Going Home

Ramallah- 64 years since the dispossession and expulsion of the indigenous Palestinian people. 64 years ago marks the ethnic cleansing of a people who have been striving to regain their deprived rights. 64 years ago marks the establishment of the apartheid state with its discriminatory policies and oppressive regime. 64 years ago signifies the spur of massacres caused by the Zionist militias with the clear aim of clearing out the land to actualize Theodore Herzl’s idea of creating a Zionist state.

64 years of Palestinians resisting on the beloved land we hold close to our hearts, the land our grandfathers carefully cultivated with the olive and fig trees. We hear the stories of our Palestinian grandmothers who would bake the delicious freshly-made taboun bread and walk kilometers through the mountains to fetch water from the closest spring. We hear the live testimonies of my grandfather who recounted the story of how he would watch countless Jewish immigrant ships unload at the port in Haifa. “We would help them, we felt sorry for them,” he told me. Little did he know that soon this would mean deprivation of his home and land. It would later be stolen for the creation of an Israeli military base, resulting in him living and dying as a Palestinian refugee in the Diaspora.

My grandfather’s exile inevitably resulted in my account of being one of the many Palestinians who was raised in the Diaspora. Growing up, I considered myself to be a true patriotic Palestinian, or at least so I thought at the time. Having spent my life in the United States as a Palestinian, I did not understand what the Palestinian cause truly entailed. In 2003, however, everything changed when my father decided to leave behind his life, business, and stability in Chicago–our home once upon a time–and move to Palestine. Moving to a land under occupation and instability after having lived a life of convenience and democracy was the hardest but best thing that could have happened to me. The simple rights I practiced freely, such as the freedom of movement and speech, were something I overlooked and took for granted. Only after living under occupation was I able to recognize and value the real meaning of my former rights, which are now privileges and at the disposal of the apartheid regime.

Being Palestinian and living under occupation is indescribable. Being a Palestinian who had lived most of my life outside of Palestine is even harder but all the more worthwhile. I am lucky enough to be one of the few who were able to return home. At the same time, it is bittersweet to think of my extended family and fellow Palestinians who are scattered and dispersed in different parts of the world living in exile. They do not get to experience life in our beloved homeland, Palestine.
In the beginning, I felt like a visitor in my own home, but now I have come to develop an unbreakable bond and passion for the Palestinian cause, a cause that I hold close to my heart. I have been repeatedly asked why my family and I left the United States and moved to Palestine. I simply reply, “People should be asking me why I left home in the first place; not why I returned.”

Amra Amra

Amra Amra is a young Palestinian American who grew up in the United States and then moved to the West Bank. She is currently living and working in Ramallah. “I’ve lived in two very different worlds; but it is what enabled me to keep aspiring for the freedom I believe we will soon witness.”. Amra tweets here and blogs here.

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