Thursday, February 05, 2009

Remembering a time

Yousuf keeps bringing up Gaza and his grandfather. Little things will evoke memories of his time growing up in Gaza-fragments he continues to piece together in a sort of non-linear way from a time he can barely remember yet is so hauntingly familiar: the turtle we found trying to cross the road from the beach inland that we securely re-located to my father's farm (do you think it has a new family now? is it still there?); the time he burned his bottom in the ice-cream shop across the street when my mother accidentally sat him on a container of boiled corn-(hey don't call child protective services-it was an accident!)

Today, it was an old manual camera. My father bought it for him from a garage sale during a visit here last year. I dusted it off after Yousuf said he wanted to take his own pictures when we go to Puerto Rico next week, where I am going to be delivering a lecture at the Center for the Freedom of Press in San Juan.

The camera elicited a host of questions and a conversation I can only pretend to answer with any certainty.

"Mama...inshallah we'll see them again. But what if they are shot before we go? And how will we get across if the border is still closed?" he asks, knowing full-well from years past that going to Gaza is not as easy as hopping on a plane from point A to point B.

"It will all be ok I promise, don't worry too much about such things. Leave that to me and take some pictures of the present, so you can remember your happy times."

Every time I rub his little almost-5-year-old head after he wakes up from an afternoon nap, when his face is still warm, I remember how we huddled together in my bed in Gaza as our windows shuddered from nightly shelling.

He belongs to that place, and he belongs to this time. He belongs to that time, and he belongs to this place.


Blogger Edila said...

God bless you beautiful family!

7:45 AM  
Blogger nina said...

I hope Yousuf will meet his grand parents again soon, in a free and peaceful Gaza. Free and Peaceful Palestine.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Your post made me tear..

My grandparents fled from Palestine in 1948 and have lived in Syria ever since. My parents have never been to Palestine, and neither have I. Yet my feeling is so strong towards it I feel like I've been there. If my feelings are as such and I've never been to Palestine, your feelings much be 100 times stronger. God Bless :)

Palestine is our land, and always will be. They can change its name on the map, they can move settlers into the West Bank, they can steal its culture and tradition, but this land is not theirs and never will be. There will always be Palestinians in this world and one day, this world will be free of zionists and we will all live in peace.

Long Live Palestine

11:46 AM  
Blogger Joyful said...

Your final two sentences tug at my heart - beautiful.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That really resonates with me, I think that that feeling of not belonging completely to one place or time is common to many second generation kids. I hope your children get to go back soon inshallah.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Amna said...

My son turns five in a few days too. What a beautiful, delicate age, when they are beginning to ask so many questions.

I am so proud of my son who walked by my side at two protest marches here in San Francisco to do what his two little feet could do as we voiced our horror at this war on the Palestinian people.

1:58 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Maya how can you talk about peace if at the same time you talk about: "This world it´s going to be free from zionists?"
If your feelings are like to kill every sionist (sionist it´s of course another word for Jew) in this world how can you expect from the others to respect you?
Shame on you!
Sentences and thought like those won´t bring any peace my dear!!!

I really hope that Yousuf it´s going to meet his grand parents soon, in a very beautiful and peaceful Gaza,


12:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear laila;
I've been one of your blog readers since - i think- about a month ago and I'm trying to findout more about the life in Gaza in reality not the part that our media shows. we were speaking today with one of my friends about the way our government is supporting hamas and we realy were confused whether it is positive or nagative - I mean it is just worsening the condition - can you tell me what you see from there ?

4:58 PM  
Blogger Marcel Dubois said...

If your feelings are like to kill every sionist (sionist it´s of course another word for Jew) in this world how can you expect from the others to respect you?
Shame on you!

I'm not Maya, but I think I can take this.

I think you misunderstand our position. Zionism is merely an ideology, and a world free of Zionism simply means a world where Zionism's influence, as an ideology, is minimal. It has been a fringe movement in the past, it can be a fringe movement again, and no one has to die to achieve that.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Johnathan said...


Your posts made me nostalgic.

My Great-Grand father's family lived in the old city of Jerusalem (what is now the muslim quarter) for hundreds of years before it was forced to flee in the 1929 massecures. My family and I were there only once since then, because not even the Israeli authorities allow us to get our home back from the arab family who squatted the building.

My Girlfriend's family was a wealthy family in Bagdad forced to flee in 1955 because they were jews. They left all their belongings, fleeing with only the clothes on the them. Needless to say, they were never allowed to come back and see their city, and they never got any of their belongings back.

I'm with you. About a million jews (and their desendents, which brings it to 4-5 million))from the arab world -Lebanon,Syria,Iran,Iraq,Iran,Yemen,Morocco,Algeria,Eygpt - they all want their homes and belongings back, and yes, they too want their lifes back, since from wealth they were forced into poverty. Into a life of refugees in the state of Israel.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Laila,
Philip Rizk has been kidnapped by Egyptian state security on Friday when he returned from a march that he helped organize in protest to the siege of Gaza. We still don't know where he is, but state security has now announced that he will be held for further "questioning". Two hours ago, they tried to take his father with them. I thought you might want to know. On these two blogs, there are updates on Philip's case, Here is a report on the detention/kidnapping

6:21 AM  
Blogger William said...

Dear Laila,
I am a student at the University of Vermont taking a class called Gender studies in the middle East. I found your blogs to be very informative on the Rufah border crossing and also very personal by sharing a lot of moments of your sons life with readers. I was shocked to read of your friend philips arrest for peacefully protesting the Rufah border crossing, by an Egyptian Secret Police service and then taken to an undisclosed location to possibly face torture. I also followed the links you provided and later found out that his parents house was raided by the same Secret Police looking for evidence of bomb making or a weapons stored for Hamas. I hope that this fear tactic will not diminish the suport and activism for the people of Rufah and Gaza.


12:09 AM  
Blogger Eternus said...

Salam Allekum, Mrs. El-Haddad:

Perhaps a few years ago in Gaza you took a photo of two young girls with their father who was selling watermelons. The picture was later hosted on other websites. Do you know if they are still alive? If so, what their circumstances are? Peace.

3:29 AM  
Blogger Kelsey said...

Hey Laila,

My name is Kelsey – I’m a student at the University of Vermont in the United States. Your blog is incredible. I read all the posts from 2008 and 2009 in one night and felt so passionate at the end. To be a mother in a country that can be so dangerous at times, but that is still, at its heart, your home is just so unimaginable to me. Your son sounds incredible – intelligent, of course, but what struck me most about your description of him was his implied resilience. For a five year old to ask questions like that must be heart-wrenching for you. This semester, I am enrolled in a class on gender in the Middle East. When I found your blog, your writing was more compelling than almost any other I read, I wanted to know (if it is not too sensitive a question for you, of course) how you handle raising your children in such a precarious situation. Do you ever worry that your children are becoming desensitized to violence, or that they’re so used to it that it’s part of daily life for them? Does your son seem older than he actually is? I honestly cannot imagine having to deal with what you do on a daily basis, and I have so much admiration for your ability to still sound so upbeat and witty and to find humor in life. Take care of yourself, and stay safe,


8:35 AM  

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