My future children, much like my future husband, will probably never know their hometown, their homeland. They’ll read about it, they’ll embrace their culture and traditions and favorite foods, they’ll see pictures and videos thanks to the internet- but they won’t live there. I’m not sure they’ll even be able to visit it even for a short trip.
It’ll be a part of them that they will always know but cannot completely relate to.
They’ll probably hear stories about their origins from their grandfather, who had to leave when he was just a young boy. Imagine leaving a place you’ve known your whole childhood to somewhere completely unfamiliar and having to restart from scratch?
That’s what my future father-in-law had to do. That’s what thousands of families had to do.
You see, Ahmad is Palestinian. Second generation, born in one of the Arab Gulf countries and has lived his whole life in between there and here, Lebanon- but all his papers indicate Akka (also known as Acre) as the place of his origin.
He can’t call the country of his birth, home and he surely cannot call Lebanon home. Because being Palestinian in Lebanon is not without its problems, headaches, and complications.
He will always be a refugee, the blue ID card and the brown travel document superseding who he is as a person.
I was told, time and time again, when our relationship became more serious that as a Lebanese woman, I had no business being with a Palestinian. Because I could not pass on my nationality to my spouse or my children.
They would be doomed to a life in limbo, living in a country they could half-call their own but the country would not call them its citizens.
I was even told, “What? Are there are no suitable men from your hometown? Why do you have to be with a foreigner?”
One of my family members even emailed me a PDF document of around 50 pages on the restrictions and rights of Palestinians in Lebanon. They can’t work in multiple fields, can’t own property, can’t join the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), can’t do this, can’t do that- basically anything that might infringe upon the right to return.
You’re even going to have a hard time whenever you want to travel, the text of the email said.
It’s true that I was never involved in the cause and never gave it much attention growing up- but I’ve never been one to support causes or fight for other people’s struggles. I never participated in the boycotting movements or protests or even read extensively on the subject. I’m no expert and have never claimed to be- and probably never will.
But I was aware of all the restrictions and aware of all the history and the dislike many Beirutis held onto after the Civil War ended.
Still, I had several friends who were Palestinian and who were leading normal lives just like me. In some cases, I didn’t even know until it randomly came up.I was always taught to overlook race, nationality, and religion and focus on getting to know the person.
So I made a decision. A decision that was not easy, a decision that was faced with a lot of questioning and met with a lot of opposition initially. I debated and argued with many people I love and care for to prove my point.
I decided to fight for the relationship I had with this man.
Why should I let where he is from stand in the way of the genuine connection and love we share? If the international community could not recognize him just because of his papers, why did I have to ignore who he is as a person? If the Lebanese government is too slow on taking action on a proper nationality law, why should I sit idle? Why must we always find reasons to stand in the way of love?
And as I started getting to know him more and more and became a part of his family and saw the dynamics of it all, my doubts started to fade away. Many of the problems we were told we might face ended up not being applicable. And for the others, we were able to find quick solutions that pleased us and our families. I guess I owe much of that to our ability to think things through.
I know though, that it is going to be extremely difficult going forward. I’m not stupid and I know where we live. I’ve heard so many stories, both positive and negative, so I know what to expect.
Especially if/when we have children. This is a concern that continues to linger in the back of my mind but one I know I don’t have the answers to right now.
I don’t even know what will happen in a year’s time, let alone when we have children.
But this is a risk I am willing to take, knowing that I will raise them to appreciate, respect, and love their Palestinian roots and traditions as they will appreciate, respect, and love their Lebanese roots and traditions. I will always fight for their right to have a clear idea of what home is, even if the papers don’t agree.
A risk I am willing to take because I have always believed that love can get you through.