Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Palestine: The Gift of Going Home

Friends, I went home.

And it was such a gift.

It was waking up every morning to that white bright sunlight of Palestine, and not being able to believe that I was actually here.  The smell of toasting Arabic bread and frying white cheese, the rhythmic pounding of stone masons outside, the slanting rays of the morning white sunlight, smooth tile under my sandals -- all of these welcomed me home.

It was walking the old familiar streets of Jerusalem, streets where I knew every stone, every curve of the sidewalk, every step embedded with memory.

It was also moments of being a stranger in my own land, in bewildering disorientation as we whipped down highways that I had never seen before, drove past settlements and walls that had not existed, finding myself a stranger in my own land.

It was walking my children and husband through all of the sacred spaces of my homeland, crowded with pilgrims and tourists, letting their eyes rest on the same sights and scenes that was the backdrop of my childhood.

It was popping in to say hello to an old classmate, spending long, leisurely days with old friends and dear family, days that lingered into night, with elaborate, beautiful meals, coffee and fruit, all of the children playing around us, while we settled deeply into our chairs and into our friendships.

It was eating cucumbers and olives, frying orange-yolked eggs in olive oil, and watching my children pile freekeh and wara' dawali and stuffed eggplant high on their plates, and then asking for seconds.

It was biting into warm, honeyed kanafe in Nazareth, chopped salad for breakfast in Tiberias, hot falafel sandwiches from Damascus Gate,  shaved shawarma sandwiches in Bethlehem.

It was standing in front of the dryer, unloading some clothes, and then stopping in my tracks, realizing that the words in my mind were Arabic and not English.

It was turning on the faucet to wash my hands, only to find that our water had run out;  it was teaching my children to only flush when necessary, to guard the water pouring out of the faucet, to wonder if I really needed to wash that load of laundry.

It was driving and driving through the land, my eyes trying to memorize every olive tree, every curve of the terraced hills, to burn them into my heart forever.

It was opening the windows in the evening to a rush of cool air, the twinkling of Ramadan lights, and the call to prayer, my children running to see watch the wedding fireworks exploding out of the village below us.

It was entering into my parents' world for a little while, to walk down the same road that they walk, to see the fruit of their labors, the swirl of community surrounding them, and to know, also, that this chapter of their lives is slowly ending, and that this moment is almost over.

It was slipping back into the ceremony of the culture, the handshaking and kissing, the serving of coffee and cookies, remembering who to serve first, and remembering that everyone who enters our house, from auntie to washing machine repair man gets the same treatment.

It was also teaching the children that there are certain times when no matter what, they do not speak - at a checkpoint, going through security, at the airport.

It was a quiet peace, even in the crashing of mixed experiences, even when floundering in my melty identity.  The gift was that I got to be there again, and that my homeland and I got to sit with each other like old friends who meet again, embrace, and ask each other:  So, tell me how you've been?  


  1. I love to read your posts and I'm so happy to read of your wonderful trip home. The word home is such a comforting word to me. I am going to try more of the recipes you have posted as my son is immersed in Arabic at UT Austin. He is truly enjoying learning the language although it is very difficult. Thank you for your lovely posts.

  2. Thank you for this lovely picture you have painted of Palestine, the ancestral home of my parents. They have longed to return and never had the opportunity to do so, but your words bring them comfort and hope that Palestine will not be forgotten. Please post more details when you have rested.

  3. I just wanted to leave a comment to say that, via a random wormhole of googling, I found your blog, and that it is wonderful. Your writing, your stories, combined with your descriptions of food and culture, are simply a delight to read. In fact, your description of preparing coffee has me ready to ditch my typical afternoon espresso this afternoon for an attempt at an Arabic-style boiled coffee--my Italian father will enjoy this novel experience, I hope! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories, I will be following your future posts with great attention (I believe that you also live locally, so I will be looking forward to any restaurant/locale recommendations, too!)

  4. Beautiful! I only lived in the Holy Land for a little bit, but my siblings and I all have the same feeling when we go back there--it's home.

  5. I have only found your blog today and I wish you could see the smile on my face! Your writing, pictures and perspective warms my heart.
    Thank you for creating this little corner of the internet were the beauty in all the little Palestinian details gets to shine

  6. Wonderful and bittersweet memories - like so often I fell with you.
    Best wishes from Berlin. I just cooked your baked apricots today for friends and thought of you. Hope to read you again.

  7. so happy, I can felt your happiness through the photos

  8. I gotta bookmark this website it seems extremely helpful very useful. Thanks

  9. Hi, very nice post and wonderful blog. I came across it, after looking for a Baba Ghanoush recipe. I have just come back from PA and absolutely fell in love with the food, among other things. Are you still active on this blog? You should, it is really nice to read your posts. I hope to read some fresh thoughts :)

  10. I am absolutely loving your gorgeous blog!I love this blog.Thanks for sharing.

  11. You are right Jessica. Its just a great feeling to go home after a long time. i hope you enjoyed the time being at home.


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