Back in Canada, all I had to say to any friend was “I’m going to spend a few months living in Palestine,” and practically a round of applause sounded. Even my colleagues supported this decision, and that hyped me up some more. But for perplexing reasons (among them heavily affected from colonial experiences), many Palestinians living in Palestine do not share that same optimism. The moment anyone learns that I came from Canada to temporarily live in Palestine, I get the same reaction:
- An incredulous face, along with a “My dear… what has brought you here?”
Okay. I get it. Living under an illegal and dangerous occupation isn’t exactly a bliss. But this isn’t even the reason that people question my return.
What has brought me here? Why Palestine?
Well, for starters, regardless about my other career and family reasons… I’m Palestinian.
What’s up with native Palestinians not understanding why it’s perfectly legitimate for me to be here? I am a daughter of the land, after all. Once left, does it mean I would never want to come back? Here are just a few examples of things I can only really revel in Palestine:
- Partying with aunts, uncles and cousins whom I haven’t seen in many years.
- Listening to classical Arabic music in taxis, against the backdrop scenery of vast mountains and vineyards.
- Being a car passenger alongside a galloping horse that is pulling a carriage of vegetables.
- Driving through small villages and seeing donkeys, herd of sheep, and more horses alongside cars. Here, nature has the same space as technology.
- Eating cups of corn on the go. Freshly squeezed mint lemonade. Date syrup. Grape syrup. The delight of discovering new cheesecake coffee shops here and there.
- Speaking with the young people who have lived under occupation, yet still have such a zest and upbeat passion for life. It is not common for me to find bitter and angry teenagers here; rather, they have a hope and vision of the future, and want to be a part of building that better world.
- When teaching an ESL class, and a Quran quote comes on screen, everyone becoming eager to recite it in perfect personalised melodies.
- Olive trees, palm trees, and white lightbulbs gracing the streets.
- Being pleasantly surprised how your heart can connect so easily to another’s, as though you grew up in the same house…
Palestine is an astonishing place, and it grows on you the longer you stay and give it a chance to. It has a beautiful culture, remarkable history of prophetic footsteps, a dizzying plurality of diverse people, and gorgeous landscapes. However, only those with beautiful hearts can truly appreciate the blessing of having a chance to walk on its soil.
So why Palestine? Because there’s nowhere else quite like it.
May God protect Palestine.
And He Knows Best.