Lest I was writing on politics, she often asked me, “What are you writing about?” and I always replied, “You, mother. I only write about you.” She was not impressed. Nothing much impressed my mother. She led a dull life, a tough life where she had to raise the five of us, alone, at the worst of times.
I used to write more often when I was there. In Gaza. Not because I wanted to educate the world about the largest prison on earth, but writing was my anger. My words were the screaming voice of my own silence, my inability to speak or to be heard! They were the nonsense that constituted my attempts at comprehending the reasons behind my existence in this place, or what it signified. And now that I am out, there is nothing of any significance about my life when compared to life as it was in Gaza. Anger has been replaced since by my insignificance. And as Gaza lies now afar, a political interest for some, an object of sympathy for others, non-existent space for many, I refrain from talking. Talking Palestine is too personal that it becomes impossible. And since I disdain the discourse of victimhood, I disdain looks of sympathy, I disdain the dehumanizing effect of political philosophy, I drift to the Palestine I know. I drift to the comforting voice of my sister, to the playful spirit of my little brother, to the pictures of the little one born at the silence between two shells some war ago. It is the Palestine of the disappointment and the hope, of the misery and the laughter, the dreams and the reality, the dark and the light, the truth and the power-lessness. It is our political entanglement, our deprivation, our imprisonment, our daily dehumanization. It is our living. And as it lies there as a symbol, I lose the ability to speak it.
And then comes my mother; inviting anger again. She, along my presence in Gaza, has inspired words. She has always urged me to write even without meaning to when I got angry at her pain. My helplessness at presenting any comfort to her pain made me resort to writing. Five years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she had many battered battles with it since. Besides her battle with the cancer, we had to be reminded every day that we, as people, as lives, do not really matter as we waited for days and months for borders to open so she could exit to be treated in Egypt.
Today, as I learn that my mother has to resume her battle again, I hate those same borders again as they refuse to let me in. I hate my fear from them as they stand between me and the most important person in my life, as they prevent my presence, my simple wish to be present, as I fear going in and not being able to go out, as I fear my entrapment between fear and selfishness, as I fear loss!
Gaza still lies afar, unseen by many, unheard of, leaving no space for human intimacy, for a simple wish from a powerless woman who wants the comfort of her mother’s embrace. She, who repeated to me every day how strong I was, continues to push those trembling hands to write about my fragility.