By Najwa Sheikh Ahmed – Gaza
Home for all of us is the place where we can find peace, comfort, and love, it is where we find passion, and warmth, no matter where we are or who we are it is the place where we want to hide and seek peace.
Home is the place where every stone, every corner recalls a memory of a certain event during your childhood; it is where the signs of how tall you became are still carved on the door.
For me as a third generation Palestinian refugee, I missed experiencing all these feelings, the camp where I have been raised is just a temporary residence, a place that I and my family before me were forced to live in after they lost their homeland, the camp was never to be my home..
It was hard for me to forget the stories of my parents about their homeland, and to a accept the camp as my home, though all my memories and childhood are in the camp, my whole life in the camp, but there always a feeling of commitment towards the original homeland.
It was the morning of Tuesday, but not like other Tuesdays that I lived, I was going home to Gaza after I spent one week in Jerusalem, and more importantly, I was going to visit the place where my parents were born, the place that was supposed to be my Homeland, the place where I was supposed to live if my family did not flee during the war of the 48.
My colleagues at work planned for this surprise, and it was the best of what I can ever gain or have. When I knew about it my body started to shake, and my heart started to beat fast, may be because I finally going to see the place where my family, my grandparents used to live. Or maybe because I was going to see the places mentioned in my father stories, or may be because I was going to experience the real feeling of being HOME.
All the way I was trying to imagine what I will see from the old Majdal if there still any, I was trying to imagine the place as my father described it to me, I was trying to see it through my parents eyes. Home was for me the mosque at the center of the city, the water well, and the fig tree, nothing but these places which were carved in my parents minds and hearts.
When we reached it, I felt that I can hardly breath, I was looking every where trying to see and smell the ghosts of my ancestors, I wanted to see every old house, to touch it and to hear the voices hidden between the stones. I wanted to see the lives of my family before the 48 war; I wanted to be there with them, to see how happy they were, to feel the misery that lies beneath their feelings of loss.
I went to the big mosque at the center of the city which was turned to a museum, I was so happy to see its long minaret, and the old structure of it, being inside made me feel the essence of my ancestors, approve that they were living in this place but nothing more.
My homeland was so precious to me and to my parents, and I always imagined the anxiety of being there, but I was shocked with the truth of not experiencing any of these feelings, the feelings of being connected to the place, the feeling of experiencing the joy of returning home, it was hard to me to feel this way, and to admit it, it was such an disappointing feeling, that the desire to be home was a result of the stories that I kept from my parents, and my grandparents.
What home meant to me is different from what it meant to my parents. My parents would pay their lives for a moment at this mosque, to breathe the air of Al Majdal, to see the place that was once their place. My pain was great, hard to describe, feelings of betrayal overwhelmed me; I betrayed my parents for not having the same feelings they have. I went back home to Gaza with many questions that will last forever; I went back holding the sand that my father asked me to bring, but unfortunately without having any story to tell about their homeland.
– Najwa Sheikh lives in Gaza. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.