Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘The Levant

 

Three generations after the Nakba, still struggling to define home

For Madlaine Ahmad, born and raised in Doha to Palestinian parents with Jordanian citizenship, the answer to ‘where are you from?’ is never simple, and always seems to be wrong.

By Madlaine Ahmad

From left to right, the author's aunt, mother and grandmother on the land they used to harvest in Jordan. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

From left to right, the author’s aunt, mother and grandmother on the land they used to harvest in Jordan. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

I changed my Facebook profile picture the other day. It was a photo of a fair woman covered in gold and henna. It would have been clear to anyone from bilad al-sham (the Levant) that she was from the Gulf region, where women dress up a certain way.

“How beautiful,” one person remarked. The comment that followed, by a Palestinian girl friend, surprised me: “Women are beautiful, but the hands of our women in particular are the most beautiful.”

I didn’t understand what she meant, and a discussion ensued: “If you lined up everybody’s hands side by side, I would still be able to distinguish those of the Palestinian fallaha (peasant), and I would feel an immense love for her.”

We Palestinians stand out in many ways: with our scorched arms after the harvest, our diaspora, the occupation, our widows and orphans, and death – so much death.

Usually, the word “Palestinian” elicits images of a child hurling stones at a military tank, and the perception is that only Palestinians who live within the borders of Sykes-Picot (division of control of the region between France and England during WWI) still suffer, that those who freed themselves from these invented borders managed to survive and thrive. Well, let me tell you about my experience, as a Palestinian whose ancestors escaped.

My Palestine story is brief. It does not contain death, or soldiers, or hurling rocks. I have never had to face the occupier, but I also haven’t been fortunate enough to visit any part of Palestine.

During the 1948 war, my grandfather fled with his family to Karak in Jordan. They were told they would be able to return in a matter of weeks. They set up tents and planted wheat and waited for Palestine, but Palestine never came. In a heartbeat, the Palestinian dream was lost, and they became victims of history, uprooted, with nothing but a key to a home they would never return to.

They moved to Amman, where they tried to forge a new life with their 9 children. They could only afford a two-bedroom house – one room for the chickens they were raising, and another to sleep the family of 11.

My father told me how, at 13, he helped build the railway that still functions to this day. He told me how he would study under the street lights at night, because they did not have electricity at home. It was painful for him when he had to move to Lebanon to complete his studies. Upon graduating, he returned to Jordan, where he served in the military for two years.

Soon after, the dream of a job opportunity in the Gulf presented itself, and he moved with my mother to Qatar. There, I was born. I was raised in Doha as a Jordanian – my official papers had no mention of my Palestinian heritage.

My father would say we were from Palestine, but who ever paid attention to my father’s words? Whenever I was asked, “where are you from, Madlaine?” I would say, “from Jordan.”

The author's father, right, in the Jordanian military service. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

The author’s father, right, in the Jordanian military service. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

In 2010, a dispute developed between the two countries; Qatar would revoke all work permits for Jordanians, and expel them back.

I arrived in Jordan two years short of 20, thinking I had finally come home! It had not occurred to me that the dispute which ended my father’s work prospects would also destroy my childhood memories. I had never lived in Jordan, and was new to everything in my homeland, which, I soon learned, it was not.

Now, when asked “where are you from, Madlaine?” I simply say, “from here.” I am then confronted with a more precise question: “Which province in Jordan are you from?” To which I feel compelled to say, “I am Palestinian, originally from the city of Hebron.”

I soon learned that, whatever my answer, it would be the wrong thing to say in any situation.

If you say you’re Palestinian, you are usually reprimanded for denying a favor: “You [Palestinians] came here, were raised here, given the chance to study and work – is that not enough to warrant your assimilation?” But if I were to say that I’m Jordanian, I wouldn’t hear the end of it from fellow Palestinians who would accuse me of denying my identity and “selling the cause” for some privileges.

In my journey of discovery, I learned of two sports clubs in Jordan. Al-Wehdat was established in 1956, at the Wehdat Palestinian refugee camp, and remained a subsidiary of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that every Palestinian in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan roots for Al-Wehdat. Perhaps they see themselves in the team, see proof that refugees, too, can succeed, and therefore find it easier to accept the stamp of diaspora. And then there’s the Faisaly Sports Club, which enjoys support and admiration from all Jordanians.

Any match between these two teams is a war: a cold war precedes the games, and then it turns into a full-blown battle on social media, where Palestinians are nothing short of bullied, with statements like, “pack your mulukhiyyahs and make your way home through the bridge.”

They mean the King Hussein Bridge, which most of our ancestors walked when they sought refuge. There have been plenty of violent incidents in the stands at these games, leaving many wounded, and some even dead.

I got engaged to my ex-husband – who was Jordanian-Jordanian, not Palestinian- Jordanian, as I am – after a love affair that lasted for months. His family, however, did not approve of a Palestinian woman. But I am Jordanian, I would think to myself. I don’t know what the trick was, but eventually, they accepted me.

Still, I would have to sit in their living room and endure the hurtful statements of news commentators, who would say things like “Palestinians are to be blame for selling their lands,” or “they [Palestinians] are all agents.” Perhaps his family thought that, now that they’ve accepted me as a Jordanian, I did not have the right to oppose those statements or defend Palestinians.

Once, when my husband and I were living in Saudi Arabia, my mother-in-law and her brother came for a visit on their way to Hajj (pilgrimage). As we walked down one of the streets, some souvenirs in the colors of the Jordanian flag caught their eyes. “Why don’t you get one for yourself,” suggested my mother-in-law, “since the colors of our flag are the same as those of the Palestinian one.” Her brother took offence: “Palestine? What is your nationality, Madlaine?” I said I carry a Jordanian passport. “Then you will buy these on the grounds that you are Jordanian.”

I had given up on talking back, or making any statements at all, really. Until I gave birth to my son. As any mother, I felt the need to pass on my culture and history to my child.

My husband and his family were not pleased with that. They made it clear to me that my son was Jordanian, with no stake in the Palestinian struggle. He is even to be prevented from listening to Al-Wehdat’s anthem. For this and several other reasons, I divorced my husband.

We fled from the occupier to find ourselves in countries that consider us, Palestinians, occupiers. They see us as people who have robbed them of their livelihood and stole their lands. As if our ancestors did not harvest this land with them, as if we had not built their railways with them, or studied in the flickers of street lights to complete our education, or served in their armies.

My childhood was wiped out because the country that saw me as Jordanian expelled me, but I came here only to discover that I am not Jordanian. That for my son to be considered Jordanian, he must not have any association with his mother’s Palestinian roots. Not everyone who fled Palestine has managed to survive, and the occupation is not the only source of our oppression. I can no longer tell where I am from, for my homeland denies my identity, and I have no evidence of my heritage.

Note: The creation of this monarchic Jordan State was the brain child of Churchill in order to eventually allow refugee Palestinians to settle in after the creation of Israel. Thus Jordan was created 2 decades before Israel when France and England enjoyed a mandate over all this Near-East region, including Iraq and a large part of Turkey.

Madlaine Ahmad is Jordanian of Palestinian descent. She lives in Jordan, where she works as a translator for local online platforms, and edits for aljazeera.net. She is interested in covering marginalized voices in society in a way that humanizes their experiences.

Related stories
Advertisements

The Old living way in the Levant

كنت تفوت على الدار
تلاقي حمار مربوطة بعامود الكهربا الخشب ع مدخل الدار …
وبوابة عتيقة خشبها مشقق
وقفلها مصدي …وبتفتحها
بتزيزأ وبينكسر الصمت…
بتدخل عالدار وبتعبق ريحة
الحطب الوالع بالموقدة للطبخ ..
وبتفح ريحة صابون البرش العربي
من اللكن الطافح بالغسيل
والمي دارجة مع رغوة
الصابون …جنب البركة …
من حد حملة حطب
السنديان والغار بتاخد معها
الوراق اليابسة …
وعايمينك على المسطبة بالارض شوية
بامية يابسة وشوية ملوخية بلاطة
لحمة بجنب البركة
مغسولة …
ومنجل معلق بمسمار بالحيط …وشاكوش …
وفاروعة …وأدوم …
وكيس جنفيص مخيط
بالمسلة داخلو مقص عريش وسكين سان ويت لتطعيم الزيتون ..
وبنطلون عري منشور
ع سلم خشب قديم متكي
ع حيط مورق بالطين …
وميزان بصحنين قش …
ومد لكيل القمح والزيتون
والسميد…
وبالزاوية عدة لشك الدخان
ميبر ومسلة وخيطان …
واوضة البقرات ع مدخلها
فدان الفلاحة ..السكة ..
والنير وجلال الحمار ..
واوضة القعدة فيها
حصيرة ومساند وطراحة …
ومعلق عالحيطان صورة الكعبة .وسيف ذو الفقار.. والإمام علي والأسد رابض عند قدميه …
وبتدخل لجوا بتلاقي
اللحف والفرش والشراشف
فوق بعضها مغطايين بشرشف ابيض …
وخزانة خشب قديمة
نملية ….بتعبق منها ريحة
الزمن …
وببور كاز ساحر
وروائح الزعتر اليابس واليانسون والزوفا والسميد والسماق بتفوت ع مناخيرك منعشة ..
وارض الدار مروبة
ناعمة وبتندهلك يلا عالغدا …

كبة بطاطا .. وصحن كمونة وبطاطا مقلية عالحطب
سلطة …فرفحين …ومقتا وبندورة بعلية مع زيت زيتون ..
كاسة لبن …وجاط بليلة ..
وعدة خبز مرقوق …
وبعد الغدا بتطلع بطلع لتحت التينة
عادرج معمر من حجارة المقلع وبتشرب كباية شاي وبتتلئح عالحصيرة بخيمة الغوردل والهوا بيلعب لعب …

ومرات بتنام تحت خيمة العريش وبتغفل وما بيعود فيك تفتح عيونك..

آخ يا زمن آخ …
يا ريت بيرجع
الزمن الماضي …
وما بدنا لا مصاري ولا تقدم ولا مدنية …
ونرجع نلعب بالدار
ومانحلم
نكون اد الكبار…
يا ريت ..

تحية حب 💕 لكل من عاش ذالك الزمن الماضي ..

Image may contain: plant and outdoor

Story of “This Land is Mine”

The story shared by Israel and Palestine has been told in several stunning films, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it told like this.

 created this brief animated history of the land that was at one time called Israel, Palestine, Canaan and the Levant.

She even created this viewer’s guide to make sense of what’s happening.

Posted by Films For Action this Oct. 7, 2012 a 3 min – Short Film:

I’ve Never Seen the Israel / Palestine Conflict Illustrated More Uniquely Than This

Who’s Killing Who? A Viewer’s Guide

Because you can’t tell the players without a pogrom!

Early Man

Early Man This generic “cave man” represents the first human settlers in Israel/Canaan/the Levant. Whoever they were.

Canaanite

Canaanite.  What did ancient Canaanites look like? I don’t know, so this is based on ancient Sumerian art.

Ancient Egyptian

Egyptian. Canaan was located between two huge empires. Egypt controlled it sometimes, and…

Assyrian

Assyrian ….Assyria controlled it other times.

Israelite

Israelite The “Children of Israel” conquered the shit out of the region, according to bloody and violent Old Testament accounts.

Babylonian

Babylonian. The Baylonians destroyed their temple and took the Hebrews into exile.

Macedonian/Alexander

Macedonian/Greek.  Here comes Alexander the Great, conquering everything!

Greek

Greek/Macedonian. No sooner did Alexander conquer everything, than his generals divided it up and fought with each other.

Ptolmaic

Ptolemaic. Greek descendants of Ptolemy, another of Alexander’s competing generals, ruled Egypt dressed like Egyptian god-kings. (The famous Cleopatra of western mythology and Hollywood was a Ptolemy.)

Seleucid

Seleucid. More Greek-Macedonian legacies of Alexander.

Hebrew Priest

Hebrew Priest. This guy didn’t fight, he just ran the Second Temple re-established by Hebrews in Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile.

Maccabee

Maccabee.  Led by Judah “The Hammer” Maccabee, who fought the Seleucids, saved the Temple, and invented Channukah. Until…

Roman

Roman ….the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and absorbed the region into the Roman Empire…

Byzantine

Byzantine ….which split into Eastern and Western Empires. The eastern part was called the Byzantine Empire. I don’t know if “Romans” ever fought “Byzantines” (Eastern Romans) but this is a cartoon.

Caliph

Arab Caliph Speaking of cartoon, what did an Arab Caliph look like? This was my best guess.

Crusader

Crusader After Crusaders went a-killin’ in the name of Jesus Christ, they established Crusader states, most notably the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Egyptian Mamluk

Mamluk of Egypt.Wikipedia sez, “Over time, mamluks became a powerful military caste in various Muslim societies…In places such as Egypt from the Ayyubid dynasty to the time of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, mamluks were considered to be “true lords”, with social status above freeborn Muslims.[7]” And apparently they controlled Palestine for a while.

Ottoman Turk

Ottoman Turk Did I mention this is a cartoon? Probably no one went to battle looking like this. But big turbans, rich clothing and jewelry seemed to be in vogue among Ottoman Turkish elites, according to paintings I found on the Internet.

Arab

Arab  A gross generalization of a generic 19-century “Arab”.

British

British The British formed alliances with Arabs, then occupied Palestine. This cartoon is an oversimplification, and uses this British caricature as a stand-in for Europeans in general.

Palestinian

Palestinian The British occupied this guy’s land, only to leave it to a vast influx of….

European Jew/Zionist

European Jew/Zionist Desperate and traumatized survivors of European pogroms and death camps, Jewish Zionist settlers were ready to fight to the death for a place to call home, but…

Hezbollah

PLO/Hamas/Hezbollah

….so were the people that lived there. Various militarized resistance movements arose in response to Israel: The Palestinian Liberation OrganizationHamas, and Hezbollah.

State of Israel

State of Israel

Backed by “the West,” especially the US, they got lots of weapons and the only sanctioned nukes in the region.

Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/Terrorist

Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/Terrorist Sometimes people fight in military uniforms, sometimes they don’t. Creeping up alongside are illicit nukes possibly from Iran or elsewhere in the region. Who’s Next?

Angel of Death

and finally…

The Angel of Death The real hero of the Old Testament, and right now too.

Note: If you want to support this project, please notice I have Paypal and Flattr buttons. TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donations accepted via the nonprofit QuestionCopyright.org.

Prophesies of “end of time”: In “Rainbow over the Levant”

Note:  This article is a section of chapter 17 of  the fiction novel “Rainbow over the Levant”: The Exile

In 1400, Timorlank was closing in with his Tatar hordes toward Northern Syria. The Viceroy of Aleppo was frantic and sent messengers after messengers for directions from his master the Mameluk Sultan of Egypt.  He requested reinforcements and financial support but Cairo did not stir.

The Viceroys of Damascus and Hama were of no help either, and as completely in the dark as to the policies of the Sultan of Egypt.  The agents of the First Emir of Lebanon reported that Egypt’s position was not to intervene at this stage either financially or militarily and to concentrate its resources in Egypt for the time being.

It seems that the advisers to the Sultan reminded his Majesty that these hordes, like the Moguls before them, never ventured into Egypt, and most of the time they retreat after capturing Damascus. They also reminded the Sultan that when Holago the Mogul decided to advance to Palestine a century and a half ago the Mameluks defeated him easily in 1260 at two major battles.

These counselors assured the Sultan that the Mameluks would repeat the previous military feats if Timorlank dared advance toward Palestine with his already exhausted forces and stressed on the facts that the previous Fatimide and Ayubid dynasties had deteriorated and their hold on power had begun to decline when they had tried to stretch their dominions into Iraq.

The Mameluk’s Viceroys in Damascus and Hama decided not to put up a fight against the Tatars and invested their time in hoarding as much money and riches as they could gather and flee in due time.  Aleppo was destroyed and Timorlank entered Damascus in 1401 without a fight and transferred all its remaining artisans to Samarqand, his Capital, within a year.

Prophesies of the end of time

There were other factors accounting to this social uneasiness, apathy and helplessness.  Any society facing changes in its structural order is usually ripe to the cyclical apocalyptic prophesies of the ultimate end of the World.  The Levant (people living in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) had already experienced one such depressing mood during the lifetime of the First Emir and twice in the previous century, with a slight delay of such rumors since they were emanating from Europe.

The Fatimide dynasty in the 11th century reigned in Egypt and claimed its right to the Caliphate of the Moslems by proclaiming the imminent coming of a disappeared Imam. The decline of the Crusaders’ hold on the Levant, and lack of subsequent infusions of men and financial support, combined with the occurrence of pests or plagues prompted one of these cataclysmic beliefs within the Levant Crusaders.

The other period happened when news of the Mogul invasion were imminent and the fact that indeed Holago erased the Capital Baghdad in 1258.

In the mid 14th century, society remembered the plague that devastated Aleppo half a century before, a catastroph which added to the fear of an imminent recurrence of a Tatar invasion led by Timorlank toward Syria.  These apocalyptic prophesies were shared by both Christians and Moslems.   the Shiaa Moslems would preach the coming of either the 6th disappeared Imam or the 12th Imam to unite the Moslems to some kind of victory and the Christians would rely on the eschatology of Christ returning and reigning for one thousand years over a peaceful and happy World before the end of time would take place.

Antichrist finger pointing, or which power was represented by Satan, was convenient and successful in fomenting pockets of extremist sects within each religion.  Actually, a century later, with the Renaissance upheaval in Europe, Luther was able to establish his religious Reforms by capitalizing on the fears spreading in Europe of the coming of the end and using the advancing Ottoman armies toward Vienna as the sign of an angry God punishing the Christians for following the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church who forgot the Word of God.

After the devastation of Aleppo, the First Emir realized that his stay might induce Timorlank into driving a hard bargain over the Levant; he determined that his high profile in the region was a liability to the Levant.  He nevertheless ordered Gergis to join Ibn Khaldoun’s mission waiting to meet with Timorlank encamping around Damascus and to try reaching an agreement that would spare the Levant from further distresses.

Ibn Khaldoun was the famous 14th century Arabic North African author of “History of Civilizations” and he met with Timorlank camping outside Damascus and made him promise not to exact his vengeance on the population; a promise that Timorlank never kept.  Most of the craftsmen and merchants had evacuated Damascus and fled to Lebanon and Egypt while the remaining craftsmen were denied exiting this city after the hordes of Timorlank sacked it and would be transferred to Samarqand the Capital of the Tatar.  In disgust at his helplessness and the inaction of Cairo the First Emir decided to travel overseas for an extended period until the political situation was stabilized.

Although the societies in Syria, Lebanon and part of Palestine suffered economically and organizationally, the Mameluks in Egypt retained their cohesion and managed to survive another century before they were defeated militarily by the ascending Ottoman Empire in 1516.

Did Tamerlane (Timor Lank) Create Empires?

There is this army commander of the 14th century who kept his army on the march longer (for over 25 years) and crossed more lands than Alexander, Genghis Khan, or Attila and conquered more Empires and was never defeated and slept in his tent, outside city-limits, even in his Capital Samarkand (in current Uzbekistan).

The Persian gave him the nickname Lank because he was slightly lame in one leg.  This is Timor Lank who was not the son of any Monarch, prince, or even a tribal leader.

Timor Lank was from the Caucasus region (probably around the region of Azerbaijan and Chechnya (I get pretty upset when history authors fail to located current geographical areas and just paste the ancient names).

He was a Moslem and veneered Imams and clerics claimed to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad’s family, and who wore the black turban.

Otherwise, he didn’t give a hoot about Moslems when conquering lands and people. He killed mostly Moslems since the vast area of his operations were mostly Islam Land.

For example, he built pyramids of skulls: 60,000 heads in Asfahan (Iran), 3,000 in Aleppo, and many other skull pyramids in India…

First, Timor Lank chased out the Tatar “Golden Hordes” (led by a descendant of Genghis Khan) along the Volga River (current Russia) and burned and sacked all their cities and villages.  He did not resume his operations, but by the end of his war, the Golden Hordes were weakened and displaced.  It was the fate of the Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible, to finish off the job against the Tatars in the 16th century and expand his Empire. You may claim that Tamerlane ultimately created current Russia.

Timor Lank captured Samarkand and made it its Capital.

He descended on Persia and conquered this Empire and beheaded over 60,000 of the population in Isfahan and piled up the head in shapes of pyramids.  This city surrendered peacefully and Timor Lank had no plans to occupy it; he was just crossing!

It happened that for a few cases of rape within the city by Timor Lank’s garrison of 500 soldiers, the inhabitants slaughtered the soldiers.  Timor Lank was camping outside city limit, always in his tent. And the reaction was a nightmare on the city inhabitants.

The commander moved on toward Turkey in 1400.  The Turkish Sultan army was completely demolished and the Sultan was put in a tiny cage so that Timor Lank could use it as a stool to mount his horse. This commander could have conquered all of Turkey, but instead he headed south to enter Aleppo and Damascus in Syria.

If Timor Lank had not vanquished the Turkish army then the Byzantium Capital of Constantinople would have fallen 50 years earlier along with most of Europe.

There would be no Western Europe or the Renaissance:  at that time, the enmities between Genoa and Venice was at its zenith, the Kingdom of Poland was weak, there was no Russian Empire, and the King Henry of Portugal had not begun challenging the high seas to discover new routes to India and the Far East.

And the King of France Charles 8 would not have entered and ruined Rome and displaced the skilled artisans and thinkers, located and concentrated in Papal Rome, to all over western Europe that started the Renaissance.

In the 13th century, the Mameluke Sultan of Egypt had moved out from Egypt with his army and defeated the Mogul army of Hulagu in Palestine around 1250.  This time around, the Mameluke Sultan did not venture to come out to rescue his vassals  in Syria.

Damascus put up a serious fight, but Timor Lank tactics were always to destabilize any city before setting siege.  The skilled people in Syria and Palestine were sent to build and develop Samarkand. (That is the story of the Levant since antiquity: armies conquer The Levant to capture its skilled workers.)

The Ottoman Sultan would later defeat the Mameluke Sultan in the 16th century and conquer Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and all North African countries.

Timor Lank conquered Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

One of Timor Lank offspring would establish the Mogul Empire in India (the Punjab) that lasted over 5 centuries.  The British Empire would finally take over all of India by the end of the 19th century, but failed to retain Afghanistan after two bloody massacres of its troops.

The British had drawn the current borders among Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Kashmir.  As well as drawing many other borders in the Middle-East and Africa with colonial France

This ruthless commander Tamerlane was getting ready to march on China when he died at the age of 63.

Note:  My published novel on wordpress.com “Rainbow over the Levant” is set in that time period.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

August 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,317,228 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 682 other followers

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: