In My Mother's Footsteps

In My Mother's Footsteps

A Palestinian Refugee Returns Home

Mona Hajjar Halaby
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' Refugees are like seeds that scatter in the wind, and land in different soils that become their reluctant homes' my mother once told me. As a small child, I looked up at my mother and clutched her hand. The puffiness of her palm reminded me of a loaf of warm pita bread, and when she laced her fingers into mine like a pretzel, I felt safe. I would have walked with her to the ends of the earth. When Mona moved from California to Ramallah to teach conflict resolution in a school for a year, she kept a journal. Within its pages, she wrote her impressions of her homeland, a place she had only experienced through her mother' s memories. As she settled into her teaching role, getting to know her students and the challenges they faced living in a militarized, occupied town, Mona also embarked on a personal pilgrimage to find her mother' s home in Jerusalem. Mona had dreamed of being guided by her mother down the old souqs, and the leafy streets of her neighbourhood, listening to the muezzin' s call for prayer and the medley of church bells. But after fifty-nine years of exile, it was Mona' s mother who held her daughter' s hand as they visited Jerusalem together, walking the narrow cobblestone alleys of the Old City. Their roles were reversed. Mona had become her Mama' s legs and her memory - and the one to tell her story going forward.
Mona Hajjar Halaby is a Palestinian-American educator, writer and social historian. In order to preserve Palestinian culture and heritage, she has created "British Mandate Jerusalemites Photo Library" on FaceBook, and "The Palestine Ethnographic Society. " She collaborated on an interactive documentary "Jerusalem We Are Here," which takes participants on a walking tour of a neighborhood in Jerusalem past and present, and presents a map that documents the houses in the neighborhood with their documents, photos, and stories. Hajjar-Halaby has written a parenting book, a book on her classroom practice and has a new book coming out in May entitled, "In My Mother' s Footsteps: A Palestinian Refugee Returns Home. "