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Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Jerusalem - by Faysal Mikdadi

On the 26th May 1967, using money borrowed from my stepmother after swearing her to secrecy because I lived in unjustified terror of a very kind Dad, I boarded a flight to Jerusalem. Being then administered by Jordan, I was able to enter the city using my Lebanese identity card.

I explained to my stepmother that I had two reasons for wishing to visit Jerusalem: Firstly, I wanted to see my First True Love who was studying at Beir Zeit University and to bring her back to safety in Beirut. Secondly, with the overwhelming sabre rattling on both sides, I was convinced that there was going to be a war with Israel. I was also absolutely certain that we were going to lose that war because we were disunited, chaotic, backward, leaderless and stupidly tribal. Israel was united, purposeful, technologically years ahead of us and, of course, it had the unconditional support of the most powerful ally in the world; the United States. We had the dubious support of a morally and economically bankrupt Soviet Union who had betrayed Marx’s ideology and who would happily trade off the whole Arab World for its backyard in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and others.

I walked the streets of Old Jerusalem trying to piece together the forthcoming catastrophe. I felt deeply distressed to have this defeatist attitude. I felt as if I were betraying my national homeland - Palestine. However, I was really being a pragmatist facing realities that I could clearly see around me.

Every moment of my two days walking the streets of Jerusalem is deeply etched in my memory. I can still see faces that then only passed me by. I can still see wide eyes staring into the coming abyss seemingly unaware of its destructive force. I can even see that Palestinian woman in her colourful national costume laughingly urging me to taste her neatly arranged red Palestinian tomatoes. “My boys watered them with their pouring sweat day in day out...” I remember laughing as my heart was fit to burst.
I wanted to shout out warnings of what was coming. Cassandra like I knew that I was right and that no one would believe me - some mythical god’s punishment that has haunted me all my life.

After the Six Day War, I left Beirut vowing to live in my British exile. For years I refused to speak Arabic. I mistakenly omitted to teach it to my children. I wrongly gave up on my heritage - even my family. It was as if all the wrongs done to Palestine were personal to me and I invoked a plague of all their houses: Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese and all things Arab. The quintessential and misguided self-hating Arab was born in 1967... I recently met a regular long time contributor to the New Yorker


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