Although my grandfather suffered a hemorrhage that left half his body paralyzed and deteriorated his eye sight, well into his 80s, his memory of Palestine was intact; and that was the only link I had of Palestine.
He used to say that Palestine’s fruit was the orange. Now the rich juicy fruit of Palestine became a sour pickled fruit that is the prime reason for broken teeth in the region.
To him, it was his Eden, but to me, it was Narnia.
He always reminded us never to forget Palestine, but how can I forget what I didn’t know? Other than the statistics on the daily news, and my mother’s tears every odd year, what was there?
I struggled to relate to my grandfather’s stories of sweet oranges, freshly brewed coffee, the barber who was the doctor, the farmlands, his swollen feet of walking all day, the cold ditch he lay them in under the noon sun, the smell of freshly baked breads, the chattering women who harvested the crops, the vast Mediterranean.
It was impossible to find Palestine in my normal daily afternoons of skirmish to find a parking spot before entering a smoke congested coffee shop with sounds of a European soccer league game on a flat screen amidst the sounds of trump cards banged on the table mixed with the dancing of a water pipe on the ceramic floor with a roaring air condition and shouts to Haneef to rush with the tea or coal.
I was able to find Palestine in the movie Spiderman though (the first one with The Green Goblin). Spiderman was a young person with simple weapons facing an enemy who got his weapons from the American Department of Defence and the media (Daily Bugle) was against him.
I refused to indulge in the masochistic practice of watching the news and quarrel about it later. Let them loathe themselves silly. I wanted to feel something, and the best I can do was get as close as I can to Palestine. I want to see what this “Palestine” I have been hearing about since being weaned.
The car was a beat down Sunny, the destination was southern Lebanon, the road was bumpy and empty, it was rainy, it was dark (courtesy of your friendly neighbor), the music playing was Pink Floyd, “Wish you were here,” the lyrics were appropriate.
We parked our car in an alley and walked towards our accommodation for the night. After settling in, we were introduced to a number of people staying there. Tea and stories started to pour. The longer we chatted the more the tea turned bitter, the more the stories did too. Urbicide, milk factories, water pumps, electric power plants; too much for my spoilt self to handle. I retired for the night.
The owner of the house came in and asked us to help her move some of the furniture. The bombing have caused cracks in the ceilings and walls, rain water had leaked through, and to avoid a similar fate for her furniture as her house, she needed help moving them to the dry centre of the room. She kept repeating to herself in murmurs, “May God ruin your homes like you have ruined mine.”
I went for a stroll, and was advised not to walk on unpaved grounds. The fruits were dropping rotten from the trees, nobody dares walking the fields.
We got to the border. “See that over there? That’s Palestine.”
I looked and felt nothing.
The wind was blowing from that direction, the air filing my lungs was “Palestinian” yet it didn’t feel any special to me.
I thanked the lady who hosted us for the night and left the village in time to get home before sunset. Driving at night was stressful.
Once home, I fell to my knees and cried.