One day in a free Palestine

One day in a free Palestine
Passover seder at UC Berkeley’s Gaza solidarity encampment, including a beautiful watermelon kippa. Original photo from twitter:

As a globally recognized genocide unfolds in Gaza, I find myself overcome with bouts of rage and grief. Desperate pleas for help from friends and strangers in Gaza sent to me on Twitter and WhatsApp echo in my mind. I have no idea what to say to them.

What words can I possibly offer to my friends who've lost family members, homes, and livelihoods? When faced with such immense loss I am speechless.

As a sea of bodies, many tortured before they were murdered, are uncovered in mass graves around hospitals in Gaza, I wonder: what happened to all the people saying Israel would never intentionally target a hospital?

Despite the unending horror, I allow myself a microscopic luxury; a luxury I invite you to indulge in with me: a brief moment of hope.

Gazans thanking students for their Solidarity. Gaza. April 2024.

The flames of liberation are spreading all across the globe. Countries throughout the world have cut diplomatic ties and are recalling ambassadors. The International Criminal Court prepares arrest warrants for stewards of genocide. Groups of tech employees risk their livelihoods and careers in protest against genocide while their leaders place profit over human life. Brave university students rise up and join the fight for liberation, showing that the American youth have an incredibly rare combination of both courage and moral clarity.

Watching Jewish student activists on campuses protect Muslims as they pray and watching Jewish students as they hold seder in the middle of the Palestinian encampments – safe and protected as well – fills me with immense hope. You can feel the tide turning.

Students, professors, and activists encircle & protect Muslims praying Jumah. UC Berkeley, April 26, 2024. Original photo from twitter:

I truly and fully believe with my whole heart and soul that a free and liberated Palestine is closer than ever. The status quo will not prevail if we remain steadfast with our brothers and sisters who are besieged in Gaza.

I invite you to say it with me and believe it as truly and deeply as I do:

We will see the end of Israeli apartheid. We will see a free, liberated, pluralistic Palestine with equal rights and freedom for everyone: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Baháʼí, Druze, Samaritans, and many more.

I close my eyes, breath deeply, quiet my mind, and I allow myself – for the first time – to imagine my first trip to liberated Palestine...


I deboard my plane at Yaffa International Airport (YFF). It was a long, 16 hour flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO), but I had a few books to read during the flight. I am jetlagged, but excited.

I look around the gate are and I see throngs of excited people. Some older ladies wearing thobes laughing and chatting with each other in Arabic; they are excited to return to Palestine after living in exile for almost their entire lives. A few kids giggling as we walk through the airport with soccer balls whizzing around.

A big smile erupts across my face; during the occupation, the vast majority of Palestinians were not permitted to travel through Ben Gurion Airport (TLV), but today at YFF I am watching as everyone travels freely.

My friend Ibrahim is coming to pick me up at the airport. The last time I saw him in person was in the summer of 2023 in Gaza. He drove to the airport in Yaffa from Gaza City with his wife and child; it's a short drive away now that the checkpoints have all been demolished.

I see him and his family waiting for me in the arrivals hall with big smiles on their faces. I run over to them and we exchange big hugs. My eyes well up with tears, but I hold them back.

This is the first time we meet outside of Gaza after knowing each other for years. We stand on liberated land where Palestinians have full and equal rights. We can go anywhere and do anything, for the first time, without fear or hesitation and without permits, coordination, or permission. Real freedom.

We decide to drive directly to Ramallah for a meal and some time to catch up. It's amazing to drive from Yaffa to Ramallah now. There are no checkpoints, but there is a Museum of Apartheid inside of what used to be Qalandia. We decide to stop and take a look. As we get out of the car, I stand and pause. Seeing the outside of the building causes me to sneer. I mutter quietly to myself out of earshot of Ibrahim's family: "this fucking shit hole."

Apartheid wall near Qalandia crossing. Summer, 2019.

I've crossed through this place many times when it was operational, but it's so strange walking through it now as a museum for the first time. I wonder: do Germans feel the same way at the Tränenpalast museum as I feel at the Museum of Apartheid inside of the now defunct Qalandia?

As we leave the museum and head toward Ramallah, I reflect on the millions of people who crossed through this terrible place. The combined hundreds of millions of hours of human life wasted. The countless opportunities for work, travel, and study crushed here, at this exact location. What a disgrace to humanity; I hope this museum lasts forever and reminds us of the crimes of the past so that we don't repeat them in the future.

Entrance to Qalandia checkpoint. Summer, 2019.

We continue driving and make our way to a beautiful garden restaurant in Ramallah: Al Riad – one of my favorites. Ibrahim's daughter, Leen, runs around smiling and laughing throughout the garden. We sit and chat as we wait for our friend from Khalil to arrive.

Back during the occupation, it used to take me over 3 hours to get from Ramallah to Khalil in a green plated Palestinian shared taxi, a servees. Regular green plated Palestinian cars could only drive on certain roads and the occupation always made sure the allowed routes were long, windy, and subject to random unnecessary closure as a form of psychological torture.

Now that the occupation is a memory, Palestinians can drive from Khalil to Ramallah in under 2 hours.

Lemon and mint slush (one of my favorites) at Al Riad. June, 2022.

As everyone settles in and we all catch up, we toss around ideas for the next stop on our trip together. Should we go to Nablus next? An old friend I haven't spoken to in far too long lives there and I really should stop by. Or maybe we'll drive back down to Gaza – I promised my mom I'd buy her a rug from the rug shop.

My friends have finally been freed and now we have choices, a luxury once scarce.

We all laugh awkwardly; we're experiencing something new together in that moment – something I never thought I'd ever experience in Palestine: paralysis of choice.

For the first time ever: my friends and I can just be human beings.

Mahmoud (left) and me (right) in Gaza. July 2023.


I encourage everyone who is able: ajaneb (like me), Palestinians in the diaspora, and Palestinians currently under occupation – to take a moment to imagine this free Palestine with me.

Close your eyes and imagine with me: what will your first trip to a free and liberated Palestine be like for you? I hope you'll share it with me in the comments below.

Special thanks to my friend Anam Raheem for her tireless effort reading and providing feedback on my posts. Read her work on her blog.