People have been asking me, why Palestine? When people think of places to spend their summers, they think of opulent and gritty Paris, the wonders of London in summer, the Italian coast, Barcelona, places with which to relax and soak up pleasure like a sponge. Perhaps it’s that I feel society has fatted me like a calf for slaughter, and I want to try my own strength against the world. I’m stronger than most people realize, stronger I think than even I know.
It started as a curiosity, a seed of fascination that was planted when I was seventeen, and that gained more sun and water with the input and influence of University in England, where I happened to meet a pair of brothers who spared no breath in regaling me with tales of home, home.
There is something in these stories, and in everything that they have told me, that aches with me. Keys without doors, and a people without a home.
What is that key for around your neck? Many people have asked. I tell them it’s a lost thing, it doesn’t have a door anymore. The mansion it belonged to burned down years ago. That is why I wear it around my neck.
The Palestinians give keys to their children as a symbol of the homes that they have lost, many of them still standing, just winking at them from across the wall.
Walking down a busy London street, my friend Wael, and his lovely friend Shadan stop in the middle of the sidewalk. They say a spattering of Arabic, but I don’t mind, Arabic with the Palestinian lilt sounds like poetry. I ask them what they’re looking at, and with wide glowing eyes and a wide smile, Wael says that the trees growing in the pot outside of a mediterranean restaurant were olive trees, and weren’t they beautiful? I nod my head and say yes they are, I remember groves of them in Spain. Shadan and Wael then reminisce about lemon and limes, olives, and the taste of all the fresh things of home. They feel such a strong connection to the land that they were raised in, the land that is theirs, even if the world does not admit it.
Still they weep, for the homes that their grandparents knew. And running through the passion and power that seems inherent in their culture, is a loss, a hole of homelessness. I admit that I myself feel that ache, an ache for a home that I have never seen.
But I am a key without a door. Their keys have homes.
Why am I going to Palestine? Because I am a citizen of the world, each land does not belong to me, I belong to it. Even if the world does not admit it. Each human being that cries out for understanding, each that has a story to tell, is whispering to holes in the ground, or the ears of avarice and apathy. I will listen. Changing the world is a lot like doing well at a low paying and mundane job, you don’t have to work that hard as long as you show up. I don’t want to wait for the world to change, I want to get my hands deep into the earth and make something grow from it, I know that it may take a lifetime for these seeds to grow, but I’m patient, and for those to become something of beauty that bears a million seeds, that may take many generations. I won’t ever see the product, but just like the flowers my parents plant in houses that they know they’re moving from soon, they plant it for the appreciation of the person who shall live in this house five years from now.
This key without a door has many houses to visit, so I can carve a lock for myself every place I go, and spread my belief of mutual respect, understanding and universal love. People call me foolish and idealistic, but it’s the best I can do, and life is not worth living unless that is what I’m doing.
My comrades of the great wide world! Listen- stop assuming that by not contributing to the problem you are not causing harm. Apathy is the same as not showing up to work, only instead of a paycheck you’re losing, we’re losing the chance to actually make change in the world.