Can they call Palestine home?

Published: May 20, 2012

It's ironic that the most powerful nations and the champions of human rights do not recognise the ‘State of Palestine’. PHOTO: REUTERS

11:oo pm

Global Village, Dubai

My sisters and I were running wildly to catch a bus. The bus was, apparently, the only cheap way home and it was to leave in the next 15 minutes.

11:15 pm

My sister, laden with shopping bags, walked to the bus stand to get some information from two obscure figures seated under a dark shed – two young women wrapped in printed headscarves, wearing identical leather overcoats, bracing themselves against the chill in the air.

Hey, do you know about the bus? Where is it headed?

We are waiting ourselves. Don’t know. We are not from Dubai.

Where are you from then?

We are from Palestine

Oh, really! I am from Pakistan. It is such a pleasure to meet you.

And really, it was! They shook our hands vigorously, their pretty cheeks flushed red.

So what exactly were they doing in Dubai?

In their broken English and heavily accented Arabic, they explained that they were in Dubai to attend a conference. Over the rapidly forming bond, they excitedly told us about the attractions they had seen and that we too, must visit Ferrari World and Atlantis.

We were curious about our new friends, especially since the bus we sat in was brimming with people of other nationalities. Too many Indians, Sri Lankans, and Chinese. All, but those of our kin.

Wait a minute, what exactly was I basing the kinship on?

12:00 am

Bus depot

The bus finally started to move. Over the ensuing conversation between the two Palestinian girls and my sister (since I was too far, too cold and too tired to participate), they revealed their everyday lives and talked about their dreams and hopes.

They lived in Jericho and told us that it is the lowest city in the world. Listening to them, I could feel the enchantment of the historic city. This is what Travel Palestine says about this city:

How about visiting the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth? Jericho is a peaceful town that dates back to some 10,000 years. This city, also known as moon god, is called Ariha in Arabic and lies 260 meters below sea level, the lowest city in the world. Layers of 23 civilisations have been uncovered here

The two girls were pursuing their bachelors, and one of them was interested in the field of marketing. It was good to know that they were educating themselves, despite the everyday challenges they had to face.

They also told us that they had to travel all the way to Amaan in Jordon to catch a flight to Dubai – sadly, there is no airport in Palestine. It hit me then that we, in Pakistan, take our lives and blessings for granted.

Remaining true to their tradition of altruism, they hastily looked around for something, anything, to give us as a souvenir; one reached in her bag for some coins from back home.

My sister thanked her, asking her what their currency was called.

“Oh, we do not have our own currency. We use the Israeli currency, the Shekel,” she replied with some difficulty, or perhaps it was the feeling of loss that I sensed.

I felt sad. What have we done for Palestine? Wikipedia says :

The State of Palestine is recognised today by approximately two-thirds of the world’s countries, although this status is not recognised by the United Nations, Israel and major Western nations such as the United States.

There you go. The most powerful nations and the champions of human rights do not recognise the State of Palestine. Who then is the pariah? Who is the abandoned? I was speechless. This is the land of the most revered Hazrat Musa, Hazrat Isa and countless other prophets. This website says:

Palestine is the land of prophets. Many prophets were born in or died in Palestine, including Prophets Ibrahim (Abraham), Lut (Lot), Dawood (David), Suleiman (Solomon), Musa (Moses), and Isa (Jesus).

Another website says:

Jesus Christ walked through the streets of Jericho during his several visits to the town.

Nabi Musa is a beautiful 12th century mazar (pilgrimage shrine) on the old pilgrim road. Believed to be the spot where the prophet Moses is buried, it is named after him

What remains now is a land of conflict. Is Palestine really the country of these young ladies or are they just refugees?

12:30 am

Trade Centre, mainland Dubai

The bus driver prompted that our drop-off point had come. Our time to part came so swiftly. We stepped down from the bus and went our way. I wish we had more time to acquaint ourselves with those of our own.

I wish my countrymen, and the people at the helm of affairs, did more for our brothers and sisters in Palestine; more for the land of al Aqsa, which we were commanded to turn towards when the five daily prayers were first enjoined; more for the land where Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) journey of Isra took him before he ascended the heavens on Miraj to meet the prophets before him.

I wish we did more.

Sidra Taj

Sidra Taj

The writer is a banker by profession.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.