by Dalia Labadi
It was in September 2000 when I first understood what it meant to be Palestinian. As a child raised in Europe, I had never understood the meaning of such words as “occupation,” “conflict,” “curfew,” “incursion,” “siege” and many others. I remember introducing myself with a smile as “Dalia Labadi from Palestine” and receiving this sympathetic look, without my knowing why. Back in Palestine
In 1994, my family and I returned home. We went to a city in the north called Jenin, a city now well known for the massacre that took place in its refugee camp . At first, I was happy to be in Palestine, surrounded by family and friends, but, in 2000, the second intifada began and the situation in Palestine grew worse. I started to understand the word “occupation.”
Universities were closed and, days later, barriers or checkpoints surrounded the Palestinian cities and villages. People were arrested or killed for no special 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 part of the vocabulary here. Life as an Unwritten Book
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 I still have not 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 who 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 my introduction — a girl who is trying to tell you about her life — you still cannot get the whole picture, because I cannot fathom it, either. I still do not understand why my friends and I work for peace and why people here welcome Westerners warmly, although they play a major role in perpetuating 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 has not become part of the past yet. Looking Back While Moving Forward
An old Palestinian man once said, “Our history is something we should keep and not forget because it is 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 which 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 together towards the end of the path to end the occupation.