by Ed Felien
We are all of us the children of immigrants. Most of us still have some connection, a generation or two or three back, to a foreign country. Somewhere in our past, our family left their homeland because they had lost hope for a better life. They believed America offered them a new chance to make something beautiful of their lives.
So, it’s easy to recognize ourselves in the history of Majdi Wadi. His family’s story is the story of all of us.
Majdi is a Palestinian. His father and grandparents lived on a large farm before 1948. They were forced to leave their land when the Israelis massacred the village of Deer Yasseen. He says, “Nobody survived. Kids, women, older people. All were killed. Our home was in Al Mazera. At first my grandparents refused to leave. We hoped the Arab states would help. But after Deer Yasseen, it was clear we had to leave to stay alive.”
family moved first to Ramallah, but when it became clear they would not get
their farm back and could not find work, they moved to Kuwait. Kuwait was a
rich country, but the leaders were unjust. “They wanted to use the Palestinian
labor,” Wadi explains, “but they did not want to give us any rights.
In 1986 they passed a law that any foreigner over 18 had to leave. My father
was 55 years old, having spent 50 years of his life working in Kuwait. No medical
insurance, no right to keep his kids if they were over 18. And he was kicked
out of Kuwait after Saddam invaded in 1991. We went to Jordan and then came
here in 1994.
“My brother had already come to America in 1978. With the help of an uncle
he purchased Ali Baba Bakery. Using his mother’s recipes, he turned it
into a Middle Eastern delicatessen and bakery he called Holy Land, after his
home. Soon after I arrived I helped with the business and eventually took it
He is pained by events in his homeland, but he believes, “These events
will continue until there is a fair peace. Jerusalem should be an international
city. Everyone can pray in the Vatican; the city is a house of God. No one country
or religion should control Jerusalem. All should own it.”
He doesn’t support the violence of Hamas, “But I think it is maybe
the only language the Israelis understand. Hamas came to power because of the
corruption of the Fatah Palestinian government and the severe Israeli policies.
The Hamas social programs were giving Palestinians hope. They say they won’t
negotiate, but that is wrong. They must sit down with the Israelis. They must
go to the table. Israel cannot deny their rights. I believe eventually all the
mothers that have lost sons, all the wives that have lost husbands will force
their governments to sit down and make peace.
“Now the situation is very bad. People in Palestine have no right to dream.
When you lose your right to dream you become a suicide bomber. What else is
left to them in life? The answer is to make a future for them.” ||
See also "Iraqi Voices:
a Minneapolis refugee and a Baghdad blogger" by Lydia
Howell and "The tragedies of war,
the hope for peace" by Ed