THIS WEEK IN PALESTINE
Reflections from Palestine
Several books appear on the shelves every month about the Occupation of Palestine. Very few of them are actually written from within Palestine, and even fewer are written by Palestinians. Of course, you can never judge a book by its writer, but it's about time for Palestinian writers to start to fill the gaps and produce narratives of their own.
Samia Nasir Khoury is one of those writers. She was an active community volunteer, who served as national president of the YWCA in Palestine, and as president of Rawdat El-Zuhur School in Jerusalem. She is also a founding member of the board of trustees of Birzeit University and Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre.
The book is largely based on the reflections that she wrote throughout her busy life. She starts the book with the overnight reality of the 1967 war. She attended a family wedding one afternoon and the horrid Occupation occurred the next day. She talks about the bittersweet experience of seeing Pale stinian houses inside the areas occupied in 1948, and she speaks of her visits to the seashores of Jaffa where she was born.
Some of her stories are personal, like the deportation of her brother, the imprisonment of her son, and the assassination of her cousin. But she also tells the shared Palestinian stories of marriage, faith, resistance, funerals, weddings, food, family, and children. It is astonishing how, in being so personal, she manages to be so collective. Again and again, as I was reading through the stories, I found myself having to put the book aside and reflect on my own story and my own experience.
Although many of the Palestinian stories are those of anger, sadness, and despair, the strength of Samia's writing is in how she describes those difficult situations; she always lifts the reader up with stories of joy and success, never losing faith, dignity, or her sense of humour. She writes,
"As I was going through my documents I found a Tony Blair file, which turned out to be empty. As I started to delete the file a flashing sign appeared on my computer saying, ‘Cannot delete Tony Blair.' Indeed, one cannot delete Tony Blair."
This book is a comprehensive diary of Palestinian life over the last 40 years. As she chronicles the early days of the first Intifada, she vividly describes the sense of solidarity among the people, contrasting it with the disappointment, despair, and the hopelessness that we feel these days.
Samia writes, "This book is an inspiration from the Occupation, I assure you." She takes us back to the euphoria of peace following the signing of the Oslo accords and writes that the image of children throwing roses at the tanks instead of stones was a strange sign of hope-hope for peace. I highly recommend this book to all those who are interested in studying the first and the last victim of occupation, namely the "normality" of life. Because
under occupation anything can happen at any time, it is like "you get on the right foot, but you don't know if the other foot is going to follow.
Reviewed by Mahmoud Muna, The Educational Bookshop, Jerusalem