Tears of My Father

United States- The loud Palestinian music in the background slowly echoed its way out of our kitchen walls as I heard my dad’s tears fall down his cheek to the table. Each tear pounding harder. Faster. Louder. My mother, brother and I were puzzled as we looked at his face turning white. My father looked like a little boy. The little boy forced out of his home in 1948, the little boy fleeing to a refugee camp, the little boy crying for his home. The music, still on, his tears falling to the rhythm. We watched not knowing what to do as my 70-year-old father still cried, for his homeland.

I realized at this very moment that although I was Palestinian, I was not that. Whatever that was that my dad felt when he heard the music, whatever that was that my dad’s tears were evoked by, whatever that was that struck so apparently out of my dad’s soul – that was Palestine.
I am a young Palestinian American, and although my eyes will not shed the tears of 1948, they will not forget them. I hugged my father as I patted his back and spoke to him in Arabic, “You will return yaba, you will return.” And he cried harder, and I felt his mind race back to his days in Jenin Refugee Camp. We both closed our eyes, picturing the images of a life of a refugee as my father reminisced being one. And I felt his heart stutter as it made a desperate shout, another wish for peace. My father’s tears, the Palestinian music, and my heart; all perfectly in sync now, rocking back and forth.

We live in a world where being Palestinian means something different to everyone. You inadvertently make some kind of political statement the second you open your mouth to say you are Palestinian. And because of this, it is absolutely necessary for American Palestinians to understand, one hundred percent, what that might mean. You must understand the struggle of your people, your family, your land, in order to speak of it. And you must speak of it. We might not be able to correct the wrongs of the occupation, but we must be able to challenge them. I put this duty on all Palestinian Americans, living in a country where our voices are not hushed as our people back home depend on our chants for change, help and above all else for peace. If we, the Palestinian Americans, do not care to help the ones back home, who do you think will? Certainly proven, the answer is: no one else. This duty is ours, and proudly we must take it.

I feel a calling in my presence every day, as not only a Palestinian, but more importantly an American, to devote my unrestricted voice to the injustices of the occupation and the humanitarian crisis stricken in Gaza, the West Bank and Ramallah. If we are unable to create change politically, we must intellectually resist what restricts our liberation, by learning and excelling in the culture, knowledge and education of Palestine and Palestinians. We must never be apathetic to the oppression of where our families come from. We must never be apathetic to the injustices committed every day to our people. Apathy is losing. Apathy is giving up. Apathy is saying, “Here, you may take what is my father’s.” Ignorance is apathy, and by educating ourselves on all things Palestine, we will never be apathetic nor ignorant. Here, we find a solution for our people, for our conflict. Here, we will bring peace to our homeland, empowered and fueled by our ever-growing thirst for knowledge.
I am free to say anything I want here in America, and because of this I will say everything the tears of my father could not until the last day I live.

Lena Ibrahim

Lena Ibrahim is a Palestinian, born in America. Lena is freshman in college, studying Human rights, she hopes to one day write and direct films about human injustices, specifically for and about the people of Palestine. Lena tweets here.


  1. This is beyond amazing!
    I want everyone to know that as long as palestine is in out hearts, it will return. as long as we keep trying and not giving up, it will return. Since your father, mine, and many more are still crying and regretting, our youth will explode like a volcano and make palestine free; free.

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