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Keys to home: The story of a second Nakba

Keys to home: The story of a second Nakba

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Opinion Homeless Marginalized Groups Basic Rights

Saturday 9 December 202306:39 pm


Will it be ‘Never again’ or ‘History repeats itself’? The answer means everything to my survival, and will determine whether to condemn or celebrate humankind.

I have always lived in the shadow of my grandparents’ panicked forced displacement from Beit Tema to Deir el-Balah in Gaza, during the Nakba, or 'catastrophe', of 1948. My grandfather carried his one-year old child, my father, in his arms, one fist firmly clenched around the keys of his home.

I have always lived in the shadow of my grandparents’ panicked forced displacement during the Nakba of 1948. As they left, my grandfather carried his one-year old child, my father, in his arms, one fist firmly clenched around the keys of his home.

I, a second-generation Palestinian refugee in Gaza, now find myself entangled in a haunting echo of this history – the Second Nakba.

My grandfather told me he believed his home would welcome him back within days. Little did he know that those keys were to become artifacts of a lost legacy. The weight of those keys, as shared by thousands, represented not only the homes left behind, but also the collective hope of an imminent return. Tragedy struck when my grandfather's father stayed behind in Beit Tema, adamant about protecting the ancestral home. His refusal to abandon the house cost him his life, and my grandfather found him killed – a victim of the Israeli forces. He buried his father in a sandy grave within the land he sought to defend.

My grandfather carried the keys of his home when they were forced to flee during the Nakba of 1948.. I, a second-generation Palestinian refugee in Gaza, now find myself entangled in a haunting echo of this history – the Second Nakba

The horrors etched in my grandfather's memory now reverberate as a lived reality in my own experience.. Fast forward to October 9th 2023. I found myself forced to flee my home with my husband and two children in the face of relentless destruction amid Israeli airstrikes on Gaza's Rimal neighborhood. I left with nothing but a handbag and the keys to my home, which was now reduced to rubble by Israeli airstrikes. We sought refuge in the house of relatives just a kilometer away, but the attacks expanded and we were all forced to Deir el-Balah, seeking a safer place in the middle of Gaza, in the shadows of my grandfather.

Here, in the midst of forced displacement, I – a worker at the Palestinian Water Authority, orchestrating projects to secure water for Gaza – ironically find myself unable to secure safe water for my family. My days are now a paradox. People like me, coordinators with national and international agencies to provide aid to the most affected people by the wars, have become the vulnerable, the displaced. The electricity blackout, persistent for over a month, has forced us into a relentless struggle to keep our phones – a lifeline connecting us to scattered relatives and fragments of normalcy – charged, via intermittent and unsustained power supplies, so that I can get this story out to you.

My grandfather told me he believed his home would welcome him back within days. Little did he know that those keys would become artifacts of a lost legacy. The weight of those keys, shared by thousands, represented the collective hope of an imminent return

In the midst of chaos, I find strength in the shared history of resilience and the hope for a day when keys are no longer just remnants of lost homes, but reminders that the echoes of the past can, and must, shape a compassionate future.


* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22



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