For nearly a month now, I’ve had the distinct privilege of being in ‘Palestine’ for the first time in my life. I’ve traveled from Jerusalem to Gaza and back again. My journey is far from over, but once it is I’ll be taking some time to process all the memories and experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to gather during my stay. Of course, there will be lots of photographs and words to share with anyone who is interested.
I’m aware that the title of this post is a bit of an oxymoron… Anyone who knows anything about the region can tell you that there are very few privileges afforded to Palestinians living in their homeland. Even for those in the diaspora, their ‘national’ identity is often a heavy burden, but one they are understandably proud of nonetheless.
Personally, I have very little to complain about. Having a US passport and roots in other parts of the Fertile Crescent means that I have certain freedoms that many of my close family members do not.
People often ask where I’m from. The easy answer is always Lebanon (even though I was born and raised mostly in the US). But depending on who I’m speaking to, I often respond by saying that I’m Lebanese AND Palestinian.
My maternal grandmother was one of thousands who left Palestine before the creation of the State of Israel. Back in 1947, she left her home in Jaffa (the same city where my paternal great-grandfather was born). Yesterday I was able to find that house. I wish that she was still alive to hear about it all…
Later that afternoon, I spent hours roaming the same streets that my family members walked on years ago. To simply refer to that experience as a privilege would not do it justice. Nevertheless, it was a great privilege that I do not take lightly at all (more on that later).
This whole trip has been a blessing… an emotional roller coaster ride, the likes of which I have never experienced before. I’ve seen some of the most horrific things of my life on this journey, but I’m so very happy to be here. It’s a privilege that – at least for now – my Palestinian family members and friends are unable to enjoy themselves.