City of dreams

Nedaa Al-Abadlah | 11-03-2017

Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. In my mind’s eye, it is a city where peace exists. Here, you cannot differentiate between Muslims, Jews and Christians; all religions are welcomed. It is a place where night's darkness covers the town like a sweet embrace, as people gather to talk about their day. As the moon peeks out, it showers its light on the crescent of the mosque and the cross of the church, a gentle reminder that they are all one. In the morning, the sun kisses the mountains, painting golden chains of light across the sky. Jerusalem means waking up every morning to drink tea with a thyme sandwich while smelling jasmine in the air and watching the breeze dance with the olive branches. It’s a place where you can feel truly alive.

I love it with all my heart.  It is my homeland. Yet, I have never been there.  

My grandmother used to tell me about Jerusalem. She called it Al-Quds in Arabic, and she said no one ever feels lonely there. She told me she prayed at Al-Aqsa mosque, and saw the Dome of the Rock that Prophet Mohammed stepped upon to ascend into the sky more than 1,400 years ago. His heavenly journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and then into heaven was called Isra and Mi’raj, an act by Allah to alleviate some of Mohammed’s suffering after the death of his wife and uncle during what was called “the year of sadness.”  

My grandmother said that one day in Jerusalem, she brought some red Anemone flowers to my grandpa. Ever since then, he would tell her, "your cheeks are as red as the Anemones of Al-Quds." As I came to know my grandmother and her resilient spirit, I learned there is more than just the rosy hue of the flowers that she shares with the Anemone. The wildflower grows high in the mountains and does not need tender care; it thrives in both the sun and the rain. My grandmother was an extraordinary woman who witnessed a dramatic evolution in her homeland during her 92 years. She remained strong and vibrant until her last breath. Like the Anemone, my grandmother was beautiful and simple, bringing warmth and grace to everyone she knew.

Jerusalem feels as much a part of me as it did to her, even though I have never been there.  I imagine myself walking the streets, hugging the walls and dancing under the moonlight when the drops of dew appear in the air. I imagine spreading my arms into the air as I dance, feeling free—free of all sorrow and fear. I feel as if Jerusalem calls to my spirit, beckoning me--as if I will find there the profound peace I seek.   

"Nedaa, Jerusalem misses you," says the sign

They say the Old Town in Jerusalem is so beautiful and ancient, yet at once so familiar. It is located inside the Wall of Suleiman the Magnificent, named after the longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and contains many neighborhoods--one for Muslims, one for Christians and one for Jews, where they all once lived peacefully before the Israeli occupation. I feel like I have been there before, as if my twin spirit is there and calls for me to meet her.  I feel as if I have walked the narrow paths of Jerusalem, with their ancient rocks like the wrinkles of a lovely old lady whose memory is filled with battles of swords and horses. I wonder if I would hear the sound of swords clanking, or the clack of horses’ hooves as I look at these walls and wander those streets.  

My homeland has been an imaginary place as long as I’ve lived. I’ve never been able to actually go there. I want my daughter to know this holy place, to soak up the greatness of its history and its powerful hope for the present and future. I want to hold her hand and walk with her, point with my figure to this and that and behold the look of amazement and passion in her brown eyes at the land to which she belongs.

On a piece of land between Africa and Asia, there is a small country called Palestine. In 1948, the Palestinian people were forced to leave their homes when the United Nations voted to to give 48 percent of their land to form the new country of Israel. Since this time, my people and I have wanted for many things--freedom, most of all. And the freedom to visit Jerusalem has been my dream as long as I can remember.  

Jerusalem is not only the capital of Palestine; it also is a holy city for Muslims, who believe we will gather there together at the end of time, the day of judgement. On this day, prophets of God will come with Jesus to the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and the Palestinian people will ascend to heaven. When the Israeli government took control of Palestine, it also named Jerusalem the capital of Israel in an attempt to splinter the Palestinian identity. But today, our identity remains strong, as strong as our desire to reclaim our holy city.

Posted: March 12, 2017

Mentor: Adiel Suarez-Murias


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