Monday, July 21, 2014


When I moved to Egypt when I was 11.5 years old I was devastated. This place was alien to me. The people spoke differently, their priorities were different, they drove differently, they even slept differently!
I remember when I came people close to me would make fun of my brother and I for answering the phone with "Salam Alaikom", you don't say that they would tell me, you say "Alo", that was the proper way to answer the phone. They made fun of me for saying water and spaghetti with a rolled t because it was not proper english. The driver even made fun of me once because I would keep an apple core in my hand for hours until I find a garbage can rather than throw it in the street. "This is Egypt," he would say, "throw it anywhere".
Worst of all, Egypt, the country only meters away from the one of the holiest places on Earth, is where I saw a hatred towards a people I grew up to admire, love and vowed to fight for. Here is where I heard for the first time that "palestinians sold their land". I heard rhetoric against Palestine that I thought only Israelis were capable of.
The years passed, I grew up and was granted my lifelong dream of visiting Palestine when I was 16. I fell in love with the country, but sadly I was at a stage in life where my passion for the cause took a different shape. While my younger brother, who was 14 then, heard about protests in Hebron he wanted to go join, I was "enjoying the culture" and walking through the streets of Palestine and the occupied lands as a tourist. The fact that I was the only one stopped at every turn because I was veiled didn't bother me, or the way the officer at passport control corrected me when I told her my name was Sarah because I should pronounce it in Hebrew. I was just happy to visit. Although we were stopped at the airport leaving for about an hour, I was the only one not bothered, "they need to go through the security procedures" I rationalized. I was just happy I got to go to Palestine. Living in and around Egypt, somehow put out the flame I had as a child towards the cause.
My childhood was based on the first Intifadha. Our friends were mostly people who had fled Palestine and had uncles, aunts and cousins who were fighting for their lives daily and in constant terror that the Israelis would break into their homes, which they did regularly. Our close friends even attempted to move back to Palestine and ended up in schools for a month where they were forced to learn hebrew and "history" written by the zionists.
Since the '67 war that Egypt fought and lost, a bitterness among the generation that witnessed the war arose and kept growing. Not only did the Egyptian army enter a war for another country, but they lost some of their own land in return. Even the 1973 war did not do anything to abate resentment which instead of being directed towards the leader of the army which was ill trained to enter the war in the first place was poured completely on the occupied people, the Palestinians, who not only lost 78% of their land by then but young men and boys were being thrown into Egyptian prisons and all forms of resistance was being thwarted on all ends. For after all, an Egyptian commander in chief who led the Egyptians out of their own occupation cannot be at fault.
Today, over 400 civilians in Gaza have been killed in one week. Brutally murdered and forced to leave their homes, homes that were originally makeshift homes handed down to them from their grandparents who 60 years ago were forced from their homes around Palestine, never to be given the right to return. Even in 1948, Israeli soldiers called Palestinian civilians and told them to flee for their own safety because terrorists are hiding around their homes, Hamas, the hanger used now, was not even established then. Now lavish Israeli homes and an established country resides over what was once Palestinian land. Slowly the Palestinian map is shrinking and every single time Egypt somehow is complicit. Palestinians run into a brick wall on all sides and not a single neighboring Arab country does more than condemn as they lose more of their land.
In 1992, when I came back to Egypt, I was told by my own relatives that these Palestinians sold their lands. That when the "heroic Egypt stepped in to save them they refused". This is the history that Egyptians are being taught. Because Egyptians do not want to be dragged into another fight. So the facts are shaped to free the general public of guilt. The millions of people living on our borders are not our concern, not only that, but they are now a threat to Egypt and to the Palestinian cause.
My college years restored my flame slowly. By the year 2000 the 2nd Intifada began and I slowly began to realize what living in Egypt has done to the cause in my heart. Today in 2014, the full realization slapped me in the face. The "you're either with us or against us" ideology is what controls Egyptian history and since the Palestinians did not choose the correct government or did not choose the Egyptian path of surrendering to fate and raising the white flag well then too bad for them.
Our prophet taught us that we should be kind to our neighbors. He taught us to support them in their time of need. He taught us that our neighbors are among the first people we should help. He did not say we need to force them to follow our own paths. He said we should support them in the path they have chosen.
Palestinians are our neighbors. As the Israelis push Palestinians off their own land, they will run out of Palestinians to steal from. The next piece of land they will start looking at is just West of them and it is rather appealing to add to the collection. I hope that that piece of information will be taught in our books at a point in time.