Growing up in the diaspora, I clung to the stories of Palestine I heard from my parents and grandparents. They gave me the undying belief that Palestinians would one day be free because we are a people rooted in resilience, culture, language, and one another.
Part of resisting the 76 years of brutal Israeli occupation is passing on these stories. Some were told by my mother when making dishes like maklouba, which was always served with “Sahtain!,” the Arabic equivalent of “Bon appétit!” (though, since it means “may your health be doubled,” it is so much more than a pleasantry). Others were told to us at bedtime, laced in the fabrics of fairy tales where we learned the true strength of Palestine lies in the “Mountain of Fire.” Then there were the stories told through tears as our grandparents relieved their darkest days, carried by every stitch and thread of Palestinian embroidery, telling of the towns lost and lives all but forgotten. Holding on to these stories is both our greatest honor and burden.
Now, this culture is threatened as never before. For the last four months, we have seen images of the dead and injured, people pulling each other out of the rubble, parents carrying the remains of their children in bags, and children screaming as they watch their parents burn. But alongside the very real genocide taking place against the Palestinian people, there is also a concentrated effort by the Israeli military against the very memory and existence of the Palestinian people—bombarding our cultural sites, hospitals, universities, homes, churches, and mosques, and, perhaps most chillingly, desecrating the gravesites of the very people they placed in the ground because even in death Palestinians cannot achieve peace.
According to UNESCO, over 195 heritage sites have been destroyed or damaged in Israel’s ongoing assault. The Gaza Media Office said in December that 200 of the 325 ancient or archeological sites registered across the enclave had been destroyed. [Continue reading…]