Intern Journal: Variations on a Familiar Theme

Over the past few weeks, I have been pondering the idea of home and what it means in the context of the lives of Palestinians. In my Arts & Crafts class last Tuesday, I read a beloved book from my childhood -- The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. As a child, this story enraptured me and I remember begging my mother to read it each night, so that I could once again see those beautiful illustrations. The entertaining and lively story follows the life of a pretty pink house who although content with her life in the country, “…was curious about the city and wondered what it would be like to live there.” Over the next few decades, urban sprawl takes over the once beautiful countryside surrounding the little house and she finds herself lost and abandoned in the big city wedged between tall skyscrapers, apartments, subways and trains. “She didn’t like living in the city. At night she used to dream of the country and the fields of daisies and the apple trees dancing.” Although rejected and ignored by the thousands who passed her each day, the Little House is one day saved by the great-great-granddaughter of the man who originally built the pretty Little House oh so long ago. The great-great-granddaughter then moves her from the dirty and noisy city back into the countryside filled with daisies and apple trees where “once again she is lived in and taken care of.”

The story seems simple enough, but last week, when I began to read the book to my class, I found myself looking at it with a completely different set of eyes. What did this story mean to children who grew up knowing their families were from places and houses they had never seen, but had only heard about like Jaffa and Haifa? Places where you can see the vast and endless Mediterranean Ocean, where checkpoints do not exist, where the freedom of movement is not even a question. Every person deserves a place to call home and a country to call their homeland, but this right is not extended to the ten million Palestinians worldwide with about five million of all Palestinians currently registered as refugees with UNRWA. Will the children in my classes ever return to take care of and live in their family homes just like the great-great granddaughter of the man who built the Little House did? Will they ever feel the ocean breeze and play in the crashing waves far from the crowded and cramped refugee camps -- the only place they’ve ever known as home? Insha’Allah they will.


Hannah is an intern at TYO Nablus