Sense of Freedom - An extract from his book Before Mountains Disappear
After years of exhausting search for a home in a substitute country… I returned to the place from where I had started, in my hometown with my own people. Whereas the world was a prison suffocating me, I found my freedom in Jerusalem. Within the three square kilometers, Al-Waad, Herod's Gate and Musrarah Quarter, I could breathe freely.
[…] I walk down the street and I see faces that I recognize and that recognize me. After hundreds of years in the same city, the individual from each family becomes a type representing the general traits that identify the different families - a particular gait, a particular hand gesture, a manner of speech, a certain sense of humor.
[…] They do not have to know me personally, nor do I need to know them on a personal level. The warm feeling of belonging as registered by the little twinkle in the eyes, the polite lifting of the hand in salute, and the warm evening greeting, masa' al-kheir, still dispel the deepest feeling of loneliness from my heart.
In Jerusalem, I have found that deep mysterious sense of contentment produced by the feeling of belonging. Here, in front of me, I find infinite images of myself limitlessly refracted in the eyes of the others: We belong to the same place and understand each other's subtlest nuances... Even the dumb stones speak to me in a language that discourses of my personal heritage as a human being born by historic accident to a particular family in a particular city.
I could have been born anywhere; I grew up a Jerusalemite.
Extracts from Before the Mountains Disappear: An Ethnographic Chronicle of the Modern Palestinian by Ali Qleibo. A Kloreus Publication, 1992. Reprinted by kind permission of the author.