Can Palestinians imagine a future with Israelis after this war?

Can Palestinians imagine a future with Israelis after this war?

Mahmoud Mushtaha writes:

“We were free. It was the most beautiful life. We had everything — our heritage, our trade, and our sea.” My grandfather, who is now 85, still remembers life in Palestine before 1948. There were no restrictions on travel, no checkpoints, no sieges, and no curfews. He grew up in a small village in Jaffa, where life was bustling with activity during the day, and filled with social gatherings at night. His was a community rich in culture and connection.

But this life was abruptly shattered by the events of the Nakba. The necessary consequence of Zionism, the Nakba of 1948 marked the beginning of an unhealed wound that has continued to deepen ever since. The profound sense of loss and the enduring pain of displacement are feelings that many Palestinians, like my grandfather, continue to bear — a pain that is now being horrifyingly inflicted upon a new generation.

Alongside tens of thousands of other Palestinians, my grandparents were forced to leave Jaffa in 1948. They initially went to Hebron, hoping to soon return to their home. Within a week, however, it became clear that such a quick return would be impossible. Instead, they moved to Gaza, where my grandfather’s brother worked in trade. They have lived there ever since.

During the ongoing Israeli war against Gaza, my grandfather has looked back on his childhood. The echoes of the Nakba are unmistakable, but he has also been thinking about life in Palestine before 1948. Reminiscing about his family’s small house in Jaffa, he frequently mentions the Palestinian families he remembers from his neighborhood. Some, like the Masoud, Husseini, and Khalidi families, moved to Gaza in 1948. Others, like the Dajani, Muzafar, and Levan families, have been out of touch with my grandfather for 76 years, yet he remembers them fondly.

The Levan family, with their non-Arabic surname, caught my attention. “They were a Jewish family,” my grandfather explained. “They were our neighbors in Jaffa, and our mothers were very close friends.” The Palestinian mothers shared so much food with their Jewish neighbors that Mrs. Levan would joke about never having the opportunity to cook at all.

“In those days,” he went on, “It didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, or what your religion was. The important thing was to love one another. The Levan family celebrated our holidays with us, and we did the same with theirs.” These were glimpses of the old days, when life was more stable on this land and people could more easily accept each other, whether they were Muslim, Christian, or Jewish — glimpses into a time before tragic political events broke these bonds.

Reflecting on my grandfather’s stories, I often find myself wondering when our struggle will end. How long will this land, sacred to Muslims, Christians, and Jews, continue to be soaked in blood? [Continue reading…]

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