A lot of people know I am fatherless, few know he is a missing person. I rarely speak about it. He’s been a missing person for 20 years now.  He was abducted by Kuwaiti militia after the “liberation” of Kuwait in February 1991. I know this because it was the last piece of reliable credible news we were able to get about him after he disappeared in the past 20 years.  I don’t know why I feel the need to say this now, or even put it up for public consumption. It is and has been a long battle of denial and affirmation, struggle and joy, of unknowing, and of silence.

As the years moved on, he crossed my mind less and less. The most reoccurring thought is “what if he is behind that knock on the door?” As the years moved on, that thought too diminished slowly. As the years moved on, we fought less and less to find news about him. To find him.  A part of us just got too tired.

So much has happened because he is missing. So much of it has shaped the dysfunctionality and the functionality of my existence. Sometimes I wonder what would have been had I remained that precious daddy’s girl. Would I be the woman I am today? Would I be where I am today? Other times I just don’t wonder.

Twenty years after the fact I ask myself what do I want? Do I want justice? Do I want retaliation? Do I want compensation? Nothing really helps with the black hole of not knowing.  Nothing really makes up for an absent parent. Twenty years later all I want is one thing. Closure.

Dad as young man

Dad as young man

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Last week I heard the unfortunate news of Abu Firas’ passing. He died of a heart attack in his sleep. I was saddened and  at the same time happy when I heard the news. You see Abu Firas was an amazing man who I trusted, loved and shared a lot of traffic time with. He was one of the few drivers I used constantly when in Amman. He had been integral to my social and professional lives. He was special and so even though I am sad he has left us, I am happy that he had a painless  quick and simple death. To go in your sleep is perhaps one of the best ways to go, and knowing that he worked hard for that good death is reassuring. He deserved it.

For those of you that don’t know him, Abu Firas was a man you could count on to be where you needed him, when you needed him. He was patient, driving for hours in the heat or the cold in his old beat up car and in the new one. When you needed him to wait outside for “10 minutes” he waited the half hour and the hour and never got annoyed. He was funny with his falafel, George Bush and Tony Blair, and donkey driving  jokes that many of us heard over and over again.  He was honest even when he over charged us. We knew he was over charging us and he knew it, but he also he knew when to give us a break and when we should give him a break. He was the lynchpin that connected so many of us , never forgot any of his customers, for he always asked, always, about old friends that have left and new that he just met. He was dependable and ran many errands for me and others alike picking up, dropping off and collecting all sorts of goods from all over the city. He had an amazing memory for places not just because he was a cab driver, but he cared and made it a point to know. We even had our own names for the neighborhoods and the streets because of all the errands we ran together. He was who you called in the middle of the night to pick you up even if you had no money because you could always pay him next time. His passing, to me, marks the end of an era. No longer will I be able to call him and ask for a ride when the sun is high and the traffic murderous. No longer will he wait patiently when the sky is dark and the streets empty and unwelcoming to take me safely home. No longer will he pick up my mail at the post office and bring it home to me when I visit Amman. No longer will he wave as he whizzes by me on the street and call out my name.

I got one last ride with Abu Firas and we chatted and looked after each along the way , each in our own way. I am glad I could say good bye to him, for I was at the airport, and airport farewells are somewhat more resonating than the quick thank you in the city.  Good bye dear man, you will be remembered. He was special.

Abu Firas

One Last Ride

On this day I remember the loss of land. I am not attached to the land as many may be. But I am attached to other things and want other things. So on this day I think of those things and here are some of them:

  • I remember the warmth of my grandmother’s and its warmth
  • I remember the smell of the land after crossing the bridge
  • I remember the olive trees lining the roads
  • I remember walking the streets of Jerusalem
  • I remember sitting in the Haram and feeling a peace like no other
  • I remember family gatherings with laughter
  • I remember the taste of the fruit sweet like no other
  • I remember the walks to get fresh milk from the lady with the goats
  • I remember the farmers coming up to the house with fresh produce and gossip
  • I remember the hot bread fresh from the bakery next door and the fresh olive oil we would eat with it
  • I remember the sea

 

On this day I think of how I can not go and come as I please. About borders, check points, guns, anger, angst, depression, disposition, Diaspora. I think of identity crisis and guilt. But al that makes me want something, not just for me but for all involved. I desire freedom, freedom to visit, to explore, to live, to meditate, to be. I desire peace. 

I have been getting a lot of emails and messages about the Nakba, and what is happening. This is one of the few messages that are not angry in tone but rather an appeal to remember. I would like to share with you and feel free to forward, to act, or just remember.

S.

Dear Friends, Collogues and Family
Please give this message some of you attention and little of your time …
We all know what the date 15th of May represents to us all not that this year is any different from the year this (historical human absurdity) started is different in any way, never the less this year the festive mood of Israel on the occasion is high and loud…..
Small, meaningful and visual action from our side WILL matter ….
My friend Dr. Emad Hatabeh forwarded me details on actions that will take place on the 15th of May in Palestine and hopefully around the world, so please read the second parts of this message and CHOOSE your actions but equally important PLEASE forward and share this message with ALL your contacts in and out of Jordan.
Finally, we suggest that in Jordan we also put up a BLACK ribbon throughout the day on the 15th of May on our cars, handbags, Back bags, wrists, windows or any place where people can see, ask and be reminded!!!!
I wish you all a good day, and hope that this message will inspire you to act …
Peace
W

ACTION ONE
Lighting a candle….for Palestine

The 15th of may might be just another day of dark injustice, but together we can create the light of truth
Light a candle wherever you are…
Maybe we can light up the night of darkness that covers Palestine
The Youth Committee of the Civil Campaign for the 60th commemoration of the Nakba invites you to light candles :
In public spaces and places of gatherings
On balconies of homes and windows
And wherever we can

Time : 15 may 2008 – at sunset
Place : where ever you can.

ACTION TWO

Please forward and donate if you can…

21,915 BLACK BALLOONS OVER JERUSALEM

To celebrate 60 years of independence, Israel is planning a large-scale birthday bash with events taking place in many different countries around the world. In Jerusalem, a 3-day conference, under the title “Facing Tomorrow” is planned from May 13 – 15, to whic h many world leaders, such as U.S. President Bush, and French President Sarkozy, and celebrities such as Barbara Streisand and Steven Spielberg have been invited and plan to attend.
It is wrong to celebrate and we need to do something BIG to make the world, and those gathered to celebrate Israel, see and hear us. We* have this idea and we need your help to make it happen! On May 15, we will launch 21,915 (365 days x 60 years) black balloons over the skies of Jerusalem. We aim to turn the skies over Israel’s celebrations black to let people know that there is another side of the story, a side of heartache, suffering and dispossession. At the same time, each balloon will carry a letter from a Palestinian child expressing his/her hope for the future, to let the world know that we believe in and dream of justice.

Please help us make this happen by buying a balloon! $1.00 will help us cover the cost of 3 balloons. Please buy 3, 6, or 9 balloons (or more!) and be part of our action. Donation information below.

Other things that you can do:
(1) On May 15, we are asking everyone, wherever he or she is, to wear back. PLEASE WEAR BLACK!
(2) WRITE LETTERS, or help collect letters from Palestinian children. You can email us the letters and we will print them out and attach to the balloons that we will launch;
(3) If you are in Palestine, volunteer to help us inflate and LAUNCH the balloons on May 15;
(4) Wherever you are, consider doing an action in SOLIDARITY with our action (in addition to whatever else you may be planning). For example, you can launch your own balloons, fly black kites, march with black banners, etc.

To donate to the cost of the balloons, you can:
Use paypal: Donate online at http://www.60yearsofnakba.org or at http://www.paypal.com and list the beneficiary as balloons@60yearsofnakba.org
Make a bank transfer:
HSBC Bank — Ramallah
Account name: Palestinian Strategic Initiative
Acct No: 011-026630-087
Swift Code: BBMEPS22
Contact Number: +970-599-130-426