by Dalia Labadi
It was September 2000 when I first understood what it means to be Palestinian. As a child raised in Europe, I’d never understood what words such as occupation, conflict, curfew, incursion, siege
and many others meant. I remember introducing myself with a smile as “Dalia Labadi from Palestine” and receiving this sympathetic look, without knowing why.
In 1994 my family and I returned back home. We went to a city in the north called Jenin, a city now well known because of the massacre in the refugee camp. At first I was happy to be in Palestine, surrounded by family and friends. But in 2000 the second intifada started and the situation in Palestine grew worse. I started to understand the word occupation.
Universities were closed, and days later, barriers, or what the Western media call checkpoints, surrounded the Palestinian cities and villages. People were arrested or killed for no specific reason. At that point the whole picture of occupation started taking shape in my mind, and I understood why people abroad used to give me this sympathetic look. It is because I am a person from a country that is occupied. Words such as liberty, dignity
, and freedom
are not a part of the vocabulary here.
Being a part of this never-ending conflict is like being a sentence in a book that has no last page. Since 1948 my people have been suffering. My grandmother told me, “When I left my home in Haifa to protect my children from the Israeli army, I thought that I would be back home by the end of the day or even the next day. I never knew that it would take decades and still I have not yet returned.” She did not have the opportunity to go back and see Haifa before she passed away in 2002.
This is the story of all the Palestinian refugees that had to leave their homes. They still keep the key to their houses because they do not know that their old homes have been demolished to make way for the new, fancy homes that have taken their place.
But with everything you hear or read from the media, you still know nothing about how bad it is to live under occupation. And from this introduction from a girl who is trying to tell you about her life you still cannot get the whole picture, because I too still do not fathom it. I still do not understand why my friends and I work for peace, and why people here warmly welcome Westerners, though they play a major role in our misery by ignoring facts and not taking action. I still cannot understand why we are given the great ability to forgive, though we still live under an occupation that is not part of the past yet.
An old Palestinian man once said, “Our history is something we should keep and not forget because it’s part of who we are today, but we should always look towards the future.” I think we are all looking towards the future and keeping the past. It is my wish that the coming generation will learn about Palestine and Israel from history books and not through living it. To say that is not enough, however, and being part of this change is what is needed right now.
Let us write the last page in this book to start another one that will not contain sorrow, tears, humiliation or bloodshed. It is time to say enough. It is time to take action. Change will happen through all of us holding hands and walking towards the end of the path together to end the occupation.