To Stay Where We Are: Reflections from A Person Not From Gaza pt.3

On May 15th of this year, my philosophy professor decided to hold off the lesson about Karl Marx and instead ask us, “Why should we be off on this day?” The day she was referring to was al-Nakbah 66th year commemoration. A lot of students went on strike after 12 P.M. Buses took some to Ofer prison to protest, whereas others did their own thing. It was my class at 2 P.M. that was in the questioning mood of “Should we go to class?” Most of us were there, anyways, so we decided we might as well attend. Enough students for the professor to give class were present, but when someone told her, “We should be off,” she asked, “Why should we be off on this day? What do you guys know about the Nakba – and no one give me anything from a T.V. show. I’m asking for facts.”
Students began raising their hands, each narrating a story they heard from their parents or grandparents. Some had read about it. All I could think of was Deir Yassin and the massacre that had occured there. I thought of Deir Tarif where many of my childhood friends are originally from. I thought of that documentary, “Memory of A Cactus”, and the three destroyed villages presented- Yalo, Imwas, and Beit Nuba.
“Do you know how they used to expel people out of their lands?” She proceeded to ask.
“What they did,” she began, as she grabbed a green marker to draw on the board, “was block the village from all sides and leave an area open for the people to flee and not come back.” I looked at the board where she drew a ‘C’ and an equal sign, and ironically, it looked like a flipped-to-the-side smiley face.
We all listened to her lecture about this for an hour before she gave us an assignment to pick a destroyed/ethnically cleansed village, research about it, and present it for next class.
We spent the next class – and the class after – presenting the villages of our choice – hearing the numbers of people that lived there, what the land was used for (mostly agriculture), where the people ended up, what the village was now…a park? Ruins? Forgotten? Definitely not forgotten.
When the time came for the guy two seats away from me to present, a question began to form in my head. He presented a village known as as-Safria, which is located around Yaffa (Jaffa). His grandparents lived there, but they had to leave forcibly due to the Israeli colonization of the area. They have lived in the city of Ramallah ever since.
I looked at him as he told the story, and the question that had formed in my mind was, Would we be sitting in this same classroom if the place he was originally from wasn’t destroyed? Where would he be if it wasn’t destroyed? A university in Yaffa perhaps? I thought about everyone in class, every one of those villages – some were repeated many times, such as Deir Yassin – and wondered where we all would be without this heinous occupation?
This morning I was reminded of that feeling of sadness, of that flipped smiley face, of that guy in my class when I saw the people of al-Shagia’a in Gaza leaving their homes to find a safe place (safe? in Gaza? now? with all these massacres?). Hundreds of people were leaving after their homes were demolished (or in fear of being bombed on top of their heads), coming towards the camera of the photographer as he captured the images that bring to mind the images of the 1948 exile. There was one photo of a family riding on the blade of a bulldozer. Some people were carrying their young siblings. Others held on to some belongings. A history repeat? Oh, come on, for Lord’s sake.
Palestine does not need another commemoration date of a horrible event. Palestine doesn’t need another ethnically cleansed place on the list.
Perhaps, if that flipped smiley face was erased, the date of 1948 was just another day in Palestine, and the occupation never -dare I say – started, maybe – and I take this from one of my favorite novels – “We would have been ‘safe’.”

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2 thoughts on “To Stay Where We Are: Reflections from A Person Not From Gaza pt.3

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