Two QF staff members explain what it means being displaced from Palestine, and what it is to have no home
When Houssameldeen Khalafalla knocked on the door of a house in Gaza, he was greeted by his older sister. And while she had not laid eyes on him for more than 15 years, she immediately cried “my brother...my brother!"
My grandmother always talks about our homeland, Palestine, and my grandfather held on to the dream of returning until he passed away
The year was 2006, and it was the first time that Khalafalla, a member of Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Communication Directorate, had set foot in his homeland of Palestine – a country from which he owned nothing, apart from a refugee document.
The trip lasted just two days. But Khalafalla had only been able to make the journey because the Israeli military forces had briefly opened the Rafah Border Crossing between Gaza and Egypt, where he’d been studying at the time. It was then that he experienced the feeling of belonging for the first time in his life.
In another place and in another time, Reem Talal, who was born in and raised in Doha, sat with her grandmother listening to her old tales about her home country and the beautiful garden that surrounded their house in Gaza before they were displaced and moved to Qatar. It is a place that her family only knows about through the stories told by her grandmother.
“My grandmother always talks about our homeland, Palestine, and my grandfather held on to the dream of returning until he passed away,” Talal, also part of the QF Communication Directorate, said. “And while I live in Qatar, the country to which I feel I belong, I am eager to explore what it means to have a home, a place that embraces your roots and the history of your ancestors.”
I remember the joy on everyone’s faces, and the table that brought us together decorated with traditional dishes, and the gazan fatteh. But I cannot forget the shrapnel embedded in the walls
Khalafalla has not been able to return to Gaza since his first trip. And today, married with two children – the only story Khalafalla has to tell his children is about is a fleeting two-day trip he took more than 15 years ago.
“Yet the memories remain very clear, he said. “The details are stuck in my mind. I remember clearly the joy on everyone’s faces, and the table that brought us together decorated with traditional dishes, and the gazan fatteh. But I cannot forget the shrapnel embedded in the walls.”
“The effects of war were everywhere, and the siege imposed by the Israeli occupation almost suffocating my family – not being able to move or travel for medical treatment or study; the inability to secure daily needs; the electricity and water cuts – all of which form part of the daily life of Gazans.”
I cannot sleep at night. I cannot forget what my cousin who lives in Gaza told me: This may be the last time we speak, as we do not know if and when a bomb might fall on us
The recent confrontations in Sheikh Jarrah provoked further anger against Israel, and the whole world watched as the crisis continued to unfold, which only reinforced the Palestinian youth's feelings of patriotism and their desire to make a difference.
“I felt a responsibility towards my fellow nationals, and a need to do something – anything – to help. So, I decided to try and use social media to try and raise awareness about what was happening in Palestine,” said Talal, explaining how she uses the platform as a tool to share stories, videos, and news.
The effects of war were everywhere, and the siege imposed by the Israeli occupation almost suffocating my family
“I cannot sleep at night. I cannot forget what my cousin who lives in Gaza told me last time we spoke: ‘This may be the last time we speak, as we do not know if and when a bomb might fall on us’.”
In turn, Khalafalla watches the events in Palestine, asking himself, where will the next missile fall? Will it hit anyone in his family?
But despite the victims, injuries, and the destruction of homes, Khalafalla and Talal say that they are hopeful, hopeful that the resistance and the people will be able to achieve victory.
While Talal does not have a Palestinian passport – she has a refugee document – she dreams of one day being able visit her homeland.
And Khalafalla has not forgotten the taste of his sister’s gazan fatteh – it reminds him of the sense of belonging. It is an image – a memory – he hopes to pass on to future generations, one that can be stored until the day that Palestine is free, when they can return to that old door in Gaza and never leave