My family in Palestine

April 26, 2011
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“Everything in life is connected somehow. You may have to dig deep to find it but its there. Everything is the same even though it’s different. Somehow everything connects back with your life. The faces in certain places may be different, but the situation is the same. Irony is a hidden factor that creeps around us in life, letting its presence felt only after it has left. Picture back to a year ago and the situation you were in. Look at how things are different yet somehow everything it still in some way cognate. Everything connects together to form the balance of life, to maintain structure. Change is and always will be inevitable, but everything is relative, and all the moments and times in your life will come back around again, you just might find yourself on the other side of the coin. Things are always changing, as fast as everything stays the same.-anonymous.” Everything in this quote represents life in general. I’m lucky I come from a background that allows me to view different cultures, and experience life to its potential, and see everything from both side. I have encountered thing that people don't even get to see in a lifetime. My family goes back 100's of years in the country of Palestine. If you watch the news you can see the devastation that everyone goes through and how it is a war torn region. Anything, and everything that has every changed my life considerably comes from my visits to Palestine, at the ages of three, nine and fourteen. My trips to Palestine are a blast, but it is the negatives that change my life.

One of the memories from Palestine was from the summer of 2009. My family and I were going to visit my grandfathers, my aunt, and my uncle’s grave in Jerusalem. The one problem with that is there is an Israeli checkpoint on the way there. To make it worse is the land where the checkpoint is, and it was confiscated from my family and was illegally seized, how ironic. We go into the checkpoint and laugh under our breath thinking about how they fixed up our place. We go to the guard cage and show them our American passports, and hoping that they wouldn't ask about our Palestinian ones. I don’t think I ever held a straighter face longer than that. But they asked for our Palestinian passports, and I felt as if my brother had decked me in the gut. They let me and my cousins in no problem. I walked into the other side waiting for my mom and my brother. I was waiting outside under the blazing sun, and then I heard "bhrajah"(this one can’t go). I then ran back to the little window in the wall, where I could barely squeeze my head through the window to see what was happening. The man then took out his M16 and pointed it at my brother and my mom yelling, “NOO!” In English My mom, being the fighter she is, yells back saying"who are you telling me what to do," as if there was no gun in the equation. My brother then drags my mom out of the checkpoint saying its ok next time I’ll go. This all happened while she was swearing her head off at the guard. My brother ended up going back to my grandmother’s house with my uncle. I felt two things. First my mom is crazy, and second how ironic it was that my brother was prevented to stand on a land that belonged to his family. We eventually walk for two hours and got to the cemetery outside the east wall of Jerusalem where my relatives are buried. I had my black glasses on as usual, and I went over to my Grandfather’s grave. I then cried, but no one could see me, the glasses were hiding my tears. At the time, I was thinking about about the first time I met my grandfather.

(Flashback) I was only three, and my family and I just got to my grandparents house. I ran out of the car sprinting to the door. I used all my power trying to open it. There were two flights of stairs. But I looked at it as a challenge. I was going up the stairs and tripping here and there but all I had in my mind was getting to my grandparents. I finally made it, I just climbed Mount Everest. I took the corner out of the door, and I was at the home stretch. It was like slow motion reaching my grandfather and jumping into his arms as if it was a leap of faith. He picked me up and spun me in circles. He then sat down and reached me with his chin scruff trying to tickling me with it. Early knowing how to speak English my grandfather said "who da handsome" and I said "KARIM!"
This all I can remember about him all I have left is that one memory and a few pictures.
While we were walking my mom clenched my hand as she knew I was crying. Then out of nowhere we get a phone call telling us that my crazy Aunt Wasphia smuggled my brother over the border and that all I needed for me to feel better.
Brothers and sisters have bonds that cannot be easily broken. My mom had a strong bond with her younger sister Kefaia. They were like two straws in a coke they always did things together. They did everything together from shopping, or tutoring her in math, or just bonding with each other. They were inseparable. My mom married my father at the age of 22 and moved to the US. My aunt Kefaia lived in Venezuela with her husband and two boys. The summer my aunt died she was visiting Palestine, and my mom was in Connecticut, The last time my mom heard her voice was on my mom’s birthday when she called. Six days later my aunt died of a sudden aneurysm, and to make things worse nine months later my mom’s husband died from a car accident, and they left my two cousins ages six and four devastated.
(Flashback of when I met my two cousins for the second time) We just came back from my blistering hot Grandmas house because she didn’t have any air conditioning. It actually felt cooler outside then inside. We get in my uncles black Volkswagen; it had air conditioning which was the only thing I cared about at that time. We blasted music and danced in the car for the next forty five minutes until we got to the wedding. The only bummer was it felt like every five minutes we would have to stop, get out of the car have some creepy man frisk us and continue your way through the checkpoint. We were finally in Ramallah and when we walked into the wedding there my cousins were. Attaf was a grown young man at 19, he has two jobs, and he grew his beard he looked like he was doing alright, but it was Aboud(nickname for abed) that opened my eyes. Aboud was 16, he didn't seem normal. He looked depressed and didn’t want to talk to anyone. I remember my mom clinching my hand and crying ruining her mascara thinking of how she let them down by not being able to adopt them. Aboud turned around and ran towards us as when he was a four year old child running to his mom. He yelled "khalto Haifa khalto Haifa"(Aunty Haifa) and gave her a big old hug my mom tried to quickly wipe her tears with a napkin to hide her sadness. At that point Attaf noticed my family and walked over, and gave us hugs. He told Aboud to calm down, but my mom said it was ok. He quickly grabbed my mom’s hand and ran to the dance floor; he said they had much to catch up with. They would dance for the next hour laughing telling jokes and pretending to do the cha-cha. I was dancing also but mostly asking myself that question of why not my mom and my dad. Why wasn’t the burden put on me, and I could not fathom how strong their hearts must have been to lose a mom, a dad, a grandma, and live on their own. I tried to put myself in their shoes and I couldn’t bare it. After that we all sat down to eat dinner (it was my favorite Mediterranean food). My mom and Aboud were holding hands. He had the biggest smile on his face and I could barley recognize him. At the end of the night, when people were leaving, I could just see his face counting the time until we have to leave. He came and sat next to me and we talked about school, and he told me how lucky I am to have a mom like my mom. He then went up to my mom and said the one thing that made me feel as if I swallowed my heart. "shukran Halto una ectir mubsut minacke int zie ima una bahibic mut shukran caman marah" ( thanks aunty I love you so much, I am so happy because of you remind me of my mom, thank you again , I love you to death thanks) He walked away with a smile on his face and Ataff gave us hugs, and they said good bye. That would be our last night in Palestine. The next morning we were heading towards the bus station and my mom’s phone rings and she picks up. It was a shock that Aboud called us, my mom was so excited. He just wanted to talk to her one last time before we leave; he thanked my mom for spending time with him and explained how much he loved her. The whole plane ride home I could only think the impact he left on my life. I also finally learned that I should be thankful for my life, my parents, and my things because I am riveted while people in my own family aren't.

Until today I still ask that nagging question, “why,” and each time I end up feeling like crap. At least now I know not to be selfish, and to appreciate what I have, because you never know what you have until you lose it.
Before I went back home to Connecticut, I had a once in a life time chance to see where the prophet Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem. As of right now they have built a Church over it. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It looked a thousand years old, and it was made out of stone with flowers everywhere. That wasn’t what changed my life. It was what was inside that did. I walked into the main courtyard there were flowers and statues and the feeling of peace was everywhere. There was a kid my age he looked 14 and he was in a wheel chair missing both his legs carrying a hat asking for donations. I pictured myself without legs, or with any part of my body missing. I just could not even think of it. I went up to my mom and asked for money, and she gave me a 20 dollar bill to give him which is equal to 100 shekels. When I gave him the money he said thank you and tried to give me a hug. In my head I said thank you for opening my mind to how serious life is and it can’t be played as a joke. I could just taste that bitterness in my mouth telling me that I should be more thankful for what I have. And I’ll never forget his warm hug, never.

After my trips to Palestine my set of mind changed. I became more thankful for everything I have. I began questioning my life and what its meaning is. I may never find this answer but I do know that I need to be more thankful for what I have living in America compared to living in Palestine. By experiencing what I’ve gone through I can now be thankful for what I have, and most importantly my life. Palestine has changed me forever.

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