By Nour Qudeimat
Palestinian Literature and Colonial/ Post-colonial courses during my 4 years of studying English Literature, were always demanding us to “define home.” To decide whether it was represented by physical objects, like house, land, geographical area, weather, food, etc, or if it was a matter of spiritual belonging, like family, memories, pictures, emotions, feelings and so on.
We, students, always conducted long arguments whether it was any of these. And even though we were the best sample in the world to be asked what “home” was, we still couldn’t put our thoughts in words because the concept of home was too huge to be put into words. In my paper that said “What is your definition of home”? I defined it by the opposite. I defined the “unhome,” for one simple reason: Because I am Palestinian.
On one morning of the fresh bloody beginnings of August 2014, with the third savage attack on Gaza, I was contemplating the truth.
Truth is: Gaza was so under attack. Truth is: 16 year old Mohammad Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and forced to drink Gasoline and then set on fire by settlers. Truth is: Israeli bombs killed actual people. Infants and youngsters and women and seniors. Truth is: nobody stood against Israel. Nobody stopped it and the Genocide was ongoing. Truth is: we were alone in this. More people were saying goodbye to their murdered family members in the midst of devastated buildings and hearts.
It was my personal space and I was free to wildly think of a flowery future where Israel never existed. Where Palestinian innocents were not killed, where they could stay at home in peace and not face terror and death every 5 seconds.
I was fantasizing about an Israel-free world until in the midst of all the victorizing fantasy, some creature appeared from behind the cupboard. It was brown, very small, too sneaky, incredibly fast and exceptionally genius at hiding. Seeing it roam in my room was very disturbing. It interrupted my inspiration, pushed my Adrenaline, pumped my blood, and worst of all; froze my body. God, if only it didn’t show up at that inspirational moment. If only it did not ruin all the balance. If only it belonged in this building If only I could communicate with it. If only I could catch it. All I could think of was its unnatural existence in my room. It was, as you have already concluded, the mouse.
It evaded my privacy, disturbed my balance, occupied my room and refused to leave in peace. Having a mouse in my room was a kind of terror you know. I had to leave my room and leave a trap for it to be caught.
I had to flee my room. Taking only my mobile and my headphones and closing the door behind me. Leaving my sunrise view, clothes, books, bed, map, pencils, and my favorite place in the world to have inspiration in. It’s very similar to losing everything in the fire, except there was no fire.
I had to sleep in some extra bed, in this case: a couch. I tried to make it feel like home, but it wasn’t as comfortable and not for a single moment could I sleep. It is not about the luxury, it’s about the choices. How you like to live best. What suits you, the shape of your neck, and a matter of convenience. Till I realized,you can try to make yourself feel like home, but you can only try, not succeed.
Tutti Frutty was a kind of candy that we bought when we were about 10 years old. It was very cheap, it was local, but it tasted well, and it was irreplaceable by any other candy. Nothing tasted like it, nothing looked like it, nothing made us (now adults) feel nostalgic as it could. Now when we grew up, my brother and I, who always bought it together, still reminisce where we bought it from after classes, how it tasted, and what memories it carried with it. The cheap Tutty Frutty, not gummy bears or gummy strawberry or Flavored gum. It is what it is: Favorite Candy in the world, and not the best produced Candy in the world. It could bring back time, when money, or gummy bears couldn’t.
In the course of hours I was filled with nostalgia to my room. Then I thought of the Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee their houses for sixty seven years. Sixty seven, count them, count them all on your fingers, without the same room, or sunrise view, or air, or old books or photographs or even documents. Just like that mouse, who carried plague and killed thousands of thousands, the zionists broke into Palestine, occupied and displaced its people out of it. The only difference is that they used force to displace them. Still, just like the mouse in my room, they held an extremely unnatural existence enough to flee the people out of their homes.
This increased my rage over the hideous mouse but also clarified the idea of home for me. It is simply where you belong. It is where you feel the comfort, where you grew up, where you made memories, where you find yourself and where the light and wind in perfect combination for your skin and lungs.
You will never know what home really is, until you are displaced out of it. Ask a refugee that has been keeping his old demolished house key for sixty seven years as if a son of his. Ask a Palestinian whose house has been demolished before his eyes what home really is. Ask a Palestinian who cannot return because of paperwork. Ask a Palestinian who simply cannot have a job because he is not assimilated. Ask a Palestinian who lost his father, mother, wife, daughter in the Genocide. Ask me, and I will tell you, it is my room that that colonial mouse had occupied.
Home is the history, the “what you’re used to”, the smell, the choice, the habit, the way you lived your birth and childhood and adulthood and the place where you want to die. Home is the land, the houses, the buildings, the stone texture, the old lanes and the gates and shapes and your old grandparents house. Home is the people, the family, the gathering, the existence, the mercy, the key, the memory, the language, the details…. Home is where you belong, not where you have to enforce your belonging. Home is where you want to be and what you have become.
My home is Palestine.