Excerpt of I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish
(Page 6 of 8)
Printer Friendly Excerpt
Dalal, my second-oldest daughter, was named after my
mother. She was a second-year student at the same university as
Bessan, where she was studying architectural engineering. She
was a quiet, studious girl, shy like most of my daughters. Her
architectural drawings were remarkable to me - a sign of the
precision she demanded of herself.
Shatha was in her last year of high school and hoping to score
the top marks in the class when they took their exams in June
so she could fulfill her dream to become an engineer. The three
girls were best friends and slept in the same room of our house
in Jabalia City, a five-story building that my brothers and I had
built. Each of us had a floor for his family; my children and I
lived on the third floor. One brother lived apart from us in a
separate house. When we constructed the apartment building,
he said he wanted to be near but in his own place. So we built
another house for him. The first floor of our house was reserved
for our mother. (My sixth brother, Noor, had become caught up
in the conflict of the region and has been missing for decades.)
Mayar and Aya, who were in grades nine and eight, were
almost painfully shy. Sometimes they even asked one of their
older sisters to speak to the others for them. But they were
clever girls. Mayar looked the most like her mother, and she was
the top math student in her school. She entered school competitions
in Gaza and usually won. She wanted to be a doctor
like me. She was the quietest of my six daughters, but she was
not shy about describing the impact the strife in Gaza had on
the people who live there. She once said, "When I grow up and
become a mother, I want my kids to live in a reality where the
word rocket is just another name for a space shuttle." Aya was
never far from Mayar. She was a very active, beautiful child who
smiled easily and laughed a lot when she was with her sisters.
She wanted to be a journalist and was very determined in her
own quiet way. If she couldn't get what she wanted from me -
permission to go to visit a relative or to buy a new dress - she'd
go to her mother and say, "We are the daughters of the doctor;
you must give this to us." Aya loved language, excelled in Arabic
literature. She was the poet in the family.
Raffah, my youngest daughter, with eyes as bright as stars,
was an outgoing child, inquisitive, rambunctious, and gleeful.
She was in grade four that year.
Mohammed, named after my father, was our first son, a young
man of thirteen. He needed the guidance of a father, and I was
worried about that because I was away four days a week, working
at the Sheba hospital in Tel Aviv. He was to take the grade seven
exams in June. His little brother, Abdullah, our second son, who
was in the first grade, was the baby of the family. Watching him
running to his sisters on the beach, kicking up the sand as he
bounded over the dunes, I felt a special pain for this motherless
boy: How much would he remember her?
That day they all sat for photos beside their names in the sand.
Even Aya and Mayar smiled into the camera. When the tide
came in and washed their names away, they wrote them again,
farther up the beach. To me, this action w as highly symbolic
of their tenacious, determined nature, one that I recognized in
myself. They had the ability to look for alternatives when situations
seemed impossible; they were claiming this tiny piece of
land as their own - because they believed that they belonged
here and did not want to be erased. Wasn't this the same determination
shown by Palestinians who'd had their land stripped
from them and wanted to reclaim it? It reminded me that their
mother's memory will never wash away, but that they could keep
rewriting it in a different light. They rushed from playing in the
surf and riding the waves to climbing into a boat that was moored
on the beach, from building pyramids in the sand to racing back
into the water; the camera click, click, clicking, recording the joy,
the laughter in their faces, the bond they had with each other,
their shared reality. As I watched the jubilance of my eight children,
I thought, "Let them play, let them escape from their grief."
While they cavorted on the dunes, I drove back to Jabalia
Camp to get the kebabs. There had been such a long line at the
butcher early that morning that I'd decided to go to the beach
and return for the meat once the children were settled. While
driving, I thought about Nadia and the changes in our lives
since she had died. At first I'd believed that I would have to stop
the research work I was doing, since it required me to be in Tel
Aviv from Monday to Thursday. But the children insisted that
I continue. They said, "We'll take care of everything at home.
Don't worry." It was the way Nadia had raised them. She was
the example they were following. Nadia managed the house,
the children, the extended family, everything, while I went
away to study, to work, to try to make a better life for all of
us. Sometimes I was away for three months. When I studied
public health at Harvard from 2003 to 2004, I was gone for a
year. But how could these children manage without a mother
if their father was away more than half the time, even though
they all told me that I needed to go on? This is why I was so
happy they had agreed to move to Toronto; there we could all
be together, with no border to cross every day.
Excerpted from I Shall Not Hate
by Izzeldin Abuelaish. Copyright © 2011 by Izzeldin Abuelaish.
Excerpted by permission of Walker & Company. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.