If you were to see my dad on the bus, in dark clothes, with a beard and a suitcase, you would probably think he was terrorist. My father’s side of the family is from the quiet town of Zahlee, Lebanon. For most people who don’t have a familiarity with the Middle East, Lebanon is just another war-torn country with angry Muslims who want to “Kill Americans”. But there so much more to being Middle Eastern than being Muslim or burning the American Flag. It’s about being proud of where you come from.
The year before 9/11 and I was in the fourth grade, my family was privileged enough to visit Lebanon for about 6 weeks. Even though I was only 10, I felt like I had been away for a long time, and now was returning home. I loved everything I saw, smelt, heard, felt, taste, and hugged. I remember my cousins coming through the front door, kissing me on both cheeks, and smiling so lovingly even though they had never met me. The country was beautiful and the people were beautiful. I woke up the sound of church bells, and fell asleep to the sound of Muslim prayers. These people lived in such harmony. In retrospect, the country was on the edge of peace. But Zahle was a peaceful city that had always, in the time of need, pulled its citizens together to defend its honor. These people laughed together, bought the same food together, walked the same streets together, and were friends. You couldn’t find anywhere better. Now if you were to roam the streets, you probably would hear gun-fire in the distance, with divided looks from the people around you. There isn’t much sense the unity that there once was.
I have changed a lot since my trip to Lebanon and the place it once was doesn’t exist anymore. But where I come from and who I am will never change. I look for Lebanon in the media, constantly and what I see can only make me want to cry. It is a broken land that is trying to regain that which was so hard to grasp. The pictures of dead children that look like my cousins and the men fighting that come across as my uncles are sometimes too much for me. UN refugee camps, looking strangely to those on the Palestine West Bank, make me angrier than I have ever known. These are my people. I have found myself in these people. No matter where I am in life, I will always be Lebanese. I believe that one day there will be peace. I believe that I will return back to the land of my ancestors, and the very ground that they stained with their sweat and tears, and never fear for my life.
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