Liz Burkemper shared this with me, and I am happy to share it here. Liz is a sophomore at George Washington University.
“The Occupation has created generations of us that have to adore an unknown beloved: distant, difficult, surrounded by guards, by walls, by nuclear missiles, by sheer terror.” Themes of land, identity, and displacement color I Saw Ramallah, a lyrical memoir of lament by Mourid Barghouti. A Palestinian poet and intellectual, Barghouti was born in the agrarian village of Deir Ghassanah outside of Ramallah four years before the birth of the State of Israel. The memoir explores Barghouti’s identity as one of the naziheen, or “displaced ones” — during his undergraduate study at Cairo University, Barghouti witnesses the fall of Ramallah to Israeli forces as part of the Six-Day War in 1967, leading to thirty years of exile from his homeland. When Mourid finally returns to Palestine in 1996, the complexities of his relationship with the land become discernible. Though he spends “a lifetime…trying to get here,” Mourid discovers that “it is enough for a person to go through the first experience of uprooting, to become uprooted forever.”
Barghouti’s story is told as much through his identity as a Palestinian exiled from the homeland for thirty years as it is through his naturally poetic soul. Even when writing in prose, Barghouti offers a unique lyricism that is made manifest in the text. At the beginning of the book, Mourid describes his first experience back in Palestine: “This then is the ‘Occupied Territory’?…When the eye sees it, it has all the clarity of earth and pebbles and hills and rocks…It stretches before me, as touchable as a scorpion, a bird, a well; visible as a field of chalk, as the prints of shoes.” This passage brings to the story’s center the disconnect between the land of Palestine and its people created through decades of Israeli occupation. While Palestine is called many words — the West Bank and Gaza, occupied Palestine, Israel, Judea and Samaria, the Areas — the land itself remains at once the Palestinian homeland and a concept talked about by actors who think that they know, a reality never to be known by Palestinians themselves. Mourid continues to poetically narrate his return to Palestine: Read the rest of this entry »