Is There Eid In Gaza?

Just had some thoughts about Eid holiday in a flash of a second. Funny how one of the  things that makes it feel like holiday is the way we name the days of the Eid as ” the first day of Eid, the second…” so that we actually have to remember what day of the week it is. It’s like our minds want a break from anything having to do with our regular lives including school, work and every other form of commitments we have.

Eid is presumably the happiest time of the year for Muslims. What could be better than having a couple days of lethargy without feeling guilty? But when I truly think about it, or rather measure the intensity of my emotions towards this big event in my life, I’m poignantly thwarted. There’s no real sense of being overjoyed or thrilled, in fact Eid has become one of the most depressing times of the year for many not just me. I try to think happy thoughts, but find it challenging and defeating. I try to push away the impact of the hard facts on the ground both here in Gaza and in the region. I’ll start with the regional situation first, that is Syria. How can anyone be expected to put a smile on a face or celebrate while watching bloody images of untold horror torture and death stories. It’s been 20 months into the Syrian Revolution and hearing the death toll of Syrian martyrs has appalled any sense of trust and faith in the international community which I might have had one day long time ago when my mind wasn’t mature enough.  It’s absolutely sickening how the life of humans is worthless when weighed against the economic benefits and lust to dominate. So instead of sending NATO planes, as it did in the rich oil reservoir  of Libya, to put an end to the monstrous killings, it has chosen to stand idly and let the Syrian Dictator Regime rampage on in its ruthless killing spree. I’m no political analyst here, but I want to state the facts in their simple matter of fact way because it doesn’t require a genius to analyze what is going on. So that’s one thought which certainly disturbs the Eid.

The second fact which spoils my train of happy thoughts is inside Gaza. Despite the hardships of siege and pre-Eid extra-judicial killings of fellow Palestinians carried out by Israeli drones and F-16s, I suppress my mind to think only about the happy occasion, square my shoulders and take my kids out to shop for new clothes. After all, that is a rock solid Eid ritual embedded into our culture; new clothes and a new everything if possible. As I set my foot into the streets, I find majority of shops packed with women and children grabbing garments before they run out. I can understand a child’s excitement to buy new clothes and try to remember how it must have been a nice feeling when I was my kids’ age. I could tell this by the light in their eyes as they put on that new piece of clothes as if they’re a royal prince or princess. May be I need to keep looking into their eyes so that magic can be transferred or caught communicably. It’s sad how this magical feeling starts to fade as they move into more mature phases of their lives.

As I walk with one of my daughters by the shops, the rattling of the roaring power generators does more than enough to obliterate any thoughts of peaceful thinking about the upcoming holiday. Every single shop has one of those monsters chained to its door giving off the most horrible smell and unnerving noise.  Despite this, the shoppers seem to be deaf to that noise bustling about. But for me, I think it just spoils the serenity and purity of the atmosphere.

Today has marked the last day of Eid, uhh… yes, Monday and my mind will be tuning back to my normal routine, but the abnormal life of Gaza still persists. However, I will absolutely shun this pessimistic behavior and remind myself of the blessings we have as we await the visit of the King of Bahrain in only three days who also happens to be Hamad.

 

 

Is There Eid In Gaza?

Just had some thoughts about Eid holiday in a flash of a second. Funny how one of the  things that makes it feel like holiday is the way we name the days of the Eid as ” the first day of Eid, the second…” so that we actually have to remember what day of the week it is. It’s like our minds want a break from anything having to do with our regular lives including school, work and every other form of commitments we have.

Eid is presumably the happiest time of the year for Muslims. What could be better than having a couple days of lethargy without feeling guilty? But when I truly think about it, or rather measure the intensity of my emotions towards this big event in my life, I’m poignantly thwarted. There’s no real sense of being overjoyed or thrilled, in fact Eid has become one of the most depressing times of the year for many not just me. I try to think happy thoughts, but find it challenging and defeating. I try to push away the impact of the hard facts on the ground both here in Gaza and in the region. I’ll start with the regional situation first, that is Syria. How can anyone be expected to put a smile on a face or celebrate while watching bloody images of untold horror torture and death stories. It’s been 20 months into the Syrian Revolution and hearing the death toll of Syrian martyrs has appalled any sense of trust and faith in the international community which I might have had one day long time ago when my mind wasn’t mature enough.  It’s absolutely sickening how the life of humans is worthless when weighed against the economic benefits and lust to dominate. So instead of sending NATO planes, as it did in the rich oil reservoir  of Libya, to put an end to the monstrous killings, it has chosen to stand idly and let the Syrian Dictator Regime rampage on in its ruthless killing spree. I’m no political analyst here, but I want to state the facts in their simple matter of fact way because it doesn’t require a genius to analyze what is going on. So that’s one thought which certainly disturbs the Eid.

The second fact which spoils my train of happy thoughts is inside Gaza. Despite the hardships of siege and pre-Eid extra-judicial killings of fellow Palestinians carried out by Israeli drones and F-16s, I suppress my mind to think only about the happy occasion, square my shoulders and take my kids out to shop for new clothes. After all, that is a rock solid Eid ritual embedded into our culture; new clothes and a new everything if possible. As I set my foot into the streets, I find majority of shops packed with women and children grabbing garments before they run out. I can understand a child’s excitement to buy new clothes and try to remember how it must have been a nice feeling when I was my kids’ age. I could tell this by the light in their eyes as they put on that new piece of clothes as if they’re a royal prince or princess. May be I need to keep looking into their eyes so that magic can be transferred or caught communicably. It’s sad how this magical feeling starts to fade as they move into more mature phases of their lives.

As I walk with one of my daughters by the shops, the rattling of the roaring power generators does more than enough to obliterate any thoughts of peaceful thinking about the upcoming holiday. Every single shop has one of those monsters chained to its door giving off the most horrible smell and unnerving noise.  Despite this, the shoppers seem to be deaf to that noise bustling about. But for me, I think it just spoils the serenity and purity of the atmosphere.

Today has marked the last day of Eid, uhh… yes, Monday and my mind will be tuning back to my normal routine, but the abnormal life of Gaza still persists. However, I will absolutely shun this pessimistic behavior and remind myself of the blessings we have as we await the visit of the King of Bahrain in only three days who also happens to be Hamad.

 

 

Memories from Gaza War

A new daybreak  as I hold my pen now. So calm and peaceful are the early morning hours I wish they could extend a bit longer so my mind and body can absorb the pure invigorating morning breeze and my eyes can be tickled by the soft dew drops hanging from the leaves, and the sweet singing of birds who peck at my windows gently to boast that they’re always the early risers.

Glancing at the sky from my living room sofa takes me to faraway places. Places which actually exist yet have been concealed from the human eye until the time comes. The unseen world of spirits where martyrs are living in the eternal Paradise (Jannah) above make my mind ponder pensively.

Over four years back, I decided to enroll in a one year diploma at the Islamic University of Gaza. It had been nine years since I was student. I dearly missed hoarding stationery and attending classes. So I walked into the Continuing Education Center to sign up. The secretary was a young gentleman who assisted me throughout the registration process, his name was Sharaf. A month or so passed and I was actually sitting on my student chair learning again. Nine months passed and on Tuesday Dec. 25th, 2008 I was taking an exam “Legal Translation”. Sharaf was monitoring the exam. The test was quite challenging and I could feel my eyes almost popping from the heat I felt as every cell of my brain was laboring intensively. At one point, I was overcome with relief when I found the word “alimony” translated since it was very unlikely any student would have been able to guess its meaning.   Some of the students started to make remarks and asked Sharaf questions just out of despair and to which he replied jokingly: “I think you’ll need a marriage official to answer that for you”.

 Four days later, war was declared over Gaza with the unanticipated 60 air strikes throughout Gaza Strip. The Israeli warplanes devastated Gaza with blood, destruction and grief from above and on the ground. Twenty two days passed and it was time to restart our lives as an obligation to move on with our lives. So I called up the Center to enquire about the resumption of classes. I talked to an employee and asked if everyone was ok and his words seeped into my heart: “Sharaf has left us”. Twenty two days of grief and horror had had their toll on me physically and emotionally, and so hearing that piece of news quickly recalled those images of corpses piled over each other on the first air strike on the Police Academy in Gaza and I just pictured him there. He had indeed died during the first few strikes and just gone to a better place, an eternal one with no toil or pain. He was one among tens and hundreds who got killed by the Israeli war planes and later became a figure in the Gaza War death count, but he must have been special to those who loved him.

This guy’s death and many other people I came across made me reflect on something very special; which is how we meet people in our lives yet we don’t know how much time we will actually spend with them. It is always better to keep that in mind so we can treat people with great respect and love. So one day when we are gone, they will proudly say: She was a wonderful person who made a difference in my life or she always greeted us with a smile. This will also make us think twice before hurting or backbiting at someone, because if suddenly they’re gone, how can we ever forgive ourselves for the damage we inflicted on them.

As I finish off this post, I pray from my heart that Allah may give comfort and peace to the families of every martyr who fell on the holy soil of Palestine and elsewhere in the world.

 

 

 

Jerusalem…My Love

Jerusalem……my True Love

An amalgam of happiness and sorrow overcame me as I set foot on the holy soil of Jerusalem.  My heart raced as I climbed the stairs leading to the Dome of the Rock. I could almost hear the cries of that holy mosque pleading for help. I could see the heavy iron chains strangling the faded golden Dome and hear its aching groans. Continue reading

Do You Know Ramadan?

So it has finally come, the month cherished by Muslims worldwide, Ramadan.   I can’t deny that I received the announcement of Ramadan with tears of joy and hope that Allah’s Mercy would touch our burdened lives. Ramadan, a thirty-day gift from Allah where His  Mercy, Retribution and salvation from Hell are granted to those who practice fasting in the best manner described in the Holy Quran and our Prophet’s  Sunnah.  The media  has distorted this beautiful image of Ramadan and turned it into a month of lethargy, oversleeping, overeating and staying glued  to the wide  range of television series , soap operas and other programs which lack any moral guidance mostly needed to help us to succeed in Ramadan. 

As youngsters, we could not grasp the true essence behind Ramadan till mid adulthood.  We knew that we had to fast, although food makes up for almost half of  every child’s world. We went up the roof before the Maghrib (sunset) Prayer was announced to wait for the minarets of the mosques  to light up so we can celebrate the end of the curfew on food. I clearly remember that once we stood there holding on to our small bags of candy as we waited. What I try to teach my kids today about Ramadan are the true feelings of love I hold for this blessed month. I couldn’t keep the joy inside as Ramadan was only a day away, I was so enthused as I burst out  about all the things that Ramadan brings along. First I had to mention the material things such as the Ramadan Lantern (Fanoos) and the man (Musaharati) who wakes people up for (Suhoor) which is having a small meal before the Dawn Prayer and the famous Ramadan foods and all. This attracted their little minds, but then my six-year old Huda curiously threw this question at me: Mom, what happens in Ramadan? I was delighted at her question which I believe that if asked to grown-up Muslims, they would labor in coming up with an answer. So let’s ask ourselves this question: What is Ramadan all about?

First of all, Allah the All Merciful does not intend to make our lives harder by commanding us to  fast from food, water  and marital relationships for  14-15 hours a day. Ramadan is  a school which purifies our souls and strengthens our bodies. As human beings, we tend to attach ourselves to the earthly pleasures which fulfill the needs of our bodies, while neglecting our souls. The soul which runs through our bodies is not content or  relaxed with the same food given to our bodies. Ramadan comes to uplift our heavy hearts and souls  through fasting, prayer and many other forms of worship. When the thirty-day school draws near its end, we feel this powerful immunity towards many of life’s luxuries. We long to read Quran,  give out charity, stand in humbleness before Allah in midnight prayers asking to be saved from Hell, to be granted our wishes and to stay steadfast to the straight path which Allah has defined to us. Most of all, we feel the pain of hunger and thirst which millions suffer from in impoverished nations.

In Ramadan, Allah gives us countless opportunities everyday where He answers our prayers; the things we long so much to have. Throughout the year, we may turn to people for help, to doctors for treatment and  friends for advice. But, in Ramadan, our hearts our content with turning to our Creator for all help and treatment. At  many times, doctors fail you as well as colleagues, and you are uncomfortable to turn to them for help because after all, they are human beings like the rest of us who have worries and concerns of their own,  so no point in opening your heart to  them and putting full trust in their human power as if they have the secret cure to all your problems.

Another good lesson we learn from Ramadan is that with the feebleness of our bodies, and the elevation of our souls, we tend to make less mistakes. Our hearts are filled with love and kindness to all those surrounding us, and forgiveness to those who have not been so kind to us throughout the year, especially when we learn that  Allah the Almighty forgives the sins of His worshippers, so why can’t we humans forgive and forget. The season of Mercy has come, so let’s not waste it and try to really live the spirit of this holly month, and believe me, you are bound to see wonderful things  if you value every minute of it.

CELTA Training Outside Gaza

My first time out of Gaza in 13 years! It was a tough decision for me to leave my family behind and travel to nearby Egypt to attend a one month highly intensive course. But thanks to the help of my precious parents and husband, I was encouraged to take that step. I needed to get out to get a glimpse of the outside world. So many thoughts rushed into my head as I headed out of the Rafah Border to Egypt in a six hour drive. I remembered the feeling I had 13 years ago when I had flied to Egypt from the Palestinian International Airport, which was destroyed a year later with the break out of the Second Intifada. But this time the feeling was surprisingly different. Is that how people change with age, or was it something else that made me almost passive as the car entered the big metroplis of Cairo. The only proud feeling I had was that I was now entering a new Egypt afte the 2011 Revolution. An Egypt free from dictators and due to vote for  a new president just two days after I had arrived. Why didn’t my heart pound with excitement as I had expected? Why did the large city atmosphere not have an impact on someone who has been living under Siege, war and power cuts? I then rebuked myself for making such premature expectations and decided that tomorrow would definitely be different.

On Sunday May the 27th, I woke up early and headed to Al-Agouza to attend my CELTA training course at the British Council. I hadn’t slept the previous night as my mind was restless with immense anxiety. As the course began, I began to find pleasure in meeting people of different nationalities and backgrounds. My colleagues and course tutors were from different countries; Egypt, America, UK and Lebanon. The students we taught were from different parts of Africa; Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eriteria. They were such wonderful people who I found so much that brought me together with them as a Palestinian. I learned to work with and  collaborate with this great mix of cultures that I felt really enriched with new experience in dealing with human nature everyday. My days at the BC were long, starting from 9:00 and ending 6:30 and sometimes at 7:00.  To me, the best part of the highly energy draining course was the wonderful people I met. We all encouraged and helped each other to get through its challenges and we did make it till the end! There were moments when I thought I’d collapse, but although my physical strenght was not so strong, I  had an enormous amount of mental and pyschological power to get me through. It’s fair to say that my tutors’ moral support really helped me keep that smile on my face and boosted my energy level. My wonderful team which included Hisham, Adnan, Salma and Anne was like a caring family which helped me to feel ease and comfort. My other colleagues Becca, Amir, Hannah, Phyllis and Sherif were very nice and helpful each in their own way. To be honest, I learned something new from almost every one including my wonderful students technically called : our TP (Teaching Practice) group. I knew my time at BC and in Cairo was quite limited and I meant to make my stay there as memorable in the eyes and hearts of the people there, even the employees at the Beanos Cafe who served me with my daily dark, black  and sugarless American coffee cup. And when I felt that I was breaking down or getting homesick, it was two cups a day.

One day, towards the end of the training course, I felt the end drawing near like a sword in my heart. As much as I and everybody else were eager to finish, a sudden saddness took over me and my emotions were mixed. I asked myself: Am I relieved or grieved to come to the end and be closer to meeting my family. I went through all the laughs I had with my colleagues, some of which were highly uncontrollable for me. There was one time when our tutor, Catherine gave us an input session on teaching a foreign language and the model for us was Hungarian. There was an expression  in Hungarian which meant how are you: ‘Hogy vagy’ and I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the lesson because to me it sounded like hot fudge. That and many other little things which gave us many laughs were beginning to all come to an end. I thought about the peaceful sky of Cairo I had been living under for a month and the dark and dangerous sky of Gaza and soon began to make comparisons in my mind.

A final word on the CELTA course. Although I did take this course for my professional development in the field of teaching English, I can never underestimate the amount of experience I gained from dealing with different wonderful people. To me, my personal human development on all levels was enhanced alongside the purely professional level. I felt that I cared about the people I worked with and that I wanted to make a good impression on my tutors and fellow colleagues of a practicing Muslim mother from Gaza who is optimistic, motivated and willing to face challenges. I realized that we all had so much in common, our difficulties, our hopes, our fears, our expectations. As humans, the things we were united on were far  more than those we were divided on. There was a solid common ground which can help us  build good relationships to help make a difference in our worlds no matter where we go.  My colleagues are probably staring at their screens now and think that I may be too extreme on  my positive pondering.  To those wonderful people I say: I know we had some very  hard times at the course as well, but I can’t make them ruin the beautiful and memorable ones which I will carry with me throughout my life.

Save The Palestinian Prisoners

Save The Palestinian Prisoners

I took the kids on a national duty yesterday, as I felt it was, to partake in the events taking place at the tent set up for solidarity with the Palestinian Prisoners who are on hunger strike for over 65 days today. Although the experience may be a bit premature, I just felt an obligation to let them get a glimpse of the scene and not force them to internalize more than their little minds can. Aljundi Park is quite near, and so we walked a few meters then rode the rest of the way when a taxi stopped for us. At first they thought that the people who gathered at the scene were actually the prisoners until I pointed to the large pictures hanging over the place. One had four rows of about 20 photos each lined up with healthy looking young men and a few older ones. It was sad to think how their health must be deteriorated by now from the hunger strike. Today, one is confirmed to be in a coma, Bilal Diyab. It was devastating just to think of what they may look like or feel as I was staring at their pictures above. How they have resorted to this last and most painful option to regain their very basic rights of freedom and dignity.

There was an appeal in their eyes, in the way they seemed to be looking at us. It was an almost audible and clear appeal saying: I have sacrificed my life so you all can live in freedom, so please don’t let us down. Don’t forget the reason why are deprived of life, of light, of love and how we are living in the darkness of the earth. Our lives were stolen from us because we practiced our legitimate right to resist Occupation and injustice. We could no longer stand the cruelty of our oppressors in stealing our land with the construction of the entrenched Apartheid Wall; razing green pastures in olive ripening season; killing and capturing of anyone anywhere at any time. While the whole world remained deaf and blind to the calls of our people, we chose to stand up for their rights.

My fellow brother and sisters in the lifeless prison cells: You are the sparkling rays of hope that shines light ahead and gives our life a meaningful goal to attain. To all those youths wandering aimlessly, or killing time in cafes smoking hookah, please remember that you live on a holly land inscribed in our Holy Quran and so you have a mission to accomplish. Our beloved prisoners were free like you one day, but have put their lives on the line for the love of their people and country. They yearn to breathe the air we breathe and embrace the warmth of the sun to relieve their weakened bodies. They long for the love of their families who have spent many Ramadans and Eids waiting for their return. Some have cried themselves to blindness and other to death. Their only wish was to hold their sons in their hands. A more humble wish for all was to be allowed to visit their sons, husbands, fathers and sisters in prison even if only for the limited period permitted by the oppressors. Untold stories of bereavement lie behind many doors among Palestinian families of imprisoned loved ones, yet there remains the unwavering hope and faith in the return of those heroes behind bars and underground. As I write this last line, the horrible howling of our neighbors’ power generators come to a relieving halt marking the end of this post.