We spoke Arabeezi

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My school only taught English. All the teachers were from English speaking countries that not only taught their language, but also their culture. The fact that my parents only had basic knowledge of the language and the culture, added to the gap of the generations.

They would feel pride at my engleezi speaking ability. A good indication of the good expensive education I was getting; that I am also grateful for, so please don’t misunderstand.

The schools we went to distinguished us from the children who went to public schools who were taught in Arabic, and was an indication of the top middle class of the society we belonged to, children of engineers of Oil and Gas public companies and private business owners.

We learnt English at such an early age that it was stored in the same place in our brains as Arabic, so we didn’t have to translate in our minds, and we can skillfully switch from one language to the other without even noticing.

Sure there was a mediocre Arabic lesson taught by the remnants of Arab unity leftists of the ‘70s and ‘80s who subtly enlightened us with the notion of Arab pride; usually done by having every one in class say which country they came from and in the end being lectured that nobody said that they were Arab, which I found to be counter intuitive since it was an Arabic lesson, and all the non Arab students took French instead.

The residual effect of this exercise had us programed to answer the question of where are you from by saying we were Arab.

We were children of an Arab generation that went through several wars and diasporas, be it ’48, ’67, ’73 or ’82, who left their countries seeking a better life, and now live in a country they don’t belong to, whose children went to English schools with English teachers. This made me wonder which part of me was Arab.

My parents were Palestinians, whatever that meant. They passed on Palestine to us as an idea. We didn’t know much of it, we just knew it was “home”, we were kicked out, and one day we shall return. When we tried to probe to understand what had happened and why, the blame was always thrown on others. When we tried to question as to how we can reclaim our lost land, the task always fell on someone else.

However my father always deemed it necessary to point out our roots, but the circumstances that we lived in didn’t show anything that would allow us to relate to what a Palestinian is. On the contrary, we would get into arguments with people within our family on whether we were Lebanese with Palestinian origins or Palestinians with a Lebanese nationality.

This sentiment made us cling to anything that would resemble our lost land. Various pictures were hung in the foyer, guests had to know upon entrance that we were Palestinians, we had an identity to protect. Our key chains, necklaces, t-shirts, bumper stickers, they had Palestine all over them, we were Palestinians.

Palestine was the pickled green olives, the olive oil that came in tin cans, and the white cheese that was as salty as stories of our lost land; we ate them with pride. Although they didn’t taste that special to me, I dare not mention it, how unpatriotic.

My eldest brother had the closest geographical birth to Palestine. He was born in Lebanon. The day he was born there was an injured militia man, Abu Something, in the same hospital and when knowing that my mother was a Palestinian lady he sent her a bottle of cologne addressed to “The mother of the lion cub.”

Nine years later, on a 5th grade writing assignment, “the lion cub” had to write about a trip to outer space. His assignment involved being sent on a top secret mission by Yasser Arafat to find a planet as an alternative home to Palestinians. He succeeded in his mission by finding Abu Cuckoo, a planet where all the refugees can call home.

My parents were called in by the school to discuss the content of their sons writing. His creativity and patriotic inclinations were worrisome. They returned home in shame. “Remove all this empty talk from your head, and focus on your studies.”

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3 responses »

  1. We Spoke Arabeezi is my favorite entry so far! I really enjoyed reading it, and absolutely loved the way it ends!
    Well done to you and of course to your inspirations and the contributions of the proof readers and editors!
    Keep it up and I can’t wait to read more!

  2. I totally relate to almost every thing, but it is amazing that our generation feels strongly towards palestine although never been there, blessed with parents that provided well for us and tried to shelter us from the outside world, but yet now as adults we know and understand the effect of not having a country, we the lost generation, no home, no country, no identity! a Palestinian family is very colorful american, canadian, british, lebanese, jordanian…..ext.. we have it all in one family scattered all over the world. What a wonderful feeling would it be to have a country where your parents live in a town close to the university you enroll in, then find a job in the city few hours away, meet your partner whose father happens to have played soccer with your dad, and get married in the same town that your grate grandparents got married in, build a home, plant a tree and see your grand kids pick the fruits and relax in its shade. what a wonderful dream, We got robbed and us, our kids and their kids will always have Palestine in their hearts the dream of a home. Perhaps one day a reality, surely we are stubborn and will not let go.

  3. This post ends on a note I somewhat understand.
    For some of us though, it was the other way around in some ways. It didn’t take a teacher to put out our patriotic fire.
    Subtle mentions of Iraq here and there, heated arguments about the politics (only when the extended family was over) and then nostalgic reminiscing about “home”. This was the stuff I was exposed to – in the last few years that is, AFTER I had entered my adult life.
    None of these memories, beliefs, issues and “feelings” were discussed in front of us as children – so as not to pollute our minds (especially the politics) and worry us.
    We were being shielded.

    The intention is understandable, maybe even admirable. No shock though, it completely backfired. Because we were raised to believe in equality, in no boundaries between religions, sects, nationalities.
    All of a sudden, the real world kicks in. Now, everyone belongs to a certain “group”.
    All the sudden, I’m supposed to be patriotic.
    All the sudden, I’m supposed to know all about Iraq and its history.
    All the sudden, I’m criticized for not knowing, for my ignorance and lack of concern.

    I think we can safely say, hello confusion and identity crisis.

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