This week, millions of Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. This will be an occasion for families to get together and enjoy each other’s company and love. This will be a time where many will give thanks for good things in their lives such as health, prosperity, good friends and loving families. We cannot forget the big traditional feast that will be part of this event as well.
In Palestine, like many other countries around the world, we do not have Thanksgiving Day. I felt, even in this time, when we have been living for six days under house arrest (curfew) in Bethlehem, when for the past two years, we have been suffering from continuous Israeli military aggression, oppression, and incursions, and when for the past 35 years, we have lived under a brutal occupation, that I – as a Palestinian and as an American – should write this letter in order to express what we are thankful for during this season.
On the 22nd of November, at 4:30 in the morning, Israeli military jeeps with loud speakers, accompanied by tanks and armed personnel carriers, reentered Bethlehem announcing that the entire Bethlehem district, with its towns, villages and refugee camps was under curfew. I write this letter from our apartment where my wife, my daughter and I, like tens of thousands of other families, have been trapped for six days and are not able to leave.
What am I thankful for? What are we as Palestinians thankful for?
Those who have it, are thankful for the little food they were able to buy and save before the Israeli troops came into Bethlehem this past week.
Those who have it, are thankful for electricity that has not been cut and for the water that has not been stopped from their neighborhoods or has not been lost when their water storage tanks were destroyed by Israeli soldiers wanting to empty them. (Unlike Israeli settlements a few miles away, Palestinians only get water once every 10 days on average).
Those who can, are thankful for being able to wake up every morning alive. Thankful that an Israeli sniper bullet or a missile fired on their home from an Israeli army tank or F-16 fighter jet did not kill them.
Those who can, are thankful that their homes have not yet been demolished (only 6 homes in Bethlehem this week), or their homes were not raided by Israeli soldiers who rampaged all their furniture, shooting bullets and destroying all their belongings, and blow up their walls (tens of homes in Bethlehem this week).
Those who can, are thankful that they or other members of their family have not been arrested and taken to unknown places with no access to anyone (tens of Palestinians from Bethlehem this week).
Those who are able to, are thankful that no one in their family has fallen ill. It would take hours, at best, to arrange for an ambulance to pick a sick person these days, not counting the other hours that are wasted by Israeli troops stopping ambulances in the streets.
Those who can, are thankful for telephone lines that connect them to their family and their loved ones. We have not been able to see our parents for a week and we live less than a mile away. We are truly thankful for the telephone line.
Those who can, are thankful that their lands have not yet been confiscated for illegal settlement buildings, which continue to grow and expand at a faster pace, in front of our eyes, as we sit imprisoned in our homes.
We are thankful for the many friends from different parts of this world that have either called or have written to us letters of prayer and support.
We are thankful for the growing number of people around the world and within Israel itself that have come to the realization that security for Israel can only be achieved if justice is given to the Palestinians.
Most of all we are thankful for the hope that we continue to have. Hope in seeing this brutal occupation end for our sake and for the sake of our Israeli neighbors. Hope in seeing a free and democratic Palestinian state established where the rights of all are respected and honored and where every Palestinian has the right to live. Hope in seeing the two peoples of this Holy Land treat each other as equals, with equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal freedoms.
If we did not have hope then we would not have much to be thankful for.