By Nejoud Al-Yagout
Imagine this. One day, you are sitting at home having breakfast, and you hear the news. You have a few days to leave your house to make way for settlers. At first, you think there must be a mistake, a mix-up of sorts. But then you understand: You are Palestinian, and you realize that stories such as this one-of being evicted from your own home, are not just commonplace, but you even wonder: What took them so long to persecute us?
Your family goes out to protest. Dozens of your relatives are injured with rubber bullets, some while worshipping. You hear that a person you know from another side of the Old City has been killed. The news spreads all over the globe. Human rights groups release statements defending Palestine. Governments send out warnings. But, as ever, to no avail.
You remember the same fuss every time something like this happens: whether it was when your hometown of Jerusalem was annexed, or whether a house was gunned down for “security” reasons. You yourself followed op-eds defending Palestine closely, because you remember how they told you that the pen is mightier than the sword. But they left out that guns are stronger than pens.
It’s not fair, you think. It’s not fair that after eons of oppression, after many countries have seen the light of freedom and broken free from oppressors, Palestine is still not free. But you are afraid to lament. A cousin of yours almost ended up in a mental asylum. And you can’t afford a broken spirit. Your family needs you to help keep the roof over your heads, a roof that won’t belong to any of you soon.
But even though you don’t lament, the pain remains. It’s a ghost that haunts you, taunts you. As such, the fears and tears come alive for you, every single day. You know that just as a black mother in the United States fears for the lives of her sons and daughters each time they leave the house or get stopped at a checkpoint, a Palestinian mother has the same fears for her sons and daughters. Though the circumstances are extremely different, the fear is the same-the fear of being mistreated, the fear of being hated because of your ethnicity. Yes, that fear, that gnawing fear, eats at you.
The fear you have is shared with families across the occupied territories: the fear of their houses being bulldozed, reading about their child being killed by a “stray” rubber bullet, or burying another family member protesting the occupation with stones or rocks. The fear of another village being taken over, the fear of more olive trees being burned down.
Every day, you pray this nightmare will be over and that the world will stop talking and start standing up for justice. You know that justice is not about saying you support something, but about doing something concrete. You, like many other Palestinians, know that neither peace talks nor protests nor violence nor boycotts nor war nor burning flags work. You know there is a solution out there that nobody has tried yet. You don’t know what it is, but you know it is there. And it is that undiscovered solution that sustains you.
Without hope in a future, you are dead, lost. And so, you go to bed every night, hoping. And it is that hope that carries you through the next day when another headline grabs your attention: this time involving you, your family, your neighborhood. Your first instinct is to go online and see all the hashtags on social media “fighting” this injustice. Hope again.
And then the fear returns. Everyone will be quiet soon, you remember. The protests will stop, the global outcry will cease, and you will be yet another statistic. Or wait. You won’t even become a statistic but someone who is forgotten, yet another someone who was unable to save the roof over their head, someone who now relies on foreign aid that never quite finds its way.
And now, imagine this. One day you are sitting having breakfast, and you hear the news. And you realize: Wait a minute. This is not imagination. It is reality. With your hope of a better tomorrow keeping you afloat, and the fear of having nowhere to live, you have to find a way to tell your mother that they should start looking for somewhere else to stay. You know it’s time to pack.