My soul is not theirs to occupy

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The hardest thing in life is acceptance. An acceptance that something so resonantly significant in our hearts will never be — as it once was.  


“They can try to take over my country but my soul is not theirs to occupy.” Maha Omar points at her heart with shroud frustration and sadness. “I have no country, I’ve accepted that but I still have hope.” With those words, Maha distantly reminisced life as a Palestinian before the occupation and her sheer grief was distressing to see. The struggle for liberty for such a long time by a people is both a poignant sight to the human spirit and fatal to the universal hope for freedom. Palestine: suppressed painstakingly and progressively ruined. The human catastrophe deliberately inflicted on Gaza by western policies over the past decade is one of the great crimes of the century so far. 


Maha Omar, now 54, sat close beside me, our direct encounter and proximity in closeness had created a sense of empathy as she spoke with sorrow in regards to her life as a Palestinian. Maha was educated in Palestine, worked in Palestine, and says that she hopes to die in Palestine. I guess that’s understandable, our sense of being and our internal state is often influenced by our heritage, our place of birth and inevitably it’s where most of us wish to be deceased.


Maha Omar isn’t your typical image of a Palestinian woman. She, a mother to two children, happily married, inhabiting in an aristocratic residence right next to Westminster hall, just didn’t seem like an ordinary Palestinian. Lurking beneath this supposed secure peripheral, Maha was a woman of great grief. Her apparent “assets” had not spurred any form of console. “I’m not happy because I’m not at home. My presence might be in the Western world, but my soul is and always will be in Palestine.”


 Maha’s family were originally from Acre in what is now northern Israel. Maha migrated to the UK, four years ago with her husband and the youngest son. She had left her older son in Palestine because quite simply “he just wouldn’t budge.” Maha described her older son as a loyal and courageous man whose only predicament was his life and more importantly its vulnerability.


Maha’s son, Hashim, resided in Palestine in hope that he would be able to make a difference to his country. This hope was soon to be diminished when Maha received a call from the Palestinian authorities declaring the end to what was hoped to be the change factor of Palestine. Hashim died in shooting with Israeli troops two years ago. “My son would have made a difference to Palestine, had he been given a chance to,” Maha regretfully expressed.


And what was Maha’s reaction when she heard of her son’s death? “I did not imagine it. It was a shock. But one thing’s for sure. My son died, happy, in his country and departed from this world as a man of his word, a man of courage and a man who will be sorely missed. Which is far more than I can say for many others.”


Maha’s story – and her scorching frustration – has, until now, been undisclosed. Never before had she shared with the press, the sad reality of her state and her disillusionment as to what she considers to be just another Palestinian woman who has no power to do anything, but still envelops hope for tomorrow’s Palestine.


While all the Palestinians who have given their account of life without Palestine. Maha argued “As a first-generation Palestinian descent, I can vouch that nobody is more tired of this conflict than Palestinians. But many of us don’t have the luxury of flipping the channel or ignoring what is happening to our relatives and friends”


Conversations with Maha Omar’s family prove that the Palestinians are not only suffering in Palestine. But Palestinians are suffering right here in this very country. Suffering internally. “I wish I was still in Palestine” Maha’s younger son, Ahmed told me. He agreed that Palestine was far to fragile to live in but nonetheless to him, just like his mother, home is where the heart is. Ahmed’s grief was indeed, engraved into his face. He was a young man but looked like he was 90. ““Sometimes I’m 15 and sometimes I am 200” Ahmed said sincerely. Perhaps he meant that sometimes he’s just the little boy who happens to be having an identity crisis and sometimes he’s the ‘adult’ who, at the age of 10 endured a wretched childhood and now thinks about things that ordinary teenagers just don’t think about.


Maha’s husband, Ali Hussein, who has the mark of the Muslim prayer stone on his forehead, has been a political and religious influence on the family. “The world of justice and truth will prevail,” he says. “If I could give my life in return for hope for Palestinians and security, I would do so in a flash. But the reality is that too many people are obsessed with giving their life and it’s not doing anything for Palestinians or the country.” He says “What we need is reformation internally and our condition will never change until we change it within ourselves.”


 It remains a mystery to both me – and Maha’s family – and to many others – why a situation as severe, unthinkable, and unfathomable for citizens in other parts of the world is to be endured and accepted for the Palestinian people. As frustrating as the reality is. Maha proves that even if Palestinians are out of Palestine, Palestine is not out of Palestinians.






Written by Magda M Ali

October 10, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Posted in Features, Heartland

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