On that starry night of August, we sat down on the sidewalk. We were a group of four, coming from different communities, cultures, and of three different religions as well. But who cares as long as we can find a way to understand each other and to feel each other. We worked in the same organization and lived in the same building, sometimes we ate together and almost every night we had that warm conversation on that blue bench on the nearby sidewalk where the desert breeze of Al-Qalamoon mounts can swirl through your soul like a river.
We were very different politically but as long as we all agree on the Co-existence of the Syrian people we always found a point of convergence.
Just on that starry night an idea popped out into a friend’s mind “Rafa” as he likes to be called. He asked “what does the word “homeland” mean to you?
Rafa is a Palestinian Syrian who lived his whole life in Al-yarmouk camp on the dream of his father and grandfather that someday they will be back to their homeland “Palestine” . the question seemed a little bit weird , easy and hard at the same time.
One of the girls said that it means to her the land where she’s born in, where her family is, and where she feels the belonging. The other girl agreed on what the first said. She added also that homeland is where you can find people who understand you, share your fears and hopes …
I had a long breath before I could say anything. It’s really complicated to answer that Palestinian friend especially that he mentioned he wants to know the answer of people who have an ID and a passport and belong to a country unlike him who only has a temporary residency in Syria and who is not accepted in any country in this small world.
I said, homeland never had a specific meaning to me, it differs from time to time, it goes up and down. It was once where I felt love for the first time. And once where I lost love for the first time. It was once the reason why I am happy and the reason why I am tragic in other times. Homeland to me was where I could feel proud, safe and secure. Where I don’t have to hide my religion in order not to be slaughtered. Where I don’t have to pass under mortar shells. Where I can plan for tomorrow. Home land is not a piece of land. It’s where you find a meaning to your life. If it happened accidently to be where you were born and where your nationality is then it’s an easy issue for you, if not, then you have got to find your own.
I don’t know now if my words were just an emotional rush for all the disappointments I had here or if it’s really what I believe. It’s not easy to build a wall between what your deep beliefs are and what your temporary emotions are.
Later on… after few days. “Rafa” knocked the door of my apartment. He carried five books of the classical novels, one of them was Wuthering heights which I like to read over and over again. I would have been glad with that precious gift if I didn’t know he was planning to migrate illegally. And that was the reason why he asked about the meaning of the word “homeland” .
Now that I got his news and knew that he reached Greece so far after a very dangerous trip I felt relieved to write this post and share what he wrote on his facebook account :
“To my Dear friends, to those who feel excited and enthusiastic to leave my beloved Syria, I know I encouraged you all in a way or another to leave the way I was planning to, I renege with what I said to you especially after crossing the sea between Turkey and Greece… it’s a trip of death In every sense of the word designated only for the insane like me… again I renege…”
Some people strive to make a family, to build a home, to own a car… but Rafa’s dream was to find a homeland that compensates lost Palestine… I’ll pray for him to find it and to belong to it where ever that homeland was…