Zeina Azzam

I used to hang a poster on my wall that said, “Palestinians have human rights, too.” This was our cry, equivalent to “Black lives matter.”

Soon I will meet you and call you habeebi, my love. It’s amazing that you are growing every day in your mother’s womb, that you carry our family in your bones and in your blood. A lovely thought: you carry us before we carry you.

Your history starts with music—it was your father’s trumpet and your mother’s voice that brought the two of them together. Their love has enriched our beautiful family story. And I want to tell you that ours is also a sad story because your great grandparents were refugees who were forced to flee their homes during the nakba, the Palestinians’ devastating catastrophe in 1948. They never could go back to live in Palestine and held a deep longing, haneen, for their homeland—and angst about its loss—until the day they died.

I inherited this mantle and its responsibilities and then your mother did, too. It’s in our bones and blood. You will learn that being Palestinian is at once a profound gift of history, culture, and identity as well as a quest for justice, adaalah, imprinted in our core.

As you get older you may question, what does this have to do with me? These stories will have happened three generations ago for you. Please hold on to them. As you understand more, you will feel the connection. And you will get angry that so many members of your mother’s family experienced this great dispossession. I hope that one day, you will be able to say that peace with justice came to your great grandparents’ homeland.

I used to hang a poster on my wall that said, “Palestinians have human rights, too.”  This was our cry that you could say is equivalent to “Black lives matter.” As a people wronged, imprisoned, impoverished, wounded, and killed, it was crucial to affirm that we matter, that our lives are important, that we have fundamental rights. And now in this year that you will be born, we still feel we must make these assertions. The words “Black lives matter” circle around your mother and father, your house, and your neighborhood like a song with wings. These words are the bird that will save your generation.

You might think there is such heaviness in all this, a burden to carry throughout your life. Think of it as ni’mah, grace, that fills you with kindness. For me, being Palestinian has opened my eyes to appreciating other struggles. The Palestinian part of you will help you cultivate a heightened sensitivity to injustice.

My dear grandson, the world will welcome you despite the current turmoil because there is always room for starting anew. You will remind us of the one abiding privilege we have: asserting our love and our presence with the blessing of a new birth. Habeebi, I can’t wait to carry you in my arms.