My grandfather’s love for Jaffa

Postcard of the port of Jaffa from between 1888 to 1900 (Wikimedia)

Raed Qaddoura

Mondoweiss  /  May 18, 2022

When my grandfather died, the pain of his exile died with him too. But his hope that his grandchildren would return one day to his beloved Jaffa remain alive today.

On May 15 of each year, Palestinians commemorate the anniversary of Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe). On May 15, 1948, the Zionist gangs attacked Palestinian villages, killed the civilians and displaced those who remained alive. Statistics indicate that the total of those displaced from Palestinian villages exceeded 700,000, as they were displaced to several neighboring areas, like Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Syria and the West Bank.

Israel took control of the Palestinian lands with its military might, to crown its achievement by declaring its independence over the lands it stole from the indigenous population before killing some and displacing others. But soon, Israel and the Ben-Gurion government discovered the error of their famous saying that “the old will die and the young will forget.”

My grandfather, who passed away several years ago, told me about the days of his youth before Al-Nakba. He used to tell me every time I met him about the beauty of Palestine and how he connected his love for Palestine with his love for his wife.

For my grandfather, Jaffa was his first love before Israel deprived him of that bride by forcing him to move out along with other hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, in search of a safer place and escape from the criminality of the Zionist gangs.

Then, as soon as my grandfather arrived in Gaza, he swore to return again and not to leave his beloved to anyone else. My grandfather waited for a long time, hoping to return soon, until his heart attached to my grandmother, in whom he saw the beauty of Jaffa and her image that never leaves his mind and heart. 

As a young man who was not sufficiently aware since my childhood of the details of Al-Nakba, I used to see closely the intense love that my grandfather had for my grandmother, and I thought at the time that this was the nature of those who are bound together by the bond of eternal love. Then I realized what it means to love the land in which I was born and grew up. I also knew the meaning of sadness and oppression that can afflict a person when their dearest possessions are robbed from them.

Unfortunately, when my grandmother passed away my grandfather’s grief cried doubly, once when lost Jaffa, the city, and the other when he lost Jaffa, his lover. My grandfather’s dream was simple: to stay in that dream and wake up to it—the dream of returning. 

His happiness and smile were great every time he felt that he would return to his city Jaffa with his beloved Jaffa. And I do not hide a secret when he once said that Jaffa, the city, may feel jealousy when my grandfather returns to it while he is with another Jaffa, meaning his wife.

My grandfather waited for a long time, but he was confident that he would return to his house in Jaffa and sit on the sands of its beach at sunset, as he used to do every Friday.

Later, when my grandfather died his pain died with him too, but his hopes remained alive for his grandchildren to return one day. I never imagined for a moment that my grandfather would die before he returned to Jaffa and kissed the sands of its golden beach once more. 

Despite the sadness that I had for what happened to my grandfather, his dream that he had is still valid to return one day, but this time it will be the return of his grandchildren who did not forget even for one day the land that was stolen from their ancestors.

Today, after 74 years of Al-Nakba, Palestinians all over the world continue to commemorate Al-Nakba and remind their children of the dream of every grandfather of their ancestors to return and restore the land again. 

Raed Qaddoura is a Gaza-based academic and writer