This May 15, Palestinians mark 75 years since the beginning of what has become a continuous Nakba or catastrophe for the Palestinian people. When I was young, during the First Intifada in 1988, we never thought we would reach this time. Either we would be back in our homes and villages, or we would be dead.

Seventy-five years is a long, long, long time. I am 58 years old; I don’t want my time to run out while I am still a refugee, waiting to access my right to return. That is the sad part. My mom’s generation—the catastrophe survivor generation—they passed away but we still consider them refugees in their graves. My mom wanted to be buried in her village in the land beside her parents and grandparents.

What helps me continue to be hopeful is the continuous Palestinian struggle for our rights. Especially when I see what the new generation can do rooted in sumoud (steadfastness), despite what they are going through in their daily lives under Israeli occupation. It seems they can see the end of Israeli settler colonialism.

I often talk with my friend Jawad from Silwan. To be honest, we smoke and have coffee while we talk on the phone. Sometimes it’s late at night his time and early morning for me, and sometimes the reverse.

“I am living and witnessing an incredible moment of history,” he told me recently. “No one can ignore it unless they are ignorant. The Israeli colonial system is moving very fast and becoming more brutal day after day. They are killing and maiming more Palestinians every day; it no longer matters if they are children, or women, or old people. Their bulldozers are more rapidly destroying Palestinian houses, gardens, playgrounds, schools. They are rushing to expand settlements into every part of the West Bank. When you see settlers or soldiers walking down the street, they are always rushing.“

“They have been like this since before 1948,” I said.

“No, this is different. They are running from something after them. They are frantic to achieve their old plan to get rid of all the Palestinians because they are worried. They know that they have a problem with history; time is not on their side. Every day we witness atrocities: a child being killed; a house being destroyed. These are painful moments, but the people are hopeful because we can see freedom getting closer.”

The same is true in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli siege is 16 years old. In Gaza there is a generation nearing adulthood that has spent their entire childhood in this open-air prison. Sometimes they forget this reality for a moment on the playground, playing music, or reading a book, but otherwise their only window outside this prison is the internet. Despite what they are going through, this generation is proud and determined.

North of Palestine, our colleague Suha is working with Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon at MECA’s partner organization Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organization. “For Palestinians in the refugee camps,” she says, “from 1948 until the 1960s, they were in the survival phase. Then people were able to be more creative—about maintaining our culture, about building the resistance. But the current reality in the camps in Lebanon keeps pushing us back to the survival phase, to the struggle for food and water.”

I know what Suha means. When I was a child in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, the focus for my parents and the rest of the catastrophe generation was to survive and help their children survive. As young refugees, we thought there were discrete stages to the struggle: survival, then creativity, then planning and struggle. But the reality now, after 75 years, is that Palestinians are often living all the phases at the same time.

In every town, every village, every refugee camp, the young people are fighting back. The new generation isn’t interested in official statements from national or international organizations. They want an end to the Israeli occupation; they want to live in freedom. This is what keeps us as Palestinian refugees, often far from our homes, hopeful and able to continue our work.

As refugees, our eyes are always on the right to return. A few months ago, a friend from the U.S. was on her way to Palestine and asked me if wanted anything. I said, “Go visit my village. Go visit Zakariya.” When I was still in Palestine, I needed a special permit from Israel to visit the destroyed Palestinian villages of my family and friends. I went whenever I could to feel the history, to see what was left.

Jawad has “Jerusalem residency”, so he can travel in a way that Palestinians in the rest of the West Bank or Gaza cannot. He and my friend from the U.S. planned a visit to Zakariya, taking along some young Palestinian artists. At 1 am San Francisco time, they facetimed me. It was mid-afternoon in Palestine. “We are at the entrance to the village,” they said. I felt excited and nervous. The last time I saw my village was in 2008 before I left Palestine to study in the U.S. How had things changed in the years since? Only three of the original buildings still exist: the mosque, the school, and one house where settlers now live. I told the group about the history of the village and guided them as they walked through it. Settlers gathered to stare at the cameras and pointed at some of the women who were wearing hijab.

Then the group wanted to see my family’s land outside the village. They hurried across the major street, and we were able to identify where our land used to be. My father’s family was among the poor in the village, so it wasn’t much land, but we had olive, pomegranate, apricot, and fig trees, and a vegetable plot. As the camera panned over the land, it became very emotional for all of us. By then the settlers were more threatening, and it was time to leave. For me this was a beautiful way to recharge my batteries, my spirit, my hope that we will return.

As we commemorate another year of the Nakba on May 15, millions of refugees—from Palestine and many other countries—are living in terrible conditions. Many have died of thirst in the desert or sunk beneath the ocean as they escape oppression, poverty, and war. The world has no choice but to build our solidarity movements, stronger and more steadfast. And to continue the struggle for justice and liberation for everyone.

No doubt, we Palestinian refugees will access our right of return someday soon. It’s a fact, it’s not a dream. We know it, we feel it, we breathe it.