Comedian | Professor | Writer
(& Smartest) Arab
We wake up every morning with a hole in our hearts, for a homeland dispossessed, a history stolen, and a future trampled. We live knowing that something is missing, and fearing that it will never return.
I’m going to try to explain it you. I hope you understand.
We turn on the news just to see what they’re saying about us. We are never happy about it. Our friends might yell at the TV while watching the NFL. We yell while watching CNN.
It’s hard to explain, and even harder to understand.
When we have some time to ourselves, our grandmother’s stories ring in our ears. We try to imagine them in happier times, living in Yafa, Haifa, and Jerusalem, meticulously tending to their houses, rolling grape leaves, and readying a pot of coffee. But we cannot help then seeing them driven from those same homes that had been in their families for generations, becoming hopeless refugees in lands where they did not belong. We cannot help seeing them going from working as teachers to working as maids, from living in comfort to living in poverty, from sounding proud to sounding broken. And we cannot help but to imagine some other family, seizing that beautiful home, with its small garden, herbal scents, and vibrant colors, all while the pot of coffee was still warm.
I’m trying to explain it. But it’s difficult.
We have to listen to the American president say that Israel has every right to defend itself, noting that “there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” Outside its borders? The 1.7 million people of Gaza live completely at the mercy of Israel’s blockade. Aid groups cannot access the people there. In fact, Israel determines what humanitarian aid can and cannot enter. That’s like President Obama hiring the KKK to run the Secret Service. If someone doesn’t believe that you should even exist, he probably shouldn’t decide whether or not you get food, water, and medicine.
President Obama of course knows the truth, making his servitude to Israel that much more disgusting. I don’t know how to explain how that feels.
We watch Israel call themselves victims and us the aggressors. We live in a alternate world defined by double standards, illusions and simple ridiculousness, where our struggle against occupation and land confiscation is terrorism, where Israeli architecture is defined by arched windows and intricate colorful tiles, and where falafel, grape leaves, and hummus are staples of Israeli cuisine.
I’m trying to explain it, but I don’t know if I’m getting the point across.
When we meet each other for the first time, we get excited. We exchange information and stories about our hometowns, our family names, and our journeys. We talk about all the different places we have lived, and the one place where we wish we could have. We share rage, sorrow, and despair. And even though it’s hard to explain, we can’t wait to see each other again.
We see reports of our devastated, impoverished brethren being bombarded by a modern, superior military. We watch in horror as young and old alike die for simply being present. We see Israeli politicians hold demonstrations chanting “There are no innocents in Gaza!”
I don’t know if I can explain how it feels to know that the person holding the gun to your head sees you as a worthless animal.
I don’t know if I can explain how it feels to see Israel drop a bomb, massacring an entire family, all while saying it was targeting a terrorist that no one in the neighborhood has ever heard of. Or that any one of us would have traded places with the four children who were there.
This is who we are. I’ve tried to explain it. It might sound tragic, but don’t feel bad for us. We have a connection to each other you might not ever understand. We smile and laugh more than you might think. And somehow, we still fall asleep with a heart full of warmth, justice, and hope.
When we wake up, that hole in our hearts is back again. But just like you, we live another day.