There was the slightest quiver in her voice when I told her where I was. I hesitated to answer her question with ‘Ramallah’, knowing it was almost asking for heartbreak. But, she already knew that’s where I was headed and I knew the question was more of checking in that I’d arrived safely than it was a question about my location.
Ruba, one of my cousins in Tripoli, has one of those voices and souls that soothes you, and when you sense either of those things disturbed, it really does a number on you.
I know part of the quiver of her voice in her response was just that I was anywhere other than Tripoli, anywhere where you could go outside the walls of your house. The other part was an envy of a different brand.
“Sawri, dakheelik, Noura, sawri kol ishi.”
“7adir, wallay himmik, baw3idik, 7asawir kol ishi.”
“O Yaffa – 3indik s7ab fi Yaffa, sa7?”
“Ah, akeed ra7 aroo7 ashoofhom.”
I knew what she was thinking.
Khaled, her husband, and his family are from Yaffa.
“7asawirlik Yaffa kolha…” I said.
It’s amazing what the promise of pictures can mean, when it might be the closest you’ll ever get to home.
And then there are the phone calls from those just out of reach, but so close by.
My uncle in Gaza calls me almost every night. He says I’m closer now; even if he can’t see me, at least I’m closer, he says.
“Hayk, 3al agal, il wa7ad 7assik gareeba 3alay…”
I sit and chat with him. I talk to my little cousins who are amazed at the notion that I’m near Jerusalem, a myth of a place in their imaginations – though it’s just a few hours away. Little Aisha, 6, tells me she wants to be a dentist, like Baba. She insists Fayez, her older brother, will be one too. A clinic to fix everyone in the family’s teeth…oh, and everyone in Gaza too, she says.
“Wait!” she says, in mid-conversation. Baffled, yet again. “How can you live in America and be near Jerusalem?” I explained I’m here just for the summer. The concept of simple travel beyond the comprehension of an entire lifetime under seige…
“Sawriliyaha Falasteen, Nour! Sawriliyaha!”
“Habibti, inti fi Falasteen… gazdik, asawrlik il Dafa?”
“La2! Sawrili Falasteen kolha!”
“7adir, 7asawrlik kol ishi…”
“O ba3dayn, 7atjibili il sowar 3ala Ghazza, SA7?!”
“Inshallah, habibti, inshallah…”