Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Palestinian Ladies

                On Facebook I like to chat with my people in Palestine, both in the West Bank and Gaza, to get a sense of what is happening on the ground. The stories I hear are heartbreaking and this in turn increases my sense of guilt about leaving Palestine at the age of 6½ and migrating to the United States.  I left my people behind and came to the good life. This feeling is reflected in my poem The Other Side of Fleeing (

                Over the last several days I met a young Palestinian lady whose birthday is on the same month as my daughter, having been born just 17 days apart.  Their stories reflect the guilt in me as I wonder how I would have fared had I been routed in a different direction.  Read my poem A Journey To See Where I Was To Be. (

                In chatting with her (rather interviewing her for this article) I had a tear in my eyes as I compared Maram’s life in Salfit, Palestine with MaryAnn’s life in Chicago.  Both were born in September, 1988, just months before Yaser Arafat uttered the words recognizing the State of Israel, now known as the Apartheid State of Israel.  

                Expressing that guilt within me, before MaryAnn was born I wrote the poem The Uprising Home and the Stone (  MaryAnn had a loving home and parents, her own bed and room, she had the toy kitchen and dolls and educated parents who received their degrees from Chicago universities.  Her father, me, is a lawyer and Maryann had a very bright future ahead of her.

                Maram tells me that she realized that Palestinians were under Israeli occupation at the tender age of one as she recalls gunfire outside her home.   Just eight months earlier, the first Intifada began by inspired Palestinian youth who rose up against the Apartheid Israeli occupation and Maram remembers the gunfire.

                MaryAnn grew up and a new and bigger home was built for the family when she was 5 years old. Maram lost her father when she was 11 months old. A Palestinian traitor informed the Apartheid Israeli soldiers that Maram’s father, Ibrahim had a gun. Then an Apartheid truck chased him down and the Apartheid soldiers killed him.  The traitor quickly migrated to the US leading many to believe that he lied to earn a visa.

                MaryAnn never had a gun pointed at her face as did Maram one day at a checkpoint near Nablus.  Maram and her younger sister were heading home to Salfit which is south of Nablus.  Maram’s sister who was 17 years old had not acquired her “identity” card from the apartheid authorities as she was not required to get it before she turned 18. Approaching the checkpoint on that rainy day, the apartheid authorities would not let Maram’s sister get through, although Maram was allowed to proceed.  Of course, Maram refused to leave her sister and they both stayed together in the pouring rain for three hours as the apartheid soldiers held a gun to Maram’s face.

                I would like to believe that MaryAnn would have done the same had she been in Maram’s place.  Knowing my daughter, I am afraid that she would have confronted the apartheid soldiers with all her gusto and been thrown in prison.  But at the time, MaryAnn did not have a rifle pointed at her face but rather secluded away in a dorm of a Southern Illinois university majoring in biology studying to be a doctor.   Maram too was studying at a university near her home. Her field of interest was business.

                When Maram was in 7th grade the Second Palestinian Intifada began.  Maram remembers the school being closed for a day every time the apartheid soldiers entered their elementary school.  The school would be closed for several days each time disrupting her education.  The elementary school was used to interrogate the residents of Salfit, two of which were Maram’s grandparents. 

The closest MaryAnn got to a policeman was when I was stopped for speeding on the way to Church when she was young.  The officer was nice and he let my family go to be on time to church. MaryAnn did have an experience of what it means to be an Arab on September 11, 2011 when other children on her school bus called her and her brother “terrorists.” I made sure those children were disciplined by school authorities.

Yes, MaryAnn traveled to school on a school bus while Maram walked to school.
These two young Palestinian ladies have similar dreams.  They both want to help others. MaryAnn recently held a major fundraiser for St. Jude Hospital at her campus, being inspired by making rounds with her Doctor Aunt at the cancer ward. Maram tells me that she wants to help build Palestine.

Both Maram and MaryAnn know that one day they will be married; both want children and want the best for them.  Maram tells me that she wants her children to have a better life than she has had—a trait in all of us. Yet, Maram’s desires are more profound than those of MaryAnn. 

While MaryAnn would want to give a better life to her children, I do not know what that can be. MaryAnn went to Disneyland more times than I can remember; to Wisconsin Dells resort almost every year during her childhood; and to my Ramallah Family conventions on several occasions.  She had all the clothes she needed and enjoyed all the toys any child could want.  Her stuffed animals filled her canopy bed.

Maram longs for freedom something that although Maryann has does not long for as it is ever present. Maram longs for a life without checkpoints or a separation wall, something I do not believe MaryAnn or any other American youth can comprehend. Maram longs for her father who was killed when she was only 11months old; MaryAnn has both her parents.

Maram wants to live in a country, her country Palestine, where there is “freedom of expression” where she would not fear imprisonment for her thoughts by the Apartheid State of Israel. I cannot imagine that MaryAnn can live with her thoughts repulsed, where she could not express her thoughts and desires.

Maram wants to live in a city that is not surrounded by a barbed wire separating the village from the farms owned by the villagers.  During harvest season, farmers must strictly abide by exit and entry timelines to get to their farms.  

I do not think that MaryAnn can understand such a life.  She cannot understand a life without freedom—plain and simple, a life without freedom.

(  © Copyright, Fadi Zanayed.  Publication or distribution of this material is allowed provided its content is not altered and the source and its author are cited.)

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