Today, I walked onto an Israeli settlement for the first time in my life. One where most of the land it stands on once belonged to my grandfather. I needed the settlers’ permission to walk onto this soil. As I walked down the sidewalk, I felt alienation and content all at once. The first for the utter disconnect between this land and I. The second for finally being able to set foot in a place that is rightfully mine.
"You see this hilltop? It all belongs to your grandfather.” This phrase was a recurring one on our family drives from Abu Dis to Jericho. I heard it from the first moment that I could comprehend words. I cannot even remember who said it first. But it has been a constant refrain since childhood. Even today however, at thirty-four years old, my mother, father, aunt, and grandmother repeat the statement as if they are saying it for the first time. The repetition is an assurance, a call, to never forget. They refuse to forget. And even after so many years, I still respond with a perplexed “all of it?” as if hearing the news for the first time. I refuse to forget. “All of it.” Today, when I travel alone with no one to remind me, I repeat: "This land belonged to my grandfather."