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Mark Glenn: Palestinian Family Reunion

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    Family Reunion By Mark Glenn http://www.ramallahonline.com/modules.php? name=News&file=article&sid=1606 Daddy! Cried out the little boy in ecstasy at seeing
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 24, 2005
      Family Reunion
      By Mark Glenn

      "Daddy!" Cried out the little boy in ecstasy at seeing his father for
      the first time in 4 years. The little boy, Salaam, remembered vividly
      the day when his father had been taken away by Israeli soldiers to a
      camp for political prisoners.

      "Daddy!" Cried out the little boy in ecstasy at seeing his father for
      the first time in 4 years. The little boy, Salaam, remembered vividly
      the day when his father had been taken away by Israeli soldiers to a
      camp for political prisoners. He had wept bitterly that day, seeing
      his father dragged off like a dog by a group of soldiers who punched
      and kicked him repeatedly before throwing him into the back of an
      army truck with a bunch of other men. Salaam had always carried a
      picture of his father with him everywhere he went, and not a day went
      by in which he didn't pray for his father's safety as well as for the
      day when he would be freed and they would all be a family again. His
      father, Issa, looked just as he had the day he was taken. Salaam
      nearly tackled Issa with the force that a tiny boy's body produces
      when he first lays eyes on a father whom he has not seen in four
      years. Issa looked into his son's eyes, eyes he had longed to see
      again for what seemed to have been an eternity, and said to
      him "Hello, little son."

      It was the first family reunion in ages. The war was over now, and
      had been for some time. It had been a bloodbath, and had involved
      nearly the entire world. In the end, Israel had worn out whatever
      willingness or possibility for negotiations that had existed on the
      part of her neighbors, and the rest of the world was just plain sick
      of the fighting. There were simply too many agreements she did not
      honor over the years, and as such, everyone involved knew that there
      was no more room for talk. And when her friends in the West stopped
      being so friendly with military and economic aid, the Prime Minister,
      reading the writing on the wall, was reported to have said right
      before ordering the release of nuclear weapons on her neighbors, as
      well as on several nations which at one time had been her allies,
      that "If we can't have her, no one will." The Israelis had played it
      as an all or nothing game for too long, and in the end, because they
      insisted on having it all, wound up with nothing.

      The place was packed with people who seemed to be arriving
      incessantly minute by minute. As each new group of family members
      arrived, there was a shout from someone in the crowd, calling out for
      a friend or a relative that had not been seen in eons. The place was
      one big festival of embraces and back slapping, of kisses and closed
      eyes, and if someone had told these people that one day, the fighting
      would be over, and that they would all see each other again in such
      an atmosphere of peace, laughter and happiness, no one would have
      believed that it could be true.

      But it was true. They had won. They had endured all the anguish and
      humiliation and torture and misery that had begun in the early years
      of the 20th century and which had continued unabated for decades.
      After being run off their land, out of their homes, poisoned, bombed,
      shot, starved and humiliated before the eyes of the world, they had
      triumphed, against all the odds, and in the face of an enemy that had
      seemed unconquerable.

      And here they were, together again, at a family reunion. Who would
      have thought?

      Despite the changes, some things had stayed just the same. The women
      wandered off to prepare the meals, yapping and squawking like crows
      on a split-rail fence as women have done since time immemorial. They
      talked of the important things-not politics, but family. Children.
      Security. The future. Peace. As they worked their magic, preparing
      the meals whose description in Arabic had said it all, Shishi
      Maal'foof, The food of Kings, they thought and spoke little of the
      pain and memories of the past, because now, it was just the past, and
      had little to do with the present, and little to do with the future.

      The men gathered in small groups, smoked their cigars and spoke of
      weightier things such as business. Again, things didn't change much.
      The spirit that had existed in history's first international traders,
      the Phoenicians, echoed vibrantly within the souls of each of these
      men, and as such, imaginations were always on duty in conjuring up
      something to do. After all, a whole new world awaited them now, and a
      man's role never changed. They spoke of the opportunities that lie
      before them, now that they had their own land. And with such a
      beautiful and fertile land, opportunities surely did abound.

      The children were children. They climbed the trees that grew
      perfectly in this land that could have easily been mistaken for the
      Garden of Eden. They chased each other, played hide-and-seek, and all
      the other games that children play, with the exception of any war
      games, since they had seen enough of the real thing in their
      lifetimes to last an eternity.

      The children were perfect. They bore none of the scars that one would
      have expected to find in a group of people that had endured decades
      of war and ghettoization. Their faces were fresh, their eyes were
      bright and clear, their skin was smooth and undamaged. It was as if
      the whole process of war and violence had been nothing but a bad
      dream from which they had awakened unscathed, despite the campaign
      that had been waged against them by a government working hand in hand
      with several of the world's superpowers. Children such as these had
      often been deliberately shot in the head on a daily basis, sometimes
      while engaging in activity that was no more subversive than playing
      in their schoolyards. But in the end, all the bullets, bombs, and
      misery that were thrown into their lives were worthless, because they
      had kept their spirits, and here they were, playing again as

      Time heals all wounds, as the saying goes, and so it was with this
      blessed land. The olive trees were thriving, and the lemon and orange
      groves gave off the wonderful perfumes that announced the richness
      and beauty of such green fields and pastures, in contrast to the
      smell of death and destitution that had hung in the air for decades.
      The waters were clear and cool, waters which for generations before
      had flowed red with the spilled blood of innocent women and children.
      And on this day, a perfect day for a family reunion, the sun
      brilliantly shouted out loud its light from a sky so blue that it
      almost looked purple.

      "Christine!" called out Mr. And Mrs. Saada to their daughter. They
      almost didn't recognize her, since her wounds had completely
      healed. "Momma! Papa!" responded Christine, as she sprinted the
      distance from the gate to the picnic tables next to which her parents
      stood. "I missed you so much!" said the little girl whose words were
      muffled by the tightness of her parents' embrace. "I didn't know if
      you'd be here," she said. "We're here," responded her father. "Wild
      horses couldn't have prevented us from showing up."

      The tables were set with all the foods and drink that would be the
      cornerstone of the day's celebration. There is something about a
      celebration that requires food for its legitimacy, and today would be
      no different. When food had been brought to gatherings in the past,
      especially during the wars, whether at the wakes or at the funerals,
      it was there more as a distraction from the pain than as a focal
      point of rejoicing. Today was different. The food was here not to
      distract, but to attract and augment the joy of the occasion.

      Everyone talked of the guest who was promised would be arriving at
      sometime during the reunion. He was an important man who had been
      there from the beginning and had led them through all of the terrible
      years of war and occupation. He had always spoken out for them
      fearlessly, against the inhumanity and the degradation inflicted
      against a people whom he loved, and accurately called the outrage for
      what it was, namely an attempt at exterminating a race of people who
      would not accept the injustices that had been wrought upon them. In
      the early days, when these people had called upon him to be their
      leader and he accepted, he had been laughed at and ridiculed by the
      world, given his peasant upbringing and seeming lack of
      sophistication and political power. Those around the world looked at
      his demeanor and his clothes with disdain as they laughed at his
      accent and at his message of peace and justice. Underestimating the
      inner strength of this man, the Israelis, in an attempt to break his
      spirit and in so doing break the spirits of the rest of their
      victims, had him arrested on false charges, after which time he was
      jailed and tortured, all for the purpose of having him renounce all
      for which he had stood and spoken.

      Not limiting their cruelty to simple physical torture, they performed
      all of this in the presence of his mother, assuming that her cries of
      agony in watching her only son treated in such a bestial manner would
      encourage him to give up the fight. But it did not work. He survived
      the torture, and as a result, became more powerful in the eyes of his
      followers than his enemies would have ever imagined possible. And it
      was in this refusal to surrender to the lies and brutalities of these
      evil men that he had gained his ascendancy as the leader of these
      oppressed people, and since he had stuck by them, they stuck by him,
      and in the end that was all that had mattered.

      After the war had ended, he had sent out the invitations to all the
      family members for the reunion, and promised that it would be a
      heavenly event for everyone who attended.

      Another group was arriving, and in this one was a little boy named
      Ali Abbas, who had lost his arms in a rocket attack during the war
      initiated against the Iraqi people in the recent past. Ali had been
      made famous all over the world for his plight, for having lost not
      only his arms, but as well all of his immediate family. As he
      arrived, one of the older women who had lived in his neighborhood
      came up to him and hugged him as if he were her own. He hugged back
      with his new arms, arms that worked just as well as the originals.
      Someone had truly worked a miracle in healing this boy, who at one
      time had not only been without arms, but as well without the skin
      which had been burned off of most of his body, and who now was at the
      reunion, as good as new.

      "Have you seen my parents?" he asked the elderly woman. She held his
      face in her hands and said to him "Momma is in the kitchen with the
      rest of the women, and I think your dad is off talking with the other
      men, although I'm not sure where, but I know he is here." Ali smiled
      and ran off in whatever direction he thought he might find them,
      since he had not seen them in so long. Along the way he ran into one
      of his sisters, and when the two saw each other, screeched out each
      other's names, embraced, and began the chaotic and uncoordinated
      dance of jumping up and down that children perform when they are
      excited, a dance which seemed to go on all day, although without any
      of the tears that would have been expected in a reunion like this,
      only laughter.

      The women called out to say that dinner was ready, "yallah" being the
      term they used. As always, the children raced towards the table like
      a herd of buffalo, thinking little of their manners or how they
      appeared. Cousins and friends who had not seen each other in years
      rushed to find a spot next to someone with whom they wanted to sit.
      And surprisingly, being children, there were no bruised feelings, and
      no one fought. They just sat there, smelling the food that sat at the
      middle of the table staring at them and daring them to reach out
      before momma said it was okay. The air was filled with the smell of
      allspice, zaatar, and cinnamon, all absolute necessities when cooking
      anything Middle Eastern, spices that had established trade between
      Europe and the Middle East following the Crusades.

      The adults remained standing for a moment, looking at the little
      members of their kingdoms, and said nothing except what could be said
      with a slight smile. They were all together again. Thank God. They
      had survived it all. Thank God in Heaven.

      Everyone sat silently as the prayers went up in gratitude for the
      feast that lie before them. As the prayers were said no one even
      breathed for fear that in doing so a word might be missed, words that
      only scratched the surface in expressing the gratitude that each of
      them felt within the entirety of their beings. And when the prayers
      were ended with a barely audible "amen" from the mouths of everyone
      seated, and all opened their eyes and saw all those whom they had
      loved and missed for so long, they knew for sure that a new day had

      The meal had all the essentials of a King's feast. Kibbeh, tabouli,
      lubban, lentils, lahem mishwi, fatoyehs, baklava, grape leaves,
      zatta, houmos, dishes that had been around since the time of Jesus
      and his Apostles. There was plenty for everyone, and no one went
      hungry, quite a departure from the days of want and hunger that they
      had endured for decades. The women stood with satisfaction and
      watched as their magic did its work, and didn't seem to mind much
      when one of their children would wipe a hand that was shiny with
      olive oil on a shirt or pant leg. There was a time to complain, and
      there was a time to just let things be. The adults talked and
      laughed, as children eyed each other and giggled, swinging their legs
      under the table, tiny legs that were too short to reach the ground.

      In the end, all of the power that had been arrayed against these
      people went for nothing. The nations that had waged their wars
      against them for the furtherance of their own greedy gains had been
      brought low. Not long after it was revealed that America had lied
      about the dangerous weapons that she said were possessed by these
      peoples, and that all along she had been fighting for the acquisition
      of oil and the destruction of a culture that stood in her way of
      world hegemony, (as well as the act of bringing Israel's enemies to
      heel) the rest of the world turned on her. In the process, her
      economy fell, and her once great nation descended into chaos,
      followed by many of the other economies that were tied to her. The
      false prophets who had spewed forth lies and invective on a daily
      basis against these people for years were gone too, no one missed
      them, and nothing they ever said or did was remembered. Now the
      unclean woman who was America was looked upon with contempt, and with
      good reason. She was a nation who had spent most of her existence
      bragging about her love of justice and human rights, despite the fact
      that hers was a history noted for such eloquences as "the only good
      Indian is a dead Indian," in addition to all the crimes against
      humanity and decency that had been committed by her in the
      enslavement of first the Africans and then later much of the third
      world. And like Rome, her gold and her luck eventually ran out, and
      when she could no longer buy the goodwill of the rest of mankind,
      down she went, like the Titanic, to the surprise of many. Indeed,
      justice has its own schedule.

      After dinner, in customary fashion, one of the older men retrieved a
      musical instrument and began to play. Ibrahim, a 70 year old
      patriarch who had seen everything from the beginning of the troubles,
      sat with his Oud, an ancient stringed instrument whose every sound
      spoke volumes about what was the history of the world's oldest
      civilization. As his ancient and wrinkled hands strummed out the
      music of the ages, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, fathers
      and mothers took one another by the hand, dancing in celebration of
      their freedom and of their victory, while others clapped to the
      rhythm of the music. Ibrahim, doing his best for a 70 year old man,
      finally ended the piece with a final slap on the belly of his
      stringed instrument, as his family turned and clapped wildly in
      appreciation of his performance.

      Suddenly, everyone stopped talking, and all heads seemed to turn
      simultaneously towards a couple who had just walked through the
      gate. "He's here!" called out someone in the crowd from way back. At
      last, the guest of honor had arrived, holding hands with the most
      beautiful woman anyone had ever seen, his mother Miriam, whose
      appearance so resembled his as to be strikingly uncanny. He was tall
      and graceful, his hair was dark brown, as well as his beard and his
      kind eyes. As he approached the group of people who had grown silent
      in their gaze upon him, he smiled widely at them, held up his hand, a
      hand which still bore the scars that were the result of the torture
      inflicted upon him by the Israelis many years ago, and greeted them
      all saying "Peace be upon you, my friends, and welcome."

      The silence was so profound as to be almost overwhelming. At last,
      their leader had arrived, and as the words of his benediction rang
      wistfully in the air and were carried throughout by a slight breeze
      in this the oldest of lands, little 18 month old Alyan Bashete ran up
      to him with outstretched arms, begging to be picked up and held. The
      kind man scooped up little Alyan in his arms, and looking into his
      dark eyes said, "Well, you have got to be about the cutest little
      thing that I have seen in a long time!" And after staring into the
      boy's perfect eyes for a moment whispered to him closely and
      quietly "I'm glad you could make it to the reunion."

      The boy rubbed his tiny hand across the beard of the kind man and
      said "Me too."

      And just as he had promised them many years ago, there would be no
      more scars, no more wounds, and every tear would be wiped dry.

      There was justice, after many years.

      And all was peace at the family reunion.



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