May 15, 1948
My Palestinian grandparents were forced to flee their homeland on boats heading to various nearby countries. The journey to the unknown destination of the boat was not long but long enough to still be re-told by my ninety-four year-old-dad sitting in his southern California backyard. They have gathered their children and all that they could muster of their belongings. Guarding their home key and ownership documents of their land protectively, they left with a heavy heart. Arriving in Lebanon, they started to understand that they might never leave this unwelcoming country. They survived camps and later survived wars, and life continued in the hope of one day, they will return to the forgotten land.
July 14, 1972
The head of the family, my grandpa, the key-keeper, died in Tripoli, Lebanon, one day after my birth. I have heard many stories about him during my childhood, but the most memorable one was of him approving the birth of a grand-daughter because he could not birth one and nor did his dad. Girls are a rare gem in my boys dominated family. Girls that are doomed to carry this derogatory refugee label with them for the rest of their lives.
To be the only student standing up in a classroom of forty pupils when the principal walks in and asks, the non-Lebanese, please stand up, is a feeling I live with every day. A feeling that my parents tried to help me avoid it by claiming to be Lebanese. They encouraged my siblings and me not to speak up about our dirty little secret unless we have to or were forced. Like when I went with my mom to the capital Beirut to visit some relatives, she made sure to practice with me how to say my fake name on my fake Lebanese Id if we get questioned at a checkpoint.
November 11, 1988
Arriving in California as a seventeen-year-old bride, I was excited to start a new life away from war and bombs. I have arrived in the land of freedom. It turns out that freedom is for the privileged ones. The war of my identity continued. The discrimination was not solely based on my lack of a nation, it was based on just being me. I learned to burry that Palestinian identity once again and take on my new fond American identity. Boy, was I gullible?
January 11, 2011
I landed in Morocco for the first time with a broken spirit and a hanging divorce case back in LaLa land. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of belonging. I felt that people were genuinely respectful and supportive of my Palestinian roots. To explain to my new adoptive family and friends, the struggle of not having a country was difficult and consumed me. Many in Morocco are unaware of the of Palestinian diaspora. Many are supportive of the ones that are still in the occupied land, Many assume that all Palestinians should know a thing or two about their country. I could not answer the questions about my family in Palestine. I have never been to that land, and I have no family that I know of. I also do not have family In Lebanon, but at least I could answer the taxi driver when he would ask about my funny accent’s origin. I could tell him everything he needs to know about Lebanon except who is the current president. Wouhelt (as they say in Moroccan darija), I am in a dilemma. I say I am Lebanese, and they start asking me if I am Sunni or Shia. They ask about political party affiliations. They ask about celebrities; I once was asked by an official to speak like the voluptuous Haifa Wihba during the process of obtaining my residency in Morocco.
I have to be very diplomatic when reveling my identity to avoid awkward situations like the ones I mentioned.
May 15, 2020
Day sixty-two of the lockdown. I have left the house only three times since then. No shortage of toilet paper here, no hoarding of any kind except for garlic. Life At Home in Fez with my best friend and my furry four-legged big baby is great. I can’t complain; I am blessed. I have survived living in an underground dwelling for a month while missiles destroyed my home and my city. I am a survivor who understands the meaning of being confined to a place with limited to almost no resources. I can relate to those that are struggling to prepare a meal for their family with what was left in their pantry. My family and I once had to break in into houses in search of food during the war days of Lebanon.
It is again the privileged ones that are complaining about the lockdown. It is also the less-privileged ones that are objecting to it. I am the only one enjoying it. If one thing I learned from my tangled background; is survival!
Today for the first time of my forty-eight years on this planet, I understand the meaning of a homeland and the struggle my grand-parents and my parents endured to provide my sibling and me safe home.
Home might be in Morocco for now, but home is that feeling that connects me with the most vulnerable that are seeking the same thing as me.
Home is the feeling of accepting who you are and where you are.
Home is the internal feeling of accepting change.
Home is the discovery and realization that you have been home all along.