tarek z. ismail Profile picture
May 15, 2018 19 tweets 4 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
My grandfather was a train conductor in Palestine.

This is his Nakba story, so I guess its #MyNakbaStory too. (A thread.)
Jiddo - Said Assad Ismail Elkhatib - drove a train from Kantara, Egypt to Beirut. His home station was Haifa, in the north of Palestine.
Here’s his ID.

Not the cheeriest photo.

It was a tough job.
Still, Jiddo loved the smell of the open air, so he cherished his work, propelling the rail up and down the Mediterranean coast, his face and hands covered in soot.
When he was home in Sha’ab - a small village between Haifa and Akka - Jiddo loved to ride on horseback into the olive groves, with my uncle Ghazi giggling at the front of his saddle.
He and Sitto Alia cobbled a life together in their small village. They built a house and started a family.

My aunts Myassar, Fatima and Najiyyeh and my uncles Ghazi, Adel and Ahmed were all born in Sha’ab. In Palestine.
Their brothers and sisters, cousins and friends all lived within a stones throw of them, in Sha’ab. In Palestine.
In 1948, when the Nakba hit, Sha’ab had around 1,750 residents, including Said and Alia’s growing family.

Like the vast majority of villages across Palestine, Sha’ab was violently depopulated, its inhabitants torn apart and forced into exile, refused an opportunity to return.
Jiddo Said and his family were forced to trudge north into Lebanon on foot - a route he had grown accustomed to taking by rail.
My uncle Ahmed - around 5 at the time - had polio. He was too heavy to carry, but couldn’t walk. Forced to choose between leaving her brother in the dirt and carrying him over a mountain, my aunt Fatima wedged her brother to her hip. She feels the stitch in her side to this day.
For months, Jiddo Said’s family journeyed north from camp to camp in Lebanon. They settled - to the extent they could settle - in a tent in Shatila, in south Beirut.
Jiddo Said would never see Sha'ab again. Neither would Sitto Alia.
The tarp was replaced by cinder blocks.

My dad, Ziad, was born. They called him “rmeileh” because he was born in the "ramel", in the dirt.

The dirt floor on which my father was born was replaced by ceramic.
The camp grew.

Jiddo Said knew no other line of work. He opened a stand in Shatila where he sold chewing gum, combs and nail clippers.
Accustomed to the open air of the Galilee, Jiddo spent the rest of his life confined to a small plastic chair in front of his store, yearning to move, yearning breathe the air of his home.
Jiddo and Sitto were able to leave the camp before the devastating massacres in Sabra and Shatila in September 1982.

But Jiddo died on November 22, 1982, only a few months after. As Baba put it, "I guess his heart was too tired to take a second blow."
Their children are scattered across the globe.

1 is in Turkey.
1 is in Canada.
4 are still in Lebanon, one of whom recently fled Yarmouk camp in Syria.
2 are in Ohio, including my dad.

Those who left Sha'ab have never returned.
Those born outside of Sha'ab have never been.
This is #Nakba. This is what it means for a society to be torn from the earth and scattered into camps.

This is why the unimaginably brave Palestinians in Gaza march unarmed from the plastic chairs in their camps to their homes in Palestine, yearning for the same air as Jiddo.
Thanks for sharing this, @YousefMunayyer.

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