I Cry: Women in War

In this piece I would like to refocus on women in war. After writing my previous post, I have found myself disgusted by the lack of attention paid to the history of women in the conflict that has gripped my people and my country for the last 70 years. My hope for my role in this blog is to share the stories I have collected during my own research in the region, as well as, my reaction to poems, prose, histories and novels written about these incredibly brave women who’ve lost their face and story to his-story.  I wish to be but a mouthpiece for their stories, I hope to bring the joys and sufferings of both Palestinian and Israeli women to the world. Perhaps here our peoples can find a common ground…

Women are so often forgotten when we write of wars and conflicts. As if the most interesting aspects of battle are the recycled stories of men’s brute. The most remarkable stories of war are not of striking blades and bombs, but of the individuals left behind in their villages, crouched down in the shadows of their homes as they await the impeding armies. It is the stories of solidarity that develop as people must pull their resources as they forge for food, heat and shelter. The stories of the greatest of charity, as the desolate give to the desolate. It is the stories of endurance of unarmed individuals struggle to rebuild from the rubbles of their previous lives.

So often it is the women who are left to deal with the shattered spirits of children as they march the long journey towards exile. It is the women who face soldiers unarmed protecting what remains of their families, homes and hope. These are the stories that should fascinate the admirers of history. These are the memories that should be preserved from war, not the stories of how men are defeated, but the humanity that is preserved through the chaos of our savagery.

On Poems and Prose:

I recently read a short novel written by S. Yizhar about the expulsion of Palestinians from the village of Khirbet Khizeh. The images flooded me with emotions as I connected my own families history to the stories of these faceless peasants as they marched towards their fate, towards their exile. Leaving me slightly broken, I applauded the authors focus on the margins of war. The realities non-combatants face as their lives, their futures are fought over on the battlefields of national aspirations. As the main character finally comes to, it seems much easier to fight, to hold a gun and shoot your enemies, than face the women, children and elderly as the depths of their misfortune glare back at you.

From his memories, the story of one woman stands etched in my thoughts. A proud woman, holding the small hand of a child relative walking bravely towards the trucks that will take her away from everything she has ever known to an uncertain reality. With admiration, the author recalls her strides, as she passes the young soldiers without a glance of recognition. Accepting all that has been given to her, she continues with pride. Yet she is so human, she is only human, as single tears are released from each eye, rolling down the curvature of her cheeks, she makes her way across the puddle, towards her exile.

Towards exile, this is the theme that is carried. Exile. It is in one word the destruction of family, community and connection to ourselves. Exile, so often the fate of widowed and abandoned women, left with the charge to care for the children and elderly. Yet the eyes of that proud women remains, as she continues towards her fate.

The face of this woman reminded me of an amazing poem written by a Palestinian woman living out her exile in Canada. It is an anthem to the mothers of our exiles, who carry us as we wonder the world, teaching us to always walk forward with one eye looking back towards our homeland.

Cry by Rafeef Ziadah

I just can’t see you cry, I just can’t see you cry curled up in a ball
next to a man who loved his revolution more than he ever loved you
I just can’t see you cry, I just can’t see you cry curled up in a ball
next to a man who loved his revolution more than he ever loved you

Not knowing that you are a walking talking breathing Palestine
Carrying her on your back and in your womb for 61 years
Waiting for liberation

You are the one who sat on the cold bare cement floor of an immigration detention cell and gave birth to your first girl
Carried the memories of those maimed and tortured throughout airports and luggage
that would be checked and double checked because you had the wrong last name
and you carried their memories
you carried their memories through luggage that would be checked and double checked
because you had the wrong last name

And they say
just take a pill and all the voices in your head will disappear
just take a pill and all the voices in your head will disappear
numb all your thoughts of suicide and erase years of dispossession

And your brothers, your brothers lined up against the wall
your brothers lined up against the wall
as you pressed their dead bodies into your chest
and let their blood soak your dress

But they want you to take a pill to erase your history
our history, stateless and refugees
they want you to take a pill
to erase our history, your history
stateless and refugees

Between your body and their reality
lie uprooted olive trees
orange groves and Palestine
between your body and their reality
lie uprooted olive trees

orange groves and Palestine

And I, I just can’t see you cry
I can’t, I really really just can’t see you cry
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2 thoughts on “I Cry: Women in War

  1. Magdalena says:

    Thanks for this post. Such an important thing to remind ourselves of. Several family friends of mine had to leave Argentina due to the Dirty War. And my dad left Guatemala because of their civil war. The pain of people forced from their homeland is something I can barely begin to comprehend. I don’t know if she’s still posting to it but a South High grad was blogging about the people she met on a long trip to the Middle East – very humanizing.

    Like

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