Palestine has always been the framed picture in the living room. The song and dance. The magnificent rosary decorating the hallway wall. My parents, along with numerous family members, only heard about Palestine. I did, too. I knew from a very young age that Palestine was the cause that I was to live for, and if necessary die for. I was lectured that it is beautiful enough to deserve so.
Like the 7 million Palestinian refugees around the world I only dreamt I can one day visit and go to where all of my childhood fables took place. And when I felt I was old enough to bear seeing my imagination come to life, I asked to be allowed a visit. I felt I was now capable of holding the responsibility to fulfil everyone’s dream.
When I expressed my desire to go, I was faced with either great aunts falling back and gasping or grandmothers patting my shoulder in pride. I really didn’t know what to make of it. On one side, my family was all of a sudden worried for my safety and visiting the homeland has magically turned from being a dream into some irrational anxiety. On the other hand, however, others told me I was crazy but went on saying “I can give you the address of our old building that we owned in Jerusalem. Check it- if it’s still there, will you?”
None of this really jolted my desire to go. I knew all that I should expect: hours of waiting in grey halls, hours of investigations, more draining hours at unnecessary checkpoints; I knew my suitcase was to be open wide and that all of my belongings would be on the filthy floor and that the sun would melt any sanity I had left. I knew I should expect hardship. Yet, I also knew the way there by heart. Literally. There was no turning back now. I had obtained my degree and I had no other plans.
My passport and other documents have been scanned around 30 times. Pictures of me not smiling were scattered across a number of desks. Mother’s name written the other way around and every information I thought irrelevant were all noted. I was supposed to leave the Palestinian Embassy and “pray” as I was advised. I did.
“Now it’s up to them”
“I hope they like my face”
“They thought I was from Haifa because of Mum’s name anyway”
“Is that good or bad?”
I waited to know. For months, January through April. And after a while it didn’t matter whether or not I was to be graced with the Israeli approval of my application for a Permit. Because for a while I felt really, really stupid. I didn’t want to have to apply for a permit. Still, my desire was greater than my pride. For once I let it win. So I prayed my application accidentally slips from between the hundreds of applications into the pile of those permitted. I prayed my application falls into the hands of someone newly employed. I prayed my application would be previewed at ten in the morning; not that early nor too late in the day.
But I guess it’s always too late in Palestine and everyone is too old with emotions. Everything is rigid. The land doesn’t change, does it? I am not permitted a visit to Palestine. No note left in the explanation section.
This current state of turbulence is not because my application for a permit was declined. Nor is it all of these kids boasting about getting their Birthright Application through who must be packing by now. It is the the fact that while I know street names in Palestine, most of those who are granted a free trip to the land are not the least acknowledged on the languages, the geography or the history no matter how controversial. Nothing. Yet, I would either be fortunate to go through hell or don’t get to go at all. Simply because, unlike those teens, I am anything but Jewish. These kids do not know my story even exists. They are told that while Palestinians are not real, their newly found ties to the land, however, absolutely are.
For them it’s “Israel this summer!”, for me it’s “sometime, hopefully”. But perhaps next year in Jerusalem. Perhaps not. It’s a game now and I will try again.