Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 15th, 2018

In my Palestinian grandfather’s story, I find reasons to endure

Like all refugees, Ahmad Badawi Mustafa Ayoub left the world unmourned.

His memories rent from the land that made them. But his story, like Palestine’s itself, will matter well beyond the next negotiation. No empire, no flag, or sovereign can change that.

Ahmad Badawi Mustafa Ayoub with his family. (Courtesy of Samer Badawi)

Ahmad Badawi Mustafa Ayoub with his family. (Courtesy of Samer Badawi)

The Government of Palestine’s Directorate of Education, from its Samaria branch in Nablus, informed Ahmad Badawi Mustafa Ayoub that his teaching duties had been re-assigned on December 8, 1936.

The 35-year-old had 11 days to report to a new school in Deir el-Ghusoun, a village that, according to a 1931 British census, was home to some 450 households, all of them Muslim.

It was in this boys-only school that the third eldest of my five aunts learned to read and write.

While the other village parents kept their young daughters at home, my Palestinian grandfather, the teacher from Samaria, sat his at the classroom’s helm, where the lords of the British Empire held no rein.

In this post-peace era, palls cast over our long negotiation with Israel, these little histories can seem too quaint.

After all, with so many threats against our identity, so many of our people stripped of agency, we Palestinians must spar with an awful present. But in this fight, our family chronicles make for more than wistful conversation. They give us more reasons to endure.

I was reminded of this while scrolling through an archive of my grandfather’s papers, struggling to draw some perspective from the rush of eulogies for Oslo’s ninth life.

What I discovered — in his Ottoman birth certificate, his British teaching credentials, his various letters from this or that Jordanian directorate — was evidence of a life more resolute than the three sovereigns that defined it.

A letter addressed to Ahmad Badawi Mustafa Ayoub from the Deir Ballut District British Inspector. (Courtesy of Samer Badawi)

A letter addressed to Ahmad Badawi Mustafa Ayoub from the Deir Ballut District British Inspector. (Courtesy of Samer Badawi)

Ahmad was born in 1901 to Al-Haj Mustafa Ayoub, a Sufi poet from the village of Majdal Sadeq and was a subject of the vast and waning Ottoman Empire, which had by then ruled Palestine for some 400 years.

When his son was barely out of infancy, Ayoub (Arabic for “Job” the prophet) moved his family to Shweikeh, just outside the northern Palestinian town of Tulkarem. There, Ahmad completed his early schooling before enrolling in Jerusalem’s Rashidiya School.

According to a biography written by another of his grandsons, the day of Ahmad’s departure was a festive one, with neighbors and their children gathering to see the young pupil off. Back then, it seems, it was a sight to behold: a village boy bound for Jerusalem, where only a select few attended its finest institutions.

Rashidiya counts among its alumni the Palestinian nationalist poet Ibrahim Touqan, whose signature work from the 1936 “Arab” Revolt or Palestinian Intifada, (Civil disobedience that lasted 3 years and Britain had to dispatch 100,000 troop to control it) the longest sustained nationalist Palestinian uprising against British Mandatory control, eventually became the lyric to Iraq’s national anthem.

Although Ahmad completed his higher-level teaching certificate there, a British administrator ordered him back to the plains of Tulkarem, where he was to open new schools in the then-distant villages of northern Palestine.

And so he did. In nearly four decades of service to the Palestine he knew, my grandfather helped rear two generations of would-be citizens.

To this day, some of his pupils from that era, all septuagenarians themselves, will recall how ustaz (teacher) Ahmad used to strike fear in the hearts of this or that peer, dissuading others who might foolishly be inclined to mischief.

I knew Sido (grandfather) as terse and forceful, too, but I found these qualities reassuring, like the relentless rhythms of a tightly formed qasidah (poem).

In a devastating elegy to his “suffocated generation,” the Damascene poet Nizar Qabbani counsels the children of the “Arab” nation: “You don’t win a war with a reed and a flute.”

But my grandfather, like so many of his comrades from the time, fought a different kind of war. He outlived Britain’s reign and the Ottomans’ before it, and when he retired, his end-of-service certificate, dated June 19, 1961, came stamped by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s Directorate of Education. In Nablus.

Ahmad Badawi Mustafa Ayoub and his wife, 1981. (Courtesy of Samer Badawi)

Ahmad Badawi Mustafa Ayoub and his wife, 1981. (Courtesy of Samer Badawi)

The last time I saw Sido, he was sitting on the edge of a bed in the basement of my aunt’s home in Amman. The day marked nothing in particular — no anniversary, no celebration, no birth or death.

Yet there he was, ever the school teacher, his kuffiyeh draped over a black suit jacket, now loose over an atrophied frame.

“May I enter, Sido?” I asked in my timid Arabic. He acknowledged my presence, without saying a word, and I walked in to sit beside him. There, seven decades between us, we sat shoulder to shoulder and let the silence have its say.

He would die soon after, at the age of 92, just as Bill Clinton’s “peace” ushered in a new era of displacement and loss.

Like all refugees, Ahmad Badawi Mustafa Ayoub left the world unmoorned, his memories rent from the land that made them. But his story, like Palestine’s itself, will matter well beyond the next negotiation.

No empire, no flag, or sovereign can change that.

Related stories


What’s the point of staff development if career ladders look like traffic jams?

Tough times end promotions and end pay raises.

Maybe it’s better to slow or stop staff development. What can you offer? Don’t raise hopes. However…The people you want on your team want to learn and grow.

If they don’t want to grow, they’re dead-ends. They’ll take you there too.

Mind shift:

Julie Winkle Giulioni, co-author of, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, suggests new attitudes and approaches to “staff development.”


Get rid of phrases like staff development. It sounds like a disease to me. Toss out leadership development and employee development as well. Embrace career development. (Like increasing your general knowledge?)

Reject linear. Career development isn’t simply climbing the corporate ladder. It’s climbing the career wall.

Julie suggests career development looks like rock climbing. Careers move vertically and laterally.

Think nonlinear“Think moving forward and toward rather than upward.” (Julie Winkle Giulioni)

Stop taking responsibility for staff advancement. Help employees take ownership of their development and career path.


Every manager can begin career development dialogs – short, focused, on-going conversations that explore ways to creatively enhance and develop employee talents.

Julie said; focus on employee-talent more than contribution. Talent is about people. Contribution is about organizations.

“For years we’ve heard that ‘talk is cheap.’ Not true.”
Help them Grow or Watch them Go.


Julie says, career advancement begins with managers who:

  1. Facilitate insights and awareness.
  2. Explore possibilities and opportunities.
  3. Inspire responses that drive employee-owned action.


  1. Stretch assignments.
  2. Special projects.
  3. In-department rotations.
  4. Action learning projects or teams.
  5. Job shadowing.
  6. Community service.

If “staff development” makes you anxious, check out, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go.

What career development activities most help you?

What prevents managers from focusing on developing talent?

Mon cher Ado/Nada. Part 51

Aujourd’hui , la France célèbre l’anniversaire de l’Armistice de 1918.

Il y a cent ans les antagonistes européens signaient la paix après une première guerre mondiale qui entraîna la mort de millions d’hommes …Une belle folie meurtrière ! (Et l’accord de “Paix” des pays coloniaux a preparer le chemin pour la seconde guerre et des million d’autre dans tout le monde et les guerres se succedent depuis)

Il n y a pas de quoi pavoiser ma chère Nada .

Pour se consoler d’avoir massacré toute une génération de jeunes hommes qui ne demandaient qu’à vivre en paix auprès de leurs épouses et de leurs parents , et qui de leurs enfants , le président de la République va déposer une gerbe de fleurs sur la tombe du soldat inconnu sous l’Arc de Triomphe à Paris. (Et la France qui a mandate’ la Syrie et le Liban avec des gens pas instruits, puisque les plus cultive’ sont mort “egalitairement”)

Triste sort …

Il y a cent ans aussi , le 11novembre 1918 naissait à Mamou , une ville de la haute Guinée , ma mère …
En ce temps-là , la Guinée était une colonie française , et beaucoup de Libanais de notre village s’y étaient rendus pour y travailler.

Le Liban , toujours sous l’Empire Ottoman, ne leur permettait pas de subvenir à leurs besoins les plus pressants . (Une famine premeditee’ pour punir les Libanais avait decime’ des Libanais et des Syriens)

Et, ce jour-là , au moment où ma mère naissait , les cloches de l’église de Mamou se mirent à sonner la victoire de la France sur l’Allamagne . De ce fait le commandant du cercle de Mamou qui se trouvait chez mes grands-parents , suggéra à ma grand-mère qu’on l’appela Victoire .

Ainsi fut fait . Et ma mère, tout au long de sa vie , elle ne cessait de nous raconter à chaque anniversaire pourquoi elle s’appelait Victoire …

Je crois qu’aujourd’hui , du haut du ciel , elle doit sourire de fierté d’avoir été prénommé Vitoire . Salut maman !


Dans le train de la vie , ma chère Mireille , nous côtoyons toutes sortes de gens .
Comme l’a si bien dit Jean d’Ormesson , nous voyageons avec des bons , des moins bons et des mauvais , voire des très mauvais .

À nous d’essayer d’éviter , dans la mesure du possible , les personnes nuisibles qui s’agitent autour de nous .

Farfoura , ma grand-mère , disait toujours: mon Dieu ! Éloigne de nous l’heure satanique où l’on succombe .

Janséniste sans le savoir , elle s’adonnait à la prière à chaque instant de la journée, surtout en hiver quand elle s’installait des heures durant avec le chapelet à la main, accroupie devant le feu qu’elle remuait d’une main fragile afin que Dieu la protège du mal qui peut nous surprendre à chaque tournant du voyage .




November 2018

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