isthisblog/links

by @isthisnagee

A Letter From Gaza

November 08, 2018

I guess this site has mostly been link dumps but it's my site so I can do whatever the fuck I want on it.

A wave of melancholy washed over me today and I don't feel like going through my news sites.

I'll save moments like this and post links to things I have read that have really impacted me. Maybe I'll write something on it.

Ghassan Kanafani wrote Letter From Gaza in 1956. This letter really brings it home for me.

I'm from Gaza. Can I really say I'm from a place that I have never been to? My father, the youngest of four and the only one born in Kuwait--not Gaza-- probably doesn't remember it well. It's a bit weird. "I'm from Gaza". The closest I've been to Gaza was when I visited the Dead Sea on a trip to Jordan some 10 years ago. A while back Egypt allowed for more access to and from Gaza (I think this was back when Morsi was president). My second cousins took a chance to leave and visit family outside of Gaza. I was in Kuwait that summer and so were they. The closest one in age was a year younger than me. I was 15? I remember overhearing a conversation between my mom and his mom. He still wet his bed. PTSD.

They're now back in Gaza and it is once again under blockade.

This letter starts off with an unnamed narrator telling his friend Mustafa that he won't be leaving Gaza for Sacramento to study Civil Engineering. My dad studied Civil Engineering in the CSU system, mostly in Long Beach but also in Sacramento. I grew up in Sacramento.

I really couldn't believe that the boring city of Sacramento that I knew and grew up in could grasp at my emotions in such a way. For the lack of memories that I don't have outside it, in Gaza.

My oldest family member, my dad's great aunt, died a few months ago. She lived her whole life in Gaza, all 90+ years. Whenever we called during Eid she would always ask about my siblings and I by name. "How is Nagee doing? Is he still in Toronto?"

That was the first time I called my dad and uncles and offered my condolences. "Verily we belong to God and to him we shall return". My dad was on the verge of tears. I went into an empty meeting room at work and just sat there for a bit. Why didn't I call her last Eid.

The writer of the letter goes to visit his younger brother's daughter in the hospital. He brings her some gifts from Kuwait, including a pair of red trousers.

I have a picture of myself when I was 5 or 6 in red overalls in Kuwait or Jordan. Or maybe it was Fulton Avenue with the Pizza Hut up the street.

Nadia lost her leg. She points to it after her uncle pulls out the trousers. Amputated from the top of the thigh.

I went out into the streets of Gaza, streets filled with blinding sunlight. They told me that Nadia had lost her leg when she threw herself on top of her little brothers and sisters to protect them from the bombs and flames that had fastened their claws into the house. Nadia could have saved herself, she could have run away, rescued her leg. But she didn't.

Why?

No, my friend, I won't come to Sacramento, and I've no regrets. No, and nor will I finish what we began together in childhood. This obscure feeling that you had as you left Gaza, this small feeling must grow into a giant deep within you. It must expand, you must seek it in order to find yourself, here among the ugly debris of defeat.

I won't come to you. But you, return to us! Come back, to learn from Nadia's leg, amputated from the top of the thigh, what life is and what existence is worth.

Come back, my friend! We are all waiting for you.

I sat in a basement classroom at University College in the University of Toronto staring out a sliver of a window as construction outside the building was hammering down. I was taking a class on Rebels, Misfits, and Outcasts in modern Arabic Lit. This letter is included in the book I bought for the required reading (Kanfani's Men in the Sun, which is excellent).

I sat in UC52 staring out a sliver of a window while construction hammered down and my identity was shaken to the core.

I will never forget that day. The day of the giant deep.

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