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Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Awesome Palestinians

Last night I did something I usually don't do: I planted my eight-year old son in front of the TV and ordered: watch. It was the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games. We watched over two hours of amazing choreography, high-minded symbolism, cute children, huge screens, thousands of performers (basically men doing the heavy lifting and women the pretty dancing). We commented, argued, admired, and shrugged as the spectacle unfolded in front of our comfy sofa.

Then the parade of nations began.

We stopped our snacking and waited.

We blushed when the Bahrain delegation marched holding a picture of the country's leader over the flag. The only people to do so! As my son explained: "they must love their ruler very very much."

We groaned when the commentator described Jordan as a somewhat "progressive country." (define "somewhat")

We snickered when the commentator pointed out that the two women flag bearers for the UAE delegation happened to be the prime minister's daughters (he concluded: "but that maybe a coincident." (then we fumed for continuing to be the butt of jokes)

We frowned when the Saudi Arabia delegation appeared with no women on it and we had to be reminded that "Saudi women need a male guardian to travel."

We were deeply saddened by the uniforms of the women on the Hungarian delegation.

But we mostly waited.

There were huge nations and small ones (the population of one participating country was 46,000 people). There were bullying and bullied countries. We patiently waited.

Finally, they appeared. The Palestinians.

Now jumping on the sofa, pointing at the screen, and screaming "Palestine, Palestine," my son and I drowned about everything that the commentators said and could hardly focus on the picture. All I remember is this: there were four participants: two runners and two swimmers. The flag bearer was the runner Nader al Masri, who trained in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, during Israeli "incursions." I could see two women dressed in traditional Palestinian dresses. They all walked around the stadium holding hands and raising the victory sign.

They appeared for a few seconds. The Cuban delegation followed and the Palestinians disappeared from the screen.

We know they may not win any medals, but they already won. For despite the occupation, the closed borders, the divisions, the poverty, the misery, the lack of official support, the lack of facilities and the empty promises, they came for Palestine. They had no Olympic-size pools to swim in. They had no shoes or safe roads. They had no budgets. They had to wait for exit permits that may or may not be granted. But they persevered and came.

My son and I cheered for this, not for an abstract nationalism or an "us against them" idea. We cheered for the tenacity of young women and men who insist on dreaming of a better future.

When it was obvious that we will not see more of the Palestinians, we settled down. My son, breathless and flushed with excitement, turned to me and said: "They were awesome!"

Yes, they were: Nader, Ghadeer, Hamse, and Zakiya. We thank you for your awesomeness!


Aloosh said...

Allah ywaffe2hom w yfarre7 2loobhom

Amal A said...


writechic said...

Thanks for your story. I watched the parade of nations with my kids and their friends (teenagers). When Palestine came forward, one of the kids cheered, "Look, they were let through the security check point."

That's painful humor, but it let me know that the young people sitting with me know of some of the adversity faced by the Palestinian people.

Just being there IS a marvelous success.

Chris in Seattle said...

When I went from Alaska to the University of Tennessee years ago, and in the midst of all that "southern hospitality," the first person to offer a seat in the student center was a Palestinian, my eyes were opened to a completely different world view. Every single Palestinian student I met, and I mean with NO exceptions, was polite, friendly, helpful. I would only wish their plight on my worst enemies. Hopefully your athletes will open more eyes.

Amal A said...


you have some smart kids there. They give us hope.

Amal A said...


thank you.

Kohleun Seo said...

Shokrun, Amal. Your story both pained and encouraged me. Thank you so much!

AmelMag said...

Amal, there is power in your words. Your story brought tears to my eyes. May you and your son, your family and your people, always have hope.

May God grant us peace.

Amal A said...

Kohleun seo,

Thank you for reading.

Amal A said...


yes for peace and hope. Thank you for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Hey can I ask you a question? I didn't get to watch the opening cermony of the of the Olympic games. And I noticed you mentioned that, you were

"...deeply saddened by the uniforms of the women on the Hungarian delegation."

Please fill us in on what made you sad, I can't find any footage of this country.