Aya Ibrahim | 16-09-2015
“Everybody has a country to live in, except us; we have a country that lives in us.” This is how our honored guest started his speech at the recent graduation ceremony for ULYP (Unite Lebanon Youth Project). Frankly, I am not a very good listener during speeches, but this man had me all ears.
Dr. Yassine Dawoud is a Palestinian eye doctor who resides in the United States; the fact that he earned his degree from Harvard Medical School is proof of his credibility. His speech was about 10 minutes long, but that was just enough to make it stick in my memory and inspire me to write about it. Indeed, I was proud to see such a successful Palestinian who still holds on to his identity and advertises his origin despite all the struggles the Palestinians face everywhere they live.
On the other hand, I also felt heartbroken when he said, “Never forget your Palestinian identity and the Palestinian people!” This statement reminded me of one of my classmates when we were having Iftar [the daily sunset meal that Muslims have to break their fasting during the holy month] during Ramadan, and for some reason I began counting the Palestinians sitting around us. We were a mix of Palestinian and Lebanese students, and when I reached my classmate as I counted, she said with an awkward and snooty voice, “Don’t count me as Palestinian.” The room became silent for a moment and everyone had shock on their faces.
Then we continued eating like nothing had happened. It is known among us that this girl is outraged by the fact that she is Palestinian, and she does not like to be referred to as one. She is not the only Palestinian who has felt shame and hatred toward the Palestinian identity; I have come across many people like this, and especially at the university [American University of Beirut].
During the few seconds that Dr. Dawoud said these words, my mind was lost in confusion and my heart swelled with sorrow. I really cannot understand or come up with a convincing excuse to justify such behavior. However, I also realized this attitude is not their fault alone. The Lebanese community and government are responsible as well for making some Palestinians rebel against their identity. For instance, they mock and disrespect Palestinians for living in miserable camps and consider them lower class. Also, Palestinians are not granted the right to work in many professions [such as medicine, dentistry and pharmacy], and they do not have the right to own property.
As the speech continued, I tried to imprint the words of pride, bravery and success in my memory because I knew I will need them to push me through the difficulties of Palestinian life. Indeed, the words he spoke that I will truly never forget are: "Wherever you go, take Palestine with you."
I promise to carry Palestine in my heart and to take it to every place I step in!
Mentor: Pam Bailey
Posted September 16, 2015