Wala’: The Untrodden Beauty of Palestine

Reading the title, her smile must have already found its way to her face, tears welling in her eyes with a Palestinian proud refusal to surrender to a burst of overwhelming emotions. Yet you could still ostensibly see the tears struggling around the green apple of her eyes just like every time she remembers that next year we might never meet again. Just like the first time it dawned upon her, upon me, this absolutely ridiculous fact that next year is going to bring us back to our 23-year separation.

Her name is Wala. My first Palestinian friend I meet from the other part of Palestine. The West Bank where my feet have never trodden but my heart has always yearned to.

Wala’ is the essence of the fragmentation of home. She’s the inaccessible world I was ever denied just for the simple fact that both of us were born in different part of the borders. She in Hebron. I in Gaza.

“It’s two hours by car,” we explained to our Chinese flatmate. Our tireless exhausting talks to that poor Chinese girl on why we cannot meet at home were futile, however. She seemingly couldn’t comprehend it. “Why are you making of such a very short drive a complex matter? Isn’t it only an hour or two-hour drive by car? Then, why cannot you both simply meet?” She kept repeating, bemused by our desperate looks. Yet, I wouldn’t blame her. For years, I had struggled with the same thought and question of why? My mother couldn’t explain it to me. Neither could politics or even history.

It is our peculiar contradiction yet striking resemblance that makes of us, as I’d like to think, the embodiment of “Palestine”.  Unlike me, she’s got a Marxist mentality rebelling against all sort of rules that might constraint her. Her impatient character, I assume, is a result of hours of waiting on checkpoints. Her uncouth constant insults have once been directed to hostile armed settlers. Simply, Wala is a typical revolutionary Hebronite who, despite everything, refuses to be confined by anything.

Watching us in the kitchen is not a pleasant scene for our friends (especially with knives at hand). They would beg us not to hurt each other while arguing whether hers or mine is the right way of flipping the Maqlooba, the Palestinian traditional dish (Doubtful as I have become of the fact). Shouting at her and swiftly smiling victoriously after our continuous attempt of cooking the maqloobah work tells me of the many similarities that can bring us together no matter how forcefully the occupation is trying to draw us asunder. Our love for za’tar ( Thyme). Our similar Palestinian embroidered dresses. Our Kuffeya. Our keenness to the same type of traditional and national songs of belonging and home. Our resentment to the same occupier

At a time, Wala’s existence was a mere thought of a beautiful Palestine lying unreachable behind the borders amongst hundreds of checkpoints and behind a lifeless wall, deaf to all those shouts for freedom in the impulsive graffiti. A silly joke we used to tell of a Hebronite. A news item of how aggressive the settlers are being towards the residents of Hebron. Now, she’s just my country fellow in exile. In the cold countryside of England.

Struggling to find a proper end to this post, I just cannot. I thought about, “And when I tell my children of another part of Palestine called Hebron, I’ll remember my dear Hebronite friend”, but this is not the end I want. This is not the end