palestinian family


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At the very start of Hala Alyan’s novel Salt Houses, a woman buys a coffee set — a dozen cups, a coffee pot, a tray. It’s a simple act that unexpectedly becomes painful. The woman is Palestinian — part of a family displaced after the founding of Israel — and the tray reminds her of an old one she lost in one of the family’s many moves.

Alyan builds her story on little moments like that — a peek into the lives of several generations, forced to relocate and resettle. Her characters are lost and looking for a home

She spoke to NPR’s Steve Inskeep about the book – find their conversation here.

– Petra

Days Lost But Not Forgotten: My Family’s Account of Nakba Day

Nakba day is a significant day for the Palestinian people. Almost every family has a story to tell about that day in 1948 when many Palestinians were forced to leave their homes to seek refuge in less troubled lands. For the Sabella family, Nakba day is a day of reflection. Today, I visited my aunt Hilda and uncle Maurice in the Old City of Jerusalem along with a friend and asked them to share more about their memories of Nakba day.

My aunt takes a sip of her sweetened Arabic coffee and looks at me with somber eyes: “I still have the paper and the key, you know,” she says. Aunt Hilda was talking about the piece of paper that proved my grandfather’s ownership of his home in Katamon in West Jerusalem in the year 1936. I ask her to tell me more about that house. “Your grandfather purchased the estate from the Latin Patriarchate in 1936 and our family lived in it until 1948 when the war broke out,” she says. “It was a beautiful home with many empty fields around it,” my aunt recalls. “I still remember the view from our front door.”

asked her about what happened in 1948. She shakes her head, takes a puff from her cigarette and takes me back. “Your grandfather used to love this home, but when the Hagana bombed Katamon’s Semiramis Hotel killing 26 people in the process, he decided it was time to leave.” The Hagana was the Jewish underground militia which was active at the time and later formed the core of the Israeli military. My grandfather was worried that the neighborhood, which was the only Arab neighborhood between two Jewish ones, would continue to be targeted by the notorious Jewish militia. He chose safety first, as did many others who were forced to flee in search of safer grounds.

My grandfather Zacharia, my grandmother Margaret, my father Bernard, my uncles Abdallah and Maurice, and my aunts Hilda and Bernadette packed their bags and made their way towards Lebanon where they sought refuge in the small town of Ghazir. They stayed there for nine months until they decided to return to Jerusalem and settle in the Old City, which was under Jordanian rule at that time. This is the very home where we were sitting drinking our Arabic coffee and talking today. It is the very home where my family meets for holidays like Easter and Christmas and where we honor and keep alive the many traditions that were celebrated by my grandparents. Back in 1948, this house in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem was a one room flat. There was no kitchen, no toilet, and no running water. The seven members of the Sabella family lived there in these dire conditions for seventeen years. “But we managed,” says my aunt Hilda.

In 1965, the house was renovated and for the first time, the Sabella family, which by then consisted of ten members with the addition of my uncle Tony, my aunt Therese and my uncle David, was able to enjoy a home with running water and an en-suite toilet. In 1972, my family went back to the place where their Katamon home once stood. “We went back there to visit our home but found that it had been destroyed and in its place was a sixteen-apartment building complex,” my aunt Hilda recalls. My aunt tells me that my family stood there in silence for a while reminiscing about their childhoods and the surrounding empty fields where they used to play and wander.

We, the Palestinians, commemorate Nakba day not because we hate our neighbors, but because while our neighbors celebrated, we suffered. Each Palestinian family has a story to tell which it holds dear to its heart about that day. How can anyone ask my father, my aunts or my uncles to forget the memory of Katamon, to bury their childhood memories of that place, or the empty fields that surrounded their home? We commemorate Nakba day because in a way our Nakba is still ongoing to this very day. Whether it’s a family eviction in Silwan, or the seizing of land in Beit Jala, or a destruction of a Bedouin village in the Jordan Valley, or the stripping of residency rights for Palestinians in Jerusalem, the suffering of our people continues and all we have is our memories to hang on to. We will never forget our past, but perhaps when our people are free, independent, and lead a dignified life, we can start looking for the future rather than mourn our past. But until that day happens, our people will continue to go back in time to commemorate our Nakba.

Dispatch from Cecilie Surasky: “On Monday, Nawal H Musleh, (on the left in photo) a US citizen of Palestinian descent on the Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation, was detained at the airport and held for 7 hours. Her colleague at AFSC, Katie Huerter went through passport control in one minute, but came back for Nawal and was then also detained for 7 hours. After extensive questioning and a search through Nawal’s phone, they were both denied entry. Only after high-level UN involvement, were they allowed in. Nawal has been working for Palestinian children’s rights for 2 years. In marked contrast, although I’ve been with Jewish Voice for Peace for 14 years–a group that supports BDS and has protested the Israeli Prime Minister–, I walked through passport control in under one minute. I should note that unlike Nawal, my parents and grandparents have never lived in Israel/Palestine. Nawal notes that the detention room was filled mostly with Palestinian American families with children.


That scarf around my neck is called a keffiyeh, and this one was given to me by a Palestinian family in Bethlehem. Palestinians live under an apartheid rule by the state of Israel, and are denied many of the rights and privileges given to their Israeli counterparts. Their situation is very similar to the plight of black people and I believe if I’m fighting for my rights and my freedom it is only right I fight for theirs as well.

So here’s a smile and a laugh for Palestine, hoping one day they can do the same.

Happy Blackout.


A ‪Palestinian‬ wins a Gold Medal for the first time in Olympics history at ‪‎Rio2016‬ :)
The Taekwondo player ‪‎Ahmad Abu Ghoush‬ who holds the Jordanian nationality has just won a gold medal after winning the final match against a Russian player. Although he holds Jordanian nationality, Ahmad is Palestinian refugee; his family was forced to flee the country and his village, ‪Imwas‬, was demolished by “Israel” in 1967.
Congratulations!!! ‪‎Long Live Palestine‬

I went to this club owned by an immigrant Palestinian family this sunday and I just discovered that the owner of the club was arrested yesterday during a stupid dumbass right wing act against immigration. they said he threw a homemade bomb into the protest but there is absolutely no video or proof that thats the truth. these dumbasses still tried to delay Zarif’s lawyer by not letting him into the police office like. I hate these people so much

It took two years for this Palestinian family to build their home and just one afternoon for the ‘Israeli government’ to destroy it.

There are many injustices everywhere but the Israel thugs have stolen land, killed unarmed civilians and bombed Palestinians and yet nothing has been done to bring them to justice. In fact Europe and America are sponsoring them.


PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES. West Bank. Hebron. November 2015. Part of the series Inside the Cauldron of Hebron by Lorenzo Tugnoli. [Part 1]

Photograph 1: Muhannad Qafesha smokes shisha outside the headquarters of Youth Against Settlements, a Palestinian activist organization located in the Tel Rumeida neighbourhood.

Photograph 2: Youth burn tires during a demonstration.

Photograph 3: Palestinian youths among tear gas canisters at a demonstration.

Photograph 4: Residents of Tel Rumeida walk home at night.

Photograph 5: Amer Quneibi plays in the courtyard of his house, where his family has lived for generations. The metal cover was installed to protect the family from stones and garbage that is regularly dumped by Jewish settlers who live nearby.

Photograph 6: The homes of Jewish Israeli settlers can be seen on the left side of the road just over the closed shops in this area of Hebron’s Old City, once a thriving market.

In a perfect world, Hebron would be a showcase of co-existence. The city in the southern section of the Palestinian West Bank is built around the burial plot of Abraham, the patriarch from which Judaism, Christianity and Islam all descend. But even on its best days, Hebron is a cauldron. And Lorenzo Tugnoli showed up during the worst time in years.

When the Italian photojournalist arrived on Nov. 1, what some are calling the “third Intifada,” or uprising, was well underway, especially in Hebron and in East Jerusalem, 18 miles to the north. Tugnoli would spend time with a Palestinian family in the historic heart of the city, a warren of stone buildings where the most combustible elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict come together: Ordinary Palestinians, intensely ideological Israeli Jews, who have settled in a handful of houses, and, finally, Israeli soldiers, on hand to guard the settlers.

Friction is a way of life, perhaps best appreciated by the hurricane fence atop the neighbourhoods main pedestrian route: the mesh ceiling was installed to protect Palestinians from the garbage that settlers throw toward them from their windows, along with epithets.

“I’m trying to tell the story of that part of town, the neighbourhood that’s closed for the settlements,” Tugnoli says. He’s familiar with conflict areas. Tugnoli moved to the Middle East after years in Afghanistan. 

“Basically, what’s happened is after spending lots of time in Afghanistan, I want to try to develop some kind of photographic voice that is more personal,” he says.

In Hebron, that meant embedding with the Quneibi family. “The hand of the little boy holding this metal fence, that’s the place where I was living. I had a room there and you can hear the Israeli soldiers speaking between them all night, because they have like guard posts on that roof. They are bored at night so they talk to each other.”

Tugnoli got to know some of the soldiers, but his photographs of necessity capture the reality of the Palestinians—the tear gas canisters cascading toward you; the rangy teenagers hefting the rocks they throw in turn. Those exchanges, though hardly Kabuki, have a familiar feel. The terrifying new element—in the absence of any meaningful political outlet—is scores of sudden, apparently random attacks, often with knives, by young Palestinians against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

“Basically what’s happening now is the young guys, something snaps, and they just get out there and stab somebody,” Tugnoli says. “They don’t tell their family, they don’t have party affiliation. They’re just angry. It’s a kind of a suicidal mission, with a knife.”

In a city living on a hair trigger in the best of times, the consequences are not easily controlled. The photo of the dead man, wrapped in khafiyas [Part 2], was a driver caught in the crossfire at a checkpoint where a Palestinian tried to run down an Israeli soldier. “This guy, who was a bystander really, becomes a martyr,” Tugnoli said. “He got the full martyr treatment. He’s not a militant, but he’s made into an actor of war. Because everybody is—just because you are there.”

Article by Karl Vick.

It is possible to make a distinction between Jewish Israelis and Jewish people in diaspora without erasing the fact that Israel is a Jewish colonial state, perpetuating Jewish supremacy against its Palestinian population. (And just so you know this supremacy against Palestinians is also enacted against Palestinian Jews who live in Palestine and are proud of of being Palestinian source: Palestinian Jewish friends who’s families face persecution for being Palestinian Jews)
Israel is an ethnocracy literally built on and maintained through the idea of making a Jewish state, and trying to say it is not a Jewish state is insulting to the people who suffer under it.
I am not going to erase the suffering my family and I are feeling, or who they are feeling it from, in order to accommodate people’s feelings, and I am capable of recognizing that even though Israel is a Jewish state its actions are not representative of all Jewish people.
Honestly if Jewish people are uncomfortable with the fact that a violent genocidal country is associated with Jewishness then the correct action is not to harass Palestinians or our Jewish supporters for talking about their suffering at the hands of a Jewish state, the correct action is to do something about the Jewish state that is making us suffer.