Monday, March 4, 2013

Ramallah Is Palestine

No other city says Palestine to me more than Ramallah. At the Kalandia checkpoint, a large Israeli sign warns visitors they are about to enter Palestinian territories and that as such their safety and security are under threat. The obvious separation wall Israel has erected is an eyesore that immediately sets a mood of desperation and isolation. The huge cement wall which Israel calls “security fence” is tall and lifeless. It separates, divides even West Bank residents from their schools and businesses. It explains in no uncertain terms how difficult and challenging life behind it must be.

After you cross the checkpoint, you are welcomed by graffiti symbolically sprayed on the wall expressing the Palestinian side of the story. First thing is a large photo of Yasser Arafat next to one of Marwan Barghouti amid many of the Palestinian sentiments of resentment about living under Israeli occupation and oppression.

Once you pass the usual industrial and market areas filled with mechanic shops, modest restaurants and street vendors, Ramallah opens up in front you with its many buildings and businesses and advertising posters larger than the roads and posts that carry them. Actually, the sight of advertising boards is ugly and distracts from the view of a beautiful city that continues to grow and struggles to thrive under very difficult economic and political conditions.

The deeper you get into Ramallah, the more peaceful and serene the view becomes. It ushers in a more settling feeling of a people full of life and a genuine desire to prosper and succeed. The buildings in those areas are modern and well kept, overlooking some of the city’s most picturesque views. The streets are clean and welcoming. This is Palestine I thought to myself. The Palestinian Authority’s headquarters, the courthouse, the shops, restaurants, schools, universities and homes, they all scream Palestinian pride, hope and hospitality.

A visit to the Mahmoud Darwish Grave and Museum is out of this world. The presence of Darwish in death is as large as his life in this unique place. He lies atop a beautiful hill overlooking Jerusalem and his voice fills the museum and touches you to the core as you look at his achievements and personal belongings. There is magic in the air of the museum as one checks his personal documents, his pens, his desk, clothing and even his keychain. His eyeglasses look at you deeply as his speeches and poetry recitals play in the background. The only sad moment is the realization that he is no longer there in the flesh and his own coffee cup and traditional Arabic coffee pot are there only as a memory for his lovers to cherish. Staring emotionally at them, empty of the coffee he so loved, how I wished to have a cup of coffee with him at that moment to ask him what he thought of what is going on and where he thought things are headed.

As part of my recent journalistic work, I interviewed some of Ramallah’s most prominent and most influential women: Palestinian icon Hanan Ashrawi, Judge Eman Nassereddin and Musician Rima Nasser Tarazi. Each of them a role model in their own right and as strong as a mountain. They carry in their veins the history of a struggle that defines Palestinians and, more importantly, charts a bright future as long as they are active and at the helm.

The streets of old town Ramallah spoke to me in ways only they can. They told me, “This is Palestine, full of life and hope for a brighter future.” In the faces of street vendors and ordinary passersby, there was a message of hospitality and love only Palestinians possess. Away from politics and the day-to-day woes, there was a deep desire to exist and be what an entire people are capable of being if only they were given the chance!


Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful article. The sanctity of life is a right all people deserve. Palestinians have been denied their rights for too long. And yet Carter's book "Palestine" ignited such a ruckus among so many in USA.

How can the world sit by as the people of Palestine are denied basic rights? It is nice to read this article about the elegance there.... it gives hope that eventually a peace accord could occur. For now there is too much violence on both sides.


March 4, 2013 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger Samir S. Halabi said...

So Octavia Nasr, Somehow Israel will just vanish and Palestine will take it's place.
My family and my other of my co-religionists which at one time numberd 1,000,000 Jews in the Arab speaking world till the end o the 1940s outnumbered your precious Arab-refugees of the British mandate of Palestine by two to one. We lost far more property than your Arabs of British-Palestine. The real-estate alone measured five times the size of the whole of Israel today. If the Arab world would have to pay us reparations for what we lost it would be in the Billions of dollars. You seem unaware that there was never a people called the Palestinians up until 1964 when the late Yasser Arafat thought it expedient for political gain to invent a whole new people. Palestine is not even an Arab creation or language it came from the Roman Latin Palestrina, which was a renaming of the kingdom of Judea and the kingdom of Israel, in order to humble the Jews (hebrews) even more by renaming Palestrina taken rom the Philistines, who were a longtime beore conquered and an extinct people who lived on the coastal plain of the Hebrew land, they were non semitic Greek people who originated from the island of Crete. The lies that spread that the Jews lived in a golden age amongst the Moslems o Spain was a total fabrication, they lived as the Christians lived, recognized as people o the book who lived a dhimmi existence paying Jizryah (a special tax levied on Jews and Christians at the whim of the Muslims)
Same went for Jews and christians in the Arab lands. both the Jews and Arabs were subjected to anti-jewish and Christian riots ending in the death sometimes to many thousands of them. You were offered partition in 1937 and 1947 you chose not to accept this, and so when the Jews declared independence you attacked them with the armies of Egypt, Trans-jordan, Syria, Iraq Saudi-Arabia and the Yemen etc, in order to eliminate the ledgling state at it's inception, well you didn't succeed, You still haven't given up your dedication for the destruction o the only Jewish state in the world, your propaganda is disgusting every day depicting jews with horns and using the blood of Muslim children to make Unleavened bread for the festival of the Jewish Passover.
You depict jews as the descendants of Apes and Pigs, however when any westerners poke un at Islam you all cry death to the Infidel/Kuffar. Idiots talk about Israel being made into a bi-national state, over your dead body that will never come into fruition. You should now be resigned to the act that after almost 65 years of Jewish statehood nothing is going to change. As Israel gave citizenship to all the Jews who were orced out of their Arab homeland, the Arabs who started the war in 1948 should do the same for the Arab reugees of the ormer British mandate of Palestine

March 19, 2013 at 2:12 PM  

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