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Hanan AshrawiAshrawi

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi has been a central player in the struggle for a Palestinian homeland. A tireless campaigner for human rights, she has distinguished herself in both the academic and political arenas. Her academic expertise has played a vital role in the development and recognition of Palestinian culture, while her longstanding political activism on behalf of the Palestinian people has contributed greatly to the establishment of an independent and self-governing Palestine.

Dr. Ashrawi received her Bachelor and Master's degrees in literature in the Department of English at the American University of Beirut. After earning her Ph.D. in Medieval and Comparative Literature from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Dr. Ashrawi returned to her homeland in 1973 to establish the Department of English at Birzeit University on the West Bank. She edited the Anthology of Palestinian Literature. She is the author of The Modern Palestinian Short Story: An Introduction to Practical Criticism; Contemporary Palestinian Literature under Occupation; Contemporary Palestinian Poetry and Fiction; and Literary Translation: Theory and Practice.

If you are a student, teacher, educator, peace activist or just someone who cares and wants to help, please read How Can We End Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide Forever? and do what you can to make the world a safer, happier place for children of all races and creeds.

Hadeel's Song

Some words are hard to pronounce—
He-li-cop-ter is most vexing
                    (A-pa-che or Co-bra is impossible)
But how it can stand still in the sky
I cannot understand—
          What holds it up
                    What bears its weight
(Not clouds, I know)
It sends a flashing light—so smooth—
          It makes a deafening sound
                    The house shakes
                             (There are holes in the wall by my bed)
And I have a hard time sleeping
(I felt ashamed when I wet my bed, but no one scolded me).

Plane—a word much easier to say—
          It flies, tayyara,
My mother told me
A word must have a meaning
A name must have a meaning
Like mine,
        (Hadeel, the cooing of the dove)
Tanks, though, make a different sound
          They shudder when they shoot
Dabbabeh is a heavy word
          As heavy as its meaning.

Hadeel—the dove—she coos
          Tayyara—she flies
                    Dabbabeh—she crawls
My Mother—she cries
          And cries and cries
My Brother—Rami—he lies
                    And lies and lies, his eyes
Hit by a bullet in the head
          (bullet is a female lead—rasasa—she kills,
                    my pencil is a male lead—rasas—he writes)
What’s the difference between a shell and a bullet?
(What’s five-hundred-milli-meter-
        Or eight-hundred-milli-meter-shell?)
Numbers are more vexing than words—
          I count to ten, then ten-and-one, ten-and-two
                    But what happens after ten-and-ten,
How should I know?
Rami, my brother, was one
          Of hundreds killed—
They say thousands are hurt,
But which is more
          A hundred or a thousand (miyyeh or alf)
                    I cannot tell—
                             So big—so large—so huge—
Too many, too much.

Palestine—Falasteen—I’m used to,
          It’s not so hard to say,
It means we’re here—to stay—
          Even though the place is hard
                    On kids and mothers too
For soldiers shoot
          And airplanes shell
                    And tanks boom
                             And tear gas makes you cry
(Though I don’t think it’s tear gas that makes my mother cry)
I’d better go and hug her
          Sit in her lap a while
                    Touch her face (my fingers wet)
                             Look in her eyes
Until I see myself again
          A girl within her mother’s sight.

If words have meaning, Mama,
          What is Is-ra-el?
What does a word mean
        if it is mixed
                  with another—
If all soldiers, tanks, planes and guns are
                    What are they doing here
In a place I know
          In a word I know—(Palestine)
                    In a life that I no longer know?

From the Diary of an Almost-Four-Year-Old

Tomorrow, the bandages
will come off. I wonder
will I see half an orange,
half an apple, half my
mother's face
with my one remaining eye?
I did not see the bullet
but felt its pain
exploding in my head.
His image did not
vanish, the soldier
with a big gun, unsteady
hands, and a look in
his eyes
I could not understand.

If I can see him so clearly
with my eyes closed,
it could be that inside our heads
we each have one spare set
of eyes
to make up for the ones we lose.

Next month, on my birthday,
I'll have a brand new glass eye,
maybe things will look round
and fat in the middle —
I've gazed through all my marbles,
they made the world look strange.

I hear a nine-month-old
has also lost an eye,
I wonder if my soldier
shot her too—a soldier
looking for little girls who
look him in the eye—
I'm old enough, almost four,
I've seen enough of life,
but she's just a baby
who didn't know any better.

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