Some Palestinian Women’s Words

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, in a professional space, someone called Palestinians by name and spoke of the seven decades of their anguish. I sat among dozens of co-workers and realized my lip was quivering. I was crying before I understood it was happening. I fled the room, and it took 10 minutes for me to stop sobbing….

“In the end, I am undone not by silence or erasure but by empathy. By the simple naming of my people. By increasing recognition that liberation is linked. By spaces of Palestinian-Jewish solidarity. By what has become controversial: the simple speaking aloud of Palestinian suffering.”

Hala Alyan, Palestinian American writer and poet, quoted in N.Y. Times, October 25, 2023.

I grant you and the little ones refuge,
the little ones who
change the rocket’s course
before it lands
with their smiles.

Hiba Abu Nada, Palestinian poet and novelist in Gaza, (translated by Huda Fakhreddine in Protean Magazine), wrote this on October 10th. The poet was killed in an Israeli airstrike on October 20th.

“If we die when our house is bombed, we want to have our dignity and modesty. If we’re bombed and have to be rescued from the rubble, we don’t want to be rescued wearing nothing. We keep this isdal [a modest garment typically used for prayer] on so we can run out and look for our kids if they wander too far. We wear it when we run to our neighbours’ places to see if they’re OK after a bombing.”

“If I see my daughters or any of the family’s women without their isdal, I tell them to put it on, you never know what might happen.”

Sarah Assaad, 44, quoted in Al Jazeera on “Gaza women and the isdal robes that shield them as war strips their privacy”, Jan 4, 2024

“VIVIAN, MY BELOVED, if you could hear, I would want you to know: Hamas did not murder your vision…. You taught us the most important lesson: to be human, to see the other, the weak, the one whose voice is not heard.”

Ghadir Hani, Bedouin peace activist, eulogizing Vivian Silver, Israeli- Canadian co-founder of Women Wage Peace, killed October 7 in her kibbutz home, quoted in The Jerusalem Post, November 17, 2023.

“I WAS ALWAYS AFRAID that one day I would wake up and I wouldn’t have language, this is my fear. And in the last four weeks language has deserted me, it was like it was not there. Whenever I tried, I failed.

“I now understand this loss of language as an outcome of staying with pain: the incomprehensible pain of those in Palestine-Israel against whom a new degree of cruelty has been unleashed, the personal pain of the loss of a dream that we could dare to imagine a new form of togetherness, where we allow ourselves to learn from pain rather than unleash it against others.”

Adania Shibli, Palestinian novelist, quoted by John Freeman in The Guardian, November 9, 2023. A Frankfurt Book Festival award ceremony for Shibli’s book Minor Detail was postponed after Oct. 7, causing controversy.

Photo Credit: Libertinus