|From his home in Denmark Hussein Joumaa reflects upon the
journey he is about to undertake
In A Journey Home, a special three-part series marking the Nakba, Al Jazeera’s Awad Joumaa undertakes an extraordinary and deeply personal journey with his father, Hussein, as they return to their former home in what was once Palestine.
As Israel marks the 60th anniversary of its creation and Palestinians remember the ‘Nakba’, I journeyed with my father from Denmark, his home today, back to Palestine, the country of his birth.
Together we travelled through Lebanon, where as a younger man he had taken up arms as part of the Palestinian liberation movement, before finally making our way to what was once Palestine and the home he had not seen since he was forced into exile 60 years earlier.
My father, Hussein Joumaa, is a 60-year-old retiree who enjoys the simple pleasures in life – like a good meal, spending time with the people he loves and finding “breathing space” in the garden he keeps near his family home in the small coastal city of Sonderborg.
A newborn when the new state of Israel was created in 1948, he was among the 750,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their home by what would become the Israeli army.
|Part One – Denmark|
When he was forced to leave Wadi El Hamam, which means ‘the valley of doves’, in 1948, my father found himself in the Baalbek refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley.
“When I think of the past, I remember my second home, Lebanon. I spent 40 years of my life there. My childhood, my youth. Palestine I only know as a distant memory,” he says.
|The coastal city of Sonderborg, Denmark where
Hussein now lives
For men of Hussein’s generation the stigma of having been expelled from their homeland led to trouble over time.
“I had to leave Lebanon at all costs. My life was in danger because I was a known figure in the Palestinian resistance and people were watching me,” he explains.
He was smuggled out of the country, leaving his family behind. We would not see him again for nearly a year.
More than 25,000 Palestinian men and women fled Lebanon during the civil war in the 1980s.
Many, like my father, made it to Denmark where they, once again, started a new life.
“Denmark has given us a lot. Most important, it gave us security. We discovered democracy and personal freedom. We got a house, an education for our children.
“Had we stayed back in Lebanon we would have had to forget about all of that.”
|IN VIDEO: A Journey Home|
In Denmark, he also found the garden that is so important to him.
“It represents the land I lost, the homeland I never had which I long for. In Lebanon we couldn’t own a piece of land.”
As we prepare to leave Denmark on the journey that will eventually take us to what has always been his Palestine, my father is brimming with anticipation: “I’m very excited to see my family in Lebanon, to go back to see the places and relive the memories of the many years we lived there.
“But there is also a longing to see Palestine. To touch the soil, see where my family once lived, the place I was born. All these things make me anxious. A million questions run through my mind.”
Click here to read the second instalment in this three-part series.
Click here to read the final instalment in this three-part series.