Exile and Mama


Mazin Qumsiyeh | Popular Resistance – TRANSCEND Media Service

15 Feb 2023 – A post about exile and my mama in a series of posts I will start weekly on positive role models. This is post 1. I hope you like it. You can post comments also below.

I just went to Jordan for a short of one night related to our work. In Jordan I was hosted by two colleagues each of whom I knew for decades: my relative who is also my friend since high school Nader  lived in Jordan for many years and my friend from our university days Zuhair Amr (professor). Both have lived in Jordan or decades (expatriates from Palestine). On the drive back and forth from the Bridge to Amman the taxi drivers each was a Palestinian with a different story: one was a young man whose family comes from Safuriya. He has never seen it except in pictures.

The other was an abandoned baby in a refugee camp raised by two refugees from Beit Jubrin. These are two of 530 villages and towns ethnically cleansed in 1948 to 1949. Each individual of those four have their own story to tell worth of being put in a book. More than two thirds of the people in Jordan are of course Palestinians. I was reflecting on this as to issues of peace and reconciliation. I am also cognizant of the challenges we face.

Two books that I finished rereading (I have read them more superficially a few years back) are “Palestine For Sale” by Khalil Nakhah and “Palestine LTD”  by Toufic Haddad. Both make for sobering reading about the Palestinian cause and how it was (re)engineered with neo-liberal and capitalist agendas similar to what happened in South Africa (when I visited I was shocked that apartheid did not really end but that black face to apartheid created). I have to always remind myself that for every weak person who sells his conscience for a fistful of $, there is a person who is living his/her life comfortable in their own skin, resisting, loving, and really living.

Being a house slave after all is not a true life! I am truly inspired by stories of people like the four I mentioned and the many thousands I met and befriended over the years. They are stories of hope for a better future. I am going to write more on such inspiring people going forward. I hope you will like that.  I will start here with my mother:

Me giving salute, mama in back

My mother (we say in Arabic Mama or Yama) was born in 1932. She was in the teachers’ colleage in Jerusalem in 1948 when a friend/classmate of hers (Hayat AlBalbisi) was killed in the massacre of Deir Yassin (https://www.palestineremembered.com/Jerusalem/Dayr-Yasin/index.html ). She recalls before Zionism her mothers house in Nazareth, her uncle’s house in Jaffa, her birth ho,me in Beit Jala and all the wonderful landscape that existed between those ian a Palestine that was then one united, undivided by segregation walls and artificial borders.

My mother was the first teacher in Bethlehem allowed to teach while she was married. She taught for decades elementary school children while raising six children (three of them with PhDs). She was also school principal. When she was forced to retire from public schools, she went back to school as a student and got a bachelor degree in English from Bethlehem University being (still) the oldest graduate of the university. She then taught in private schools in her 60s until she was forced to retire again. She was honored with numerous awards and accolades. But more than her professional life, I would not be here without the lessons I learned from her in life on charity, caring for others, love of Palestine’s nature (used to go collecting herbal and medicinal plants in the beautiful valleys).

This Palestine She took care of my ailing father who suffered with two kinds of cancers until his death 20 years ago. I now spend every morning helping her have breakfast and finding pleasures in speaking to her (although her responses are few but very helpful). We are so grateful for this remarkable women. I owe not only my physical existence to her but everything I have achieved so far including our helping thousands of people via establishing palestinenature.org .
To be continued next week with another inspiring story.


Mazin Qumsiyeh  Mazin Qumsiyeh, associate professor of genetics and director of cytogenetic services at Yale University School of Medicine, is founder and president of the Holy Land Conservation Foundation and ex-president of the Middle East Genetics Association. He won the Raymond Jallow Activism Award from the national Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee in 1998. He is co-founder and national treasurer of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and has written extensively about the Middle East. Qumsiyeh is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, author of Sharing the Land of Canaan and Popular Resistance in Palestine, a professor at Bethlehem University and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History in Bethlehem. http://palestinenature.org

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