Guest post from Mohamad Amin, a long-time supporter of MECA’s work
We just had a fabulous and historic trip to the Homeland in Palestine that has been in the making for almost 60 years, although I couldn’t help feeling sad and outraged at the realities on the ground especially in the West Bank under an oppressive and vicious occupation that has gone in now for 52 years. Nevertheless, the Palestinian people are incredibly resolute, determined and resourceful and they shall overcome the current realities no matter the sacrifiecs. On this trip, I got to see our family’s hometown of Umm Al Fahem, visit my father’s grave (who passed there 24 years ago) and meet my last surviving uncle and aunt from my father’s side, all for the first time in my life.
I also enjoyed visiting my hometown and birthplace, Nablus, for the first time since we left the house to Jerusalem, where we flew to Kuwait to start a new life with a better opportunity, I grew up in Nablus for most of early childhood and had my fondest memories till the tender age of 8 when my family left to Kuwait for a better opportunity.
The road between Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank was littered with tens of illegal Israeli settlements strategically located on hill tops and enjoying the most modern buildings, parks, roads, amenities and access to 4 times as much fresh water as Palestinians living in villages and towns just below them!
And I got to achieve my long-standing dream of praying again in the Al Aqsa Mosque (Dome of the Rock) in Jerusalem, where my father used to take me and my older sister on certain Fridays for prayers and to visit our priest friend at the Church of Resurrection (aka The Church of Holy Sepulcher) and buy candles from him – a very emotional visit indeed!
Nothing much had changed since except for the presence of a foreign occupation force every which way we went in Jerusalem. This time around, which marks my first return since the Israelis occupied East Jerusalem as a consequence of the Six-Day War in 1967, we were struck (and understandably intimated) by the sight of groups of 6 Israeli soldiers each, scattered throughout the narrow passages of the souk leading to the Haram Al-Sharif, heavily armed and huddled together behind barricades in vigil and fear, with their fingers on the machine gun triggers, as if they are ready to shoot at the very first sign of disturbance!
I have a half-sister in Ramallah and 2 half-brothers in Umm Al Fahem (the youngest of whom I got to meet for the first time 34 years after he was born!) and we had a lot of fun visiting with them and cherishing the fond memories of our father and families. We also had a lot of fun seeing how beautiful Old Palestine is in Lake Tiberius, Nazareth, Haifa, (Sea of Galilee), Akko and Yafo.
The trip still seems surreal!
Author is a Palestinian American chemical engineer and a professional water desalination and membrane technology expert and consultant with 36 years of experience worldwide. He, like his 10 brothers and sisters, achieved the highest levels of education and professional achievements, as their father and mother kept telling them that “As Palestinians, your education is the only thing no one can take away from you!”. He went to college first in Egypt at the American University in Cairo for his chemistry degree and later in the US at Georgia Tech in Atlanta for his chemical engineering degrees and research work. He and his American-born, Irish-heritage wife, happily married for almost 32 years now, own and run their own engineering consulting business out of their offices in Tucson, Arizona and San Diego, California.