The Home Key
“Everybody has their Jews, and for the Israelis it’s the Palestinians”
– Primo Levi
His veins-grooved hands grip a rusty chain
linked to a two-teethed, chunky jarred key.
His stringy, tobacco- specked beard rests on a weedy chest,
soaking up water-steamed smoke,
curling out of a piped Hookah’s “jaw” .
“Marhaba” Abu-Ali welcomes guests to his tent.
Wrapping reverently his treasured key,
he places it solemnly in a small pouch
dangling from a shabby, worn-out robe.
There the key motionlessly waits
to return to Abu-Ali’s stolen home and land.
But I was only a child then and blissfully unaware
of the Nakba -catastrophe- of the year forty eight.
My long-forgotten friend has a golden chain
holding a sparkling, brassy, super-cut key .
It safely locks his white-painted house,
built on Abu-Ali’s old home and ground.
A high-speed shiny car is haughtily parked
where Abu Ali’s chicken used to run about.
Ancient silver-leafed olive trees were uprooted in haste,
the orange orchard has gone without a trace
Barrack- like concreted new town was built
to replace Abu-Ali’s village and fields.
It has no memory of the stone-built houses and flat- roof huts,
clung to a hilly terrain of forsaken past.
But I am not a child anymore and am fully aware:
Abu-Ali will perish with his home key in his hands,
harbouring a futile yearning to return.
My long-forgotten friend is there to stay.
And I? Living my splintered life in a far-flung land ,
keep seeking justice for Abu-Ali and Palestine.
My youth has unnoticeably slipped by, but I am still on the march,
shouting “free, free Palestine”.
A personal appeal? A guilt-infused confession?
An agitated self-expression?
I could not break away from my soul-crushing past,
even if I sometimes try.
Yet, I know, words of truth alone are not enough,
and there is no one out there to listen , or act –
I should, you should, the deceitful masters of arms should.
We are all on trial, but where is the judge
to let justice be unlocked and done?
A Palestinian man holds an old iron key symbolizing the homes people lost in 1948 when the Jewish state of Israel was created, on May 11, 2010 in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, during a gathering to mark the 63th anniversary of the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe). Nakba means ‘catastrophe’ in reference to the birth of the state of Israel 63 years ago in British-mandate Palestine, which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who either fled or were driven out of their homes during the 1948 war over Israel’s creation
Ruth Tenne confronted her ingrained Zionist heritage in the aftermath of the 1967 “six days war” and became an active member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the BDS movement and Jews for Justice for Palestinians. In this capacity she published a number of articles, book reviews, and letters in the media, including Middle-East Online, Media Monitors Network, Palestine Chronicle, PulseMedia, International socialism Journal, Socialist Review, Palestine News, the Morning Star and Islamic Times, as well as an essay based on childhood memories at the time of the Naqba which was published by Sentinel Literary Quarterly (October-December 2010)