Monthly Archives: September 2015
In another rare occasion, in finishing a book from cover to cover overnight, Serene Husseini Shahid biography “Memories from Jerusalem,” overwhelmed my space.
It has to do with all those Jerusalem tendencies and sensations in such a read. But somewhere above all, it is another time, when such work reflects sharply and firmly on the reality of a history that has distorted images in our memories.
I ma not sure why Jabra Ibrahim Jabra was present strongly while I was reading with his “ the first well,” his biography as a child in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
It must be the conformity of the normality of life that pushed me with that power in both cases. Jabra’s biography was an in-depth emotional journey of a young boy who grew up in what appeared to be a below middle-class family with poverty as a result of world wars, which found their reflection on the poor of the other side of the world.
Serene, speaks about elite at its best. After all, the Husseini’s always secured a front seat in Jerusalem elite. But again it is not about elite or middle class. It is about a society that can have all its forms and figures. Different lifestyles and opportunities. Different approaches and mindsets.
Serene was born in 1920. A time that witnessed the upcoming forever in the Palestinian lives intersections. Intersections that made human affairs in the Palestinian mindset, a cause. An unjust cause of humanity. A just cause of an oppressed occupied nation.
In her very first lines, she says: “ the first thing I am careful to say; there was nothing that made us unique or different from all the people of this world, but our destiny was unlike theirs.”
Edward Said contributed in a few pages as a forward to this book, somehow within an assurance of a sentiment that he carries as a Jerusalemite. The excitement about a narrative that truly existed, given the first hand in an eloquent bouquet of events by the person who lived that history.
Serene’s biography is far from being a promotion to an individual or to a family. It carried within its pages that takes the readers on the journey of life that turned into an exodus and diaspora, the sentiments of a child eager to have a life, and understands it the way life should be. Somewhere this biography reflects within its emotions the same set of emotions that the Kite Runner by Khalid Husseini (the Afghan) has. With the coincidence of the same family names of the two writers. It is this murky past that carries a whole childhood of an average person, whose life only continued to be far from normality. The sensations of a child who is mischievous, who watches the adult world with curiosity, who puts himself in sometimes deadly misdeeds and accidents. The first experience with dead and how one’s own inner persisting child understands it and perceives it.
Serene walks around in her memory across place she left but remained to witness the rightfulness of her story. She confirms a moment in her reflection when she says: “ I found out that the happiest memories are photos of places not pictures of human beings. After all, people die carrying with them part of ourselves. But places live forever. I close my eyes, and I move to Jericho in winter, and to Sharafat in summer and to Jerusalem in spring. For me, there is always a spring in Jerusalem because of that old morning when I looked from my window and saw three puppies.”
The humanity that lies beneath every final word and embeds itself within each finished paragraph is what makes the unique journey of this amazing woman. A woman that describes her sense of resilience and steadily-ness as part of being Palestinian. As if pride and resilience is a stamp in the palm of being Palestinian, and this exclusivity that she tenderly feels for being Jerusalemite.
The places in its buildings, houses, allies, and roads wake up in a harmonic festival along with her words as she continues to describe places she lived in, people she met, moments she experienced.
I am closing this book, thinking of the ancient oak tree in Sharafat, the oranges that ripe and rotten waiting for their collection during the big strike (in Palestine) in their farm in Besan. Her dancing spirit in Jericho along the orchids. I could see her running as a child in the neighborhood of Musrara up to the Russian compound as I was taking my kids to school in my very own memories as well.
The images of Palestinian resistance and victimhood that each Palestinian live with and run within his veins came into vivid action as she described the days of resistance, her father Jamal Husseini, her uncle Musa Alami, Abdel Wader Husseini and a luxurious collection of men and women, that history missed. The humanity of life. The pain that resistance and fighting for a homeland engraved inside Palestinian livelihood. Striking change from rich too poor. From a lavish lifestyle to cleaning fire-stoves. But yet, a desire to live. A persistent fight in keeping a place where a human count, even when the place is lost forever.
How the places she describes passionately with their people and their very personal memories remained, for us to remember and witness, while she can only keep them alive in her mind because occupation continued even when people died.
The last memory she described in the beginning and is so taking me by a state of reflection. Somehow, how things may be contagious. Her particular description of that memory, the images of mass refugees of Arabs today. The destiny of Palestinians. The destiny of those deemed to the exodus. To suffering in a way that feels like uprooting a tree from its roots to any other soil that cannot be hers.
“In the collection of the photos of my childhood, there is a living memory specifically; it takes today a unique resemblance. One day, at noon, I entered my parent’s bedroom. I was three or four years old. My father was sitting on the edge of the bed wearing his shirt and trousers and was about to be his shoes. I rushed to help him in tying his shoe in a demonstration from my side to my skills. I realized that he was about to leave. I sprang on him begging him not to leave and stay with me to play. “Why do you want to go, I said trying to put a pretentious tear. Why, why, why?” he started joking with me and laughing, but when he realized that my insistence didn’t finish, he held me up and put me on his knees and said: “ listen, he said while looking directly in my eyes, there are important things I have to finish. And he asked me, if I remember that day, in Jericho, when we saw families of Armenian refugees. Truly; the image of the human expansion that was passing on the way to Jerusalem, and all those people were holding their luggage on their backs, and pulling their children behind, all this remained present in my mind. “Do you remember that I explained to you that they were looking for an asylum? Haven’t we felt the pain and grieve for them because they were forced out of their homes and towns? He was silent for a moment before he continued: “ if we Palestinians didn’t work with all our strength, soon, we would have to go around the globe searching for an asylum and….” He stood up suddenly. His face was stretched from the emotions. And I noticed tears in his eyes. I stayed away slipping from his knees, and I went running from the room. I could not bear seeing my father crying.”
The Palestinian living these days is apparently closing a chapter in its hollow history, waiting for a new chapter with a darker destination. I am not sure if everything that is happening on media level in Palestine, in which it is contributed through official statement is just for the sake of busying the people with issues of less importance in order to keep them away from the more serious issues. It has been part of the Palestinian official versus population game in the last years what is called the “change of the government” in which made the nation busy in discussing who is coming, who is leaving, who may be fitting within the new nomination. We forgot that governments are consequences of elections, and becoming a minister became the aspiration of the nation. Or lets say, it became the ambition of the ambitious of the nation. Apparently, the president’s consultants advised him that this game no longer feeds its purposes and the people need something bigger than a prime minister and his ministers. It is time to make the President game. The president seemed to be happy with this new no-risk game he himself is taking, despite the fact that he is someone who gave us the impression for the last decade that he is ready to leave at any given moment, since ruling under such circumstances didn’t appeal to him. Which is of course right. Who wants to be a manager to an authority that works mainly as civil administration and practically safeguards the enemy zone? He must have given up on israle long time ago, and he along others realized that there is nothing left for a Palestinian cause except what each grasps in his own hands. So family comes first. So he decided to play the game of resignation, and the preparation of the guess checklist of the future Palestinian leader in what from outside they keep telling us, it is we the people who will choose.
The topic of elections is no longer an issue to be mentioned. All the temporarily situations have become destiny for our existence. And in this case, it is not death that will end a person’s dominance, but it is what seems like a preparation for a safe exit phase.
Whatever it is seems also not the issue any more. We are living in this state of being degraded by the leadership to a level where no official statement is made, and when made, it is confusing and comes out with different statements and from different sides.
So the president resigned from the PLO executive committee as the chairman. The president is also the chairperson of Fateh, as well as the PA. So naturally resigning form one position shouldn’t really effect his other positions gravely. But not this one, and not for this kind of resignation. The president seems to be preparing the next phase of the Palestinian exodus in what I just mentioned as safe exit, through securing a PLO membership of his men and followers, and according to some news introducing one of his sons in major ranks. After all, the PLO is what determines everything else. His resignation came as part of an apparent “encouraging “ to other members in the form of showing confidence in convincing them to resign, “ see I resigned, so you can do it too”. This resignation along with other PLO members came as a move to ask for an emergency National Council meeting. In this meeting Abu Mazen wants to introduce new faces and remove all those whom he doesn’t approve of. The trouble of this move has been analyzed by every singly Palestinian intellectual and has been understood by all levels of the society. The breach in the law in this is so obvious that nobody could have missed it.
This is not the issue actually.
The question that keeps roaming is, what if he really resigns and insists. This is also not a question that needs a lot of contemplation. Most believe that he will do this and then massive rallies will go to the street to ask him to stay and then he will feel obligated and committed and remain. In all cases he is trying to secure something for a future move that nobody news except him apparently, but what we definitely understand is that this move includes excluding his opponents and bringing his trusted supporters.
What hovers my head is the question of why do we want him to stay, or leave, especially by a consensus in our realization that no man is there to serve as substitute to abu Mazen. One can say that abu Mazen himself was unpopular (he still is) before his elections. I personally didn’t know him during Arafat’s time. So a new man can be brushed into the suit of a president anyway. The problem is, that the strong people of Fateh, and the less strong ones in the revolutionary commission of Fateh believe that they are the future leaders and they well deserve. There has been a category of being worthy of high positions, aside from being part of this Fateh elite, you have to have served in prisons, in you are from the “returning” sector you are more eligible, if you have a martyr in the family your chances increase. And of course this is decorated by high degrees that are so easy to achieve, by considering that we are a brilliant super intelligent nation.
Even to someone who might be as critical as I am, the presence of abu Mazen gives me some security zone. We managed to become part of this buffer zone of a living where we are haunted by fear that surrounds us from two directions. The fear of destruction caused by occupation. After all the destruction that occurred in Gaza a year ago is still present and a living experiment of what could happen. These tremendous investments in buildings and businesses serve as safety zones from allowing any disturbance or provocation that can bring Israeli forces in. the other fear is the fear of islamization that brings to minds radicalism and Da’esh. This fear is accompanied by a chance of having Hamas take over.
At the end, one of those parties will win upon elections, or upon a coup. So a regular person who is caged in the fear of these two ideas: destruction of war and extermination by fanatic extremism in Da’esh model. After all, Da’esh is also another living experiment to how suffering and destruction is taking place in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere.
So the Palestinian, who is haunted with such real fears prefers to keep abu Mazen despite his corrupt decayed system, and as a result everyone tries to benefit from this corruption in his own way, with some aspirations of breathing that the Israeli occupation may allow in giving permits and some benefits that may reach the population in times such as feasts.