>Yesterday, we went past Baka’a refugee camp on our way to a lovely picnic. As we did, I remembered the first time we visited Baka’a. As you may know, the YWCA has a location in Baka’a where they employ local ladies to sew uniforms and bake goods. That trip was the first time I really understood how closely many of the refugees still lived to Palestine. I was used to seeing Palestinians like El 3atal, who lived in a “normal” house and led “normal” lives. As we drove through the camp, I was struck by how almost temporary everything seemed. The shops seemed a bit unfinished. The corrugated tin roofs held on by cinder block reminded me viscerally of Juarez Mexico, certainly the most poverty ridden place I’ve ever been. I asked El 3atal about it. His next statement was the point of revelation for me. He told me that the temporary roofs fastened in place only by cinder block were the Baka’a residents way of making a very strong statement. I could see it was also a reminder, to themselves, their children, and any who asked as I did. These roofs were the refugees’ way of saying, I’m only here until they let me go home. It was their daily reminder of the fact that they are not home.
At the time, I wondered what it would be like to grow up only knowing that you don’t belong here, this is only a temporary house. The psychology of living “in transit” for years and years must be terribly challenging. And, as I said, I finally understood how closely these refugees lived to Palestine. Every day, it was in their hearts, their minds, and their line of sight. Every time I think of such a subtle form of protest, such a simple way of reminding oneself and others, it brings tears to my eyes. I’m so thankful for the trip past Baka’a yesterday. I’m ashamed that I forgot about the people in the refugee camps. I had forgotten how they live, in transit, until they can go home. And, I hope that the trip comes soon, although I have no confidence that it will. And, most of all, I hope that the hope remains alive. The next generation of refugees is growing up in Baka’a, still with visible reminders that they aren’t home yet. Here’s wishing you home in your heads, home in your hearts, and home in person.