Depending on your point of view, yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel, or today is the day to remember the Nakba, the catastrophe that forced many, many thousands of Palestinians from their homes and livelihoods. Many of those Palestinians and many more of their descendants still live in refugee camps created nearly 60 years ago.
It's been more than 10 years since I've been in Palestine and I don't follow Palestinian politics as closely as I used to then. My interests have shifted toward Central Asia, and honestly, it was a lot easier to be optimistic about Palestinian prospects in the 90s than it is now.
But Palestine will always be important to me. It's where I was first lived in a Muslim area (I lived in East Jerusalem), where I learned to communicate in Arabic, where I met my husband, someone who shares my interest and love for the Islamic world. I only spent 9 months there, but it was a life-changing nine months (sort of like a pregnancy, no?).
But the primary reason I love Palestine is because of the people I met there and the friends we still have from there. People travelling to Palestine talk about the hospitality, and that's true, but Palestinians are more than hospitality (and there are plenty of other hospitable people in the world). Maybe the reason tourists talk so much about hospitality is that they often can't speak the language and smiles and food are all they can share.
What I loved was talking to Palestinians to hear their stories, whether they were wealthy and lived in large homes in the West Bank, or if they were students in Nablus, or if they were living in a refugee camp in Gaza. We heard about politics mostly, and more politics, but we also heard about children, about Islam, about prayer, about architecture, about cooking, about ghosts, about djinn, and then some more about politics.
There's so much more I could say here, but I'll just leave it with this. Even though I love Central Asia and that's where we're focusing our efforts, we'll always love Palestine. And we'll pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the welfare of the Palestinians.