I felt a pang of homesickness as I stood on the balcony that overlooked a huge green land, sipping my coffee that had gotten cold. My mind and heart were uncontrollably replaying certain experiences that I had enjoyed in Gaza, and it brought on a wave of sentimental longing. I long to see Gaza again very much.
I am aware that it is only two months since I have been away. In spite of everything, I am unable to deny the fact that I missed Gaza the moment I bade farewell to my family and saw them get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror of the car as we drove off.
After living in Gaza for the past 16 years, this is my very first trip outside of the country. I was born and raised in the UAE, but in 2006, my family and I returned to Gaza, Palestine.
I have lived in this compact but beautiful geographic area since the beginning of the brutal siege that has been imposed by Israeli occupation forces against the defenseless people of my city.
Over the course of 16 years, there were both autumns and springs, as well as some ups and some downs. I can say without a doubt that I have enjoyed every single phase of my life because each one helped shape me into the person I am now.
I long for the Friday nights when my whole family got together. I long for the traditional Palestinian breakfast that my mother used to make for my siblings and me; my favorite part of the meal was the thyme sandwiches that were served alongside a cup of mint tea. Additionally, I long for the flavor of the falafel that our next-door neighbor Abu Shaqfa used to make.
The way home from the university is one that I am well familiar with. I miss all the details. Every single step of the journey was experienced through my sense of sight, hearing, touch, and scent. I miss the many times I spent wearing my headphones, listening to music, and enjoying the atmosphere of the alleys. I also miss the authentic taste of the Palestinian cuisine, such as maklouba, maftoul, mushakhan, hamasees, khobeeza, and many other dishes.
I long for the days when I would go to the library in search of new adventures. I would look for novels and collections of short stories written by prominent Palestinians such as Ghassan Kanafani, Mureed Al-Bargouthi, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, and other authors whose literary production has immortalized Palestine. I miss those good old days! The Sameer Mansour Library, the Aafaq Library, and the Cordoba Library are all places that I miss. I never experienced any sadness there, and they never let me down.
I adore Gaza. On the other hand, not all memories are pleasant. There must be a source of acrimony and suffering behind each and every lovely story. Things are typically incomplete in some way. The Palestinian narrative stands apart from that of its contemporaries. Our nation is currently subject to such a source of pain due to the colonial occupation. When you’re in the middle of a dark tunnel, peace will suddenly appear like a brief flash. After that, there is an abrupt disappearance of it. Only within our imaginations are we able to freely fly through the beautiful blue sky with the birds.
On that same balcony outside Gaza, I was sitting in meditation on the huge expanse of green countryside and the beauty of the sky when I saw an airplane. I no longer felt any risk associated with airplanes because here, they transport passengers who only wish to travel safely and lead happy, unrestricted lives. I muttered to myself in a low voice that it was not a helicopter or an F16. How do you think the people who live in Gaza are feeling right now when they are exposed to the terrifying sounds of the F-16s and drones that continue to hover in the sky day and night? I felt depressed.
The construction of a proper airport has long been one of the most consistently voiced demands of the Palestinian people, so that we can travel anywhere in the world safely and decently. Anyone who experiences the bitterness of the journey from Rafah Crossing or from the King Hussein Bridge Crossing will feel how much we, as Palestinian people, desperately need an airport.
Whenever we get close to one of the airports in Egypt or Jordan, the trip becomes increasingly difficult, and we start to question our decision to travel a hundred different times. For starters, we wonder why it is that Palestinians have to endure such deplorable and demeaning conditions? Why can’t we just have typical lives like everyone else?
When I see people arriving and departing freely in international airports, it makes me angry and makes me feel more than I have ever felt the immense misery that is being inflicted on us as a result of the Israeli occupation.
In my homeland, the concept of freedom itself is stolen. We can barely feel it in our chests when we open the doors of dreaming and hoping. Nothing comes easily for us as Palestinians. It’s a proven fact that can’t be refuted. But with forbearance, perseverance, steadfastness, and faith, we build our lives, our knowledge, our abilities, and our dreams. We move forward.