers and their suffering in the past. And we should respect this anniversary every year. You know, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled, and hundreds of Palestinian villages were depopulated and destroyed! However, we are still suffering from many other things. As a Palestinian, I hope that we will be able to solve the issues that we created amongst each other. Then we can see how to solve the bigger one, called Al-Nakba! We are still Palestinian, and we have the right to return.

Anas A. Hamra, 22, Gaza

Al-Nakba is a people who have been in a state of revolt since 1948. These 64 years bring me images and memories of my grandparents and all the Palestinians who had to leave their land by force, with eyes full of tears and hearts full of anger, yet with a deep sense of optimism about returning! Groups of Palestinians left carrying nothing but the keys to their homes. Al-Nakba is a very pessimistic word, but this doesn’t mean that Palestinians will lose their hope of returning to their original lands. My grandmother passed away with much hope that the next generation would change May 15 from Nakba Day to Victory Day!

Tamam AbuSalama, 18, Gaza

As a Jerusalemite, I see the policy of displacing people currently being practiced in Jerusalem, as in Sheikh Jarrah, where it is taking the shape of ethnic cleansing. The Arab and international silence and servility towards this cause, in addition to the negligence and irreverence towards 5 million refugees makes me feel oppressed from all the nations and international bodies in power. It’s true that I didn’t experience Al-Nakba first hand, and that I am not a refugee, but as a Palestinian and a human being with a conscience, I feel enraged whenever this event reverberates in my mind, as when I look into the eyes of my grandmother who was forced from her village, I hear the orange trees asking: Will our planters ever return?

Haya Nasser Ghneim, 17, Jerusalem

When I hear the word Al-Nakba, I immediately see black and white images. The word evokes fewer emotions in me than the images do. I do not know if we are actually rising from Al-Nakba or if the word has lost its power to hypocritical parties that claim to defend the cause it embodies.

Yasmeen El Khoudary, 22, Gaza

Al-Nakba to me means a scattered and fragmented life from all perspectives - personal, social, economic. It means that you are forced to live with your country inside you instead of living inside your country. There is fear of the unknown for us. But there is also the strength and pride it has given us too! Because we were chosen of all the people on this earth for this to happen to and we grew stronger as a result of our difficult circumstances. We are not beaten, on the contrary, everywhere we go people welcome us and feel with us because of that Nakba. We do the best we can to deal with our reality. I live in a camp but that doesn’t mean I’m beaten. I still give all my effort and energy to improving my life and the lives of those in my community. I work with the second- and third-generation victims of Al-Nakba, but they are still suffering from its effect - the uncertainty, the discrimination, the feeling of not belonging. I try to reduce the impact of Al-Nakba on the community I work with to improve our situation, give hope, and build our lives despite everything.

Samira, 26, Gaza Refugee Camp, Jordan

Al-Nakba means pain, loss, hunger, loss of rights, disrespect. Nakba is a “catastrophe” just as the name suggests. There are no words to capture the pain of Al-Nakba for us Palestinians. As a Gazan refugee here, I have no rights at all; I don’t ask to vote for parliament but to have the right to health care and education like the rest of my peers, and not be required to pay in dollars for our education as if we were foreigners. If Al-Nakba were human, I would kill it! There is no description for how it makes me feel, no way to describe this reality except to see it with your own eyes and live it. Al-Nakba has forced me to live where I am. I have no rights and am not respected like everyone else. It made us homeless. I wake up every morning and think, “Today I will conquer the world,” but over the course of the day and by the time I get home at night, I feel that the world has conquered me. It’s very difficult, especially since my father died three years ago. I had to leave my studies to support the family. But thank God for everything, and I’m still able to volunteer my free time to the Community Development Center, and I am taking care of my family. My personal life is a struggle for human rights; we will continue to demand these human rights and not surrender.

Jehad, 24, Gaza Refugee Camp, Jordan

I didn’t live Al-Nakba so I can’t say that I feel its effect on me, but my roots are from Palestine. It was wrong that they took it by force, and every Muslim and Arab country should support our struggle. Of course I feel sad about losing our land. This is our land, our grandfather’s land. But I wouldn’t go back there now; my life is here, my friends and future. I went to Akka once and I wouldn’t go back. It was difficult for me to see our Muslim sisters there mingling with Israelis, it’s against our customs and traditions. I never thought about the Nakba having an impact on my life because I have the same rights as all citizens in Jordan and I’m studying to be an engineer. My friends are also studying engineering or medicine, so we will succeed, inshallah.

Hatem, 18, Zarqa Refugee Camp, Jordan

Al-Nakba was the time we lost our homeland and were kicked out of it. It was so precious to us, and we lost everything - our rights, our homes. It’s very painful for me. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Palestine, my whole family, starting with my father who is from Al-Tireh. We would not hesitate to go back to our land. Everything I do in my life and in my school is somehow focused on Palestine, whether through workshops or school activities, because I want to show that we Palestinians are not broken or destroyed. We are a proud people and can do anything. I want to study architecture so I can one day build our family home in Palestine.

Yara, 17, Zarqa Refugee Camp, Jordan

Al-Nakba is a past that lives in the memories of our grandfathers and grandmothers. The massacres perpetrated by the Zionist groups in 1948 continue to fuel our present struggle. The occupation creates many problems in our everyday lives - the economy, water, land, etc. The freedom and human rights of all Palestinians - no matter where they are in the world - have been compromised. Al-Nakba is the nightmare of every refugee, and it calls us to take responsibility for every move we undertake in our lives for Palestine. It is the beginning of every story that parents tell their children.

Majed Abu Salameh, 23,Gaza

I am a Palestinian refugee, and I wish to go back to my country to give it my soul and flesh! Al-Nakba is destruction and death and slaughter. It is blood and tears and memories of sorrows and banishment! It is the loss of our land and of our sisters and brothers. It is the past joy and sad future. Al-Nakba is oppression and injustice, falsehood and fraud, and death without mercy, because since Al-Nakba we have been living many catastrophes! But I want to say that the Palestinian people will stay planted in our land, and each Palestinian will hold on to the right of return no matter how long we have to fight. We will not give up! Palestine is ours and we will return Insha’Allah!

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