I came from a long line of Bedouins. When the Israeli state was created we were disrupted from our lands several times. We eventually came to settle in the West Bank with other Palestinians but many conflicts later the land came under Israeli jurisdiction. We lived in tents and huts. We no longer roamed the land and after a few decades, our Bedouin nature became dull. My grandfather would tell me about the days of roaming the land. Moving with the seasons. Seeking more water. Pushing our herds to pastures. But that was before the Israeli state. That was beyond my memory.
My name is Jassmeen. I am 20 years old and live in a hut with my parents, brother, and younger sisters. When I look out across the stunning expanse of the desert or I venture further into the West Bank, I want to flee. I want to roam. I know Arabic. I know some Hebrew. I want to learn French. I read The Little Prince as a child. I read it in Arabic.
“It is French,” my mother said. I liked the prince. He traveled far and wide. He tried to make a home on a small meteor. He learned to love the vast universe.
Two weeks ago, the Israelis told us to leave our land. Our homes would be demolished. The men in our community, including my father, protested. Today they sit on a highway. Yelling. Waving signs and flags. Our people have become very attached to our small piece of land. I feel angry and yet a piece of me, something that floats on the surface of my soul, wants to leave. I want to wander. I want to go to Europe. New York City seems impossibly exciting. I think my ancestral Bedouin nature is surfacing.
“Papa, maybe we should move.” I placed my hand on his sweaty palm. He got very angry. Swore at the Israelis.
“This is our home,” he yelled.
“But we are Bedouins. We aren’t meant to dig deep roots.”
Papa looked sad but then the anger blossomed again. This is what politics has done to our people. They have transformed us into something against the grain of our very long cultural history.
Last night, I packed my meager belongings, kissed my siblings and ventured further into the West Bank. I didn’t know if the Israelis would demolish our homes, but I didn’t want to be there for it. The tears. The devastation. The vows of vengeance.
I took The Little Prince with me. I would search for my own meteor that would catapult me into the world and I, like the women before me, would become a Bedouin once again.