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Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Art of "Soul Mating"

The Art of "Soul Mating"

Gaza, January, We grow up with preconceived notions about many definitions in life. But most of us reach a phase in life where we start asking big questions and resorting to spirituality in order to help us make sense of the life we are living in such a rapidly interchangeable world. 

As you start looking inwards and unfolding your layers, you embark on a very exciting yet frightening journey of discovery and soul searching. You come face to face with your ego and if you break it then you will meet your soul and although you had it since you were born, you feel like you are getting to know it all over again. Then we start wondering about soul mates and soul mating.

The official technical definition of a soulmate is a human with whom you share a natural and profound affinity with, invincible kinship of spirit and mutual attraction (not necessarily physical or sexual). That definition is very accurate, but not until you feel it and go through it you are able to come up with your own understanding and definition of what a soulmate is or means. At first, it feels like you are heavily drawn to someone in a way that you cant explain, then this dilemma explains everything. Life is weird, isn’t it?

Many thinkers, philosophers, writers, gurus and others delved into the state of having\finding a soul mate and shared their own point of view about it. Paulo Coelho, for example, wrote in “Brida” saying that only a few people can recognize their soulmates by seeing a light in their eyes or on their left shoulder. I agree on the eyes part, the eyes are the window to the soul. But you can’t expect from all the people to see “light”.

My personal belief is that we are all but shreds or shards of the same soul. We are taught that we have only one half and one soulmate. I beg to differ. I believe we have many soul mates and we all are like puzzle pieces. If we are all combined in the right way, we make one soul. One entity.

I am no spiritual guru, I don’t go into deep meditations and I haven’t seen any other worlds. Atleast not yet. But I believe there are many ways to spot your soulmate, some of which I don’t know yet some I do know about. Ofcourse, you can spot them threw recognizing a light in their eyes or an aura around them. But the most effective and powerful way is the heart.

Whether you physically meet a soulmate or not, your heart connects with their heart. It might be someone of the same gender or opposite gender. It might include physical attraction and it might not. What is guaranteed that you will bask in unconditional love that enhances every corner of your being, it rids you of all the negativity and complexity of the “ego and it helps you become more you.

Your soulmate isn’t necessarily your spouse or relative or best friend. And yes you have a number of soulmates, but you are lucky if you find one. It can be rough at first, like two puzzle pieces that go together but the sharp edges are in grave need of adjusting. So do have patience. Nothing in life is ever easy.

The beauty of a soulmate is how solid and real the connection becomes. Sex or no sex, it doesn’t matter. It won’t make it stronger or weaker. All shades of blue are blue in the end.  And perhaps the strongest perks of a soul mate is the drama/jealousy-free dynamic. How can you be jealous of your ownself? Or have drama issues with yourself?

Silence will only make sense with your soulmate. You don’t need words to understand each other although communication is key, especially at the early stages of coming across each other. And the uniqueness stands in being so close to each other yet you know when exactly to give each other space. Think of it as commitment but without any chains. Can you imagine it?

We spend our lives searching for love and happiness. And even if we do, we always feel like there is something missing. Only your soulmate can complete you. You might be happily married, massively successful or simply a fully grounded human but you will never feel fulfillment until you meet a soul that you click with and suddenly everything around will start making sense.

A soulmate exists to take you higher and helps you experience emotional nirvana and an exceptional peace of mind. There are certain feelings and places that only a soulmate can take you to and make you feel. Whether its euphoria, a profound sense of security, infinite serenity, perfect companionship, unconditional love, maximum level of honesty and continuous support or simply a better sense of “Self”.

A soulmate is merely a different version of you that exists to complete you. Together you are better and apart you are simply incomplete. You are not afraid to have a conversation and you are never worried of losing them or yourself. It’s like the perfect key to a lock that opens a whole new dimension of everything. An enhancement to your senses and to the experience of “life”.

Some are lucky enough to marry their soulmates or find them in their relatives or immediate family members. But others have to search the world for them and find them in the utmost unusual and unexpected places\situations.

That sounds very good, right? Well, only if you embrace it or understand it. Unfortunately, its not like that for everybody. Some sift through life without recognizing or finding even one soulmate. While some others get frightened and run away. Some don’t understand and others prefer to stay away from its complexity, they have no idea what they are missing. Most think they are obliged to fall in love or have a sexual relationship with their soulmates, which is very wrong.

Even if you were married or in love and you came across a soulmate, that doesn’t mean betrayal or a change of heart. If you think of a soul mate as a love interest or sexual object only then you are missing the whole concept of it. A soul mate transcends beyond sexuality and love, it’s something more, much much more. A soul mate is like your spiritual compass in life.

Soulmate or not, I hope we live our lives being always consciously alerted. Have your heart opened and lean on it for insight, don’t just count on your eyes. Be kind, and kinder. Be tolerant. We can’t accept ourselves fully unless we have the ability to accept others the way they are. Being you doesn’t mean being against others. We are all one. Be brave, embrace life and others. Don’t give in to the confinements of society or people or to the ugliness of your ego. Be the soul mate you dream of finding in others. Be strong enough to recognize and embrace others, but also love yourself in a healthy way and lean on yourself.

Love, live and let live.

From Gaza with love, light and inner peace,

Omar Ghraieb

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mom: How I lost my universe

Homage to Mom: How I lost my universe

Gaza, January, “What took me so long?”, a question that tantalized me since the early morning because today marks the 18th anniversary of my mom’s death, or passing, as I like to call it. I never dared to blog about it before because its too emotional and too personal. Who knows what I will end up sharing. But since I am becoming more real and shedding my ego, I guess it’s time I open up about that life-changing state.

My mom was a typical mother in a sense of being a hard working woman who gave birth to five children and doing her best to raise them all well. But she was no typical woman. She was a Palestinian who was born in Palestine but had to become a refugee with her family due to occupation and Nakba. They ended up swinging between the Arab countries, especially Lebanon and Syria.

She married a Palestinian, a revolutionary, which left her playing the role of a single mom of five in a foreign country (Cyprus) as her husband travels and works. It wasn’t easy but she made us feel like she was invincible and could handle anything. She was a human of feelings, her heart embraced everyone and she treated everyone with love, care and tenderness.

We moved to Gaza in the late 1990s, it was hard on us but for her she was used to this shredded life. She was worried about us but also was happy that we will return to a part of occupied Palestine and reunite with my dad. Four months later, she passed away, after securely getting us to “Safety”.

I was 9, but I remember that day like it was yesterday. I swear, the last few days before that day felt so weird. Her conversations with me were different, the look in her eyes was different and she had this air of worrisome surrounding her all the time. I woke up to head to school with my sister like any other day. But the weather was so gloomy, dark and rainy. The sky was trying to tell me something but I didn’t get it right away.

My older brother came to “confiscate” us from school. Yes, he literally confiscated us, we were put in a car and told we were heading home in the middle of a school day. I kept looking at the sky, it was trying to protect me but couldn’t prepare me for what I will see. The rain never stopped, if anything, the weather got worse.

My body was alerted, my instincts kept telling me that something was wrong but not in a million years did I imagine that loss. My mom was my everything. My compass, my universe and the center of everything.

There were so many people everywhere, especially in our house. I saw my mom laying there without moving. I didn’t need anyone to tell me anything. I felt a chill take over my spine and heart. I felt like the house was empty without her, even though the house was packed with people all around. I felt alone. And I have been feeling alone since then even when I am surrounded with family and friends.

Losing a parent, a mom especially, changes your whole life. It’s like walking through a dessert without a compass, or going on a pilgrimage without a destination in mind, or going through a maze in complete blindness. You lose the sense of security. You go through life always feeling like there is something missing. A permanent void opens in your heart and you just learn to live with it.

I don’t look like my mom but my soul looks like hers. I had the privilege, blessing and honor of living with her for only 9 years but she gave me love and she taught me so much that it could last for a lifetime. I feel like I was an extension of her heart and soul. She is a part of me and I am a part of her. She left earth 18 years ago, but she never left me or my heart.

They say time heals and helps you forgot. Its very true and accurate. But not when it comes to the loss of your mom. I find myself missing her more and more every year, I find myself also needing her more and more. I try to always remind myself of her face, her scent, her smile, her voice and the look of love she used to look at me with. I don’t always remember everything, it used to make me angry and make me feel like I am losing her all over again. But now I realized, I might forget some things and remember others but I will never forget how she made me feel.

I believe that I am a feminist because of her. I am also proud to be the fruit of interracial love. Everything helps make the person you become. But what I am most proud of is the authenticity she passed onto me and setting an example of how to keep your soul and heart connected in influential harmony and how to keep them in sync. She touched everyone with her love. She wasn’t my compass only, she was the compass to many of her friends and family as well.

Some people leave us but they leave so much presence behind that they are more present than people who are still alive. I hope I am making sense.

Mama, my love to you is something that resembles you. It’s a never ending spring. May you rest in peace and never leave my heart. May you keep inspiring me and may your words keep ringing in my mind. May you be proud of me a fraction of how much I am proud of being your son. If I had the choice of being your son for 9 years or being somebody else’s son for a lifetime, I will choose you because love and presence transcend beyond time. You remain my compass and my pillar of security. I always yearn for you.

I kindly ask you to please honor and love your mom, don’t take her for granted and don’t think that there is all the time in the world. You never know what might happen so show your mom all the love, respect and care she deserves. Treat her like your queen, don’t wait any occasion to make her feel special. And please, hug her and kiss her from me.

From Gaza with yearning and nostalgia,
Omar Ghraieb.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Storm vs. Porn Star

Storm vs. Porn Star

Gaza, January, Perhaps its easier to always blame our failures on others instead of having the guts to be self-critics. It’s easier to live on the faded glory of history and pretend like it still gets us high even when it doesn’t. Even drugs don’t last that long. Yes, we once were a glorious nation in the past. We changed and inspired the world. We set example and we had everything rolling for us as an Arab nation. But that was so long ago that it’s time to wake up and face our fears and flops if we ever dream of shining again or even rising.

But I guess we are busy blowing up lame issues out of proportions and being consumed by mainstream media and\or by the highly demanding world we live in. we forgot our humanity, our duties and also the history that we will only bring up to sooth our rapid decline downwards. Or shall I say the rock bottoms that we keep hitting as a nation?

Between a shivering storm alerting an alarming climate change, and the storm we help create surrounding an Arab-American, we lost focus.


Let me start by saying this: Who the hell suggested we start calling storms by “Arabic” names and why? I just don’t get it. Why would you want to make sure to call a catastrophic storm an Arabic name? have we gone bankrupt in the department of creativity that our only way to revive the Arabic culture by naming storms “Huda” and “Zeina”? if that doesn’t raise a red flag about us needing a wakeup call then honestly I don’t know what will.

I remember how we would laugh whenever we would read about “Climate Change”, like it will never happen to us or in our time. I watched Al Gore’s documentary about it and I understood how the climate is changing dramatically (to the worse) each year. Summers are becoming hotter and winters are becoming way colder. Temperature has went down to 1 degrees Celsius in Gaza, which never happened before. Who knows what will happen to the world’s climate in a few years!

A very harsh cold storm hit the Arab world bringing snow, lethal coldness, trouble and tragedy. It snowed in many places, and rain did its part in places that saw no snow. As usual, the refugees paid the biggest price, along with the homeless and displaced. Syrian and Palestinian refugees lost children who died out of harsh coldness simply because a tent and a blanket cant keep you warm in such icy conditions. Children also died in Gaza after being displaced due to the latest Israeli barbaric war that caused a huge loss in people, buildings and everything else.

I felt guilty because I had a roof over my head and blankets while others are dying. I felt helpless. But also felt rage and disappointment in our Arabic nation, and in myself. Instead of wasting millions on Fireworks, Christmas decorations, mansions and other ridiculous things that the Arab world is so proud and showy about, we would have managed to help protect the refugees and displaced from this blind and harsh storm.

Arabic countries, leaders, embassies and people (including me) failed those refugees and left them to freeze to death. We call ourselves a nation, but do we really care about each other?

I would loved to have seen Churches, mosques, embassies, leaders and us the people open our arms and try to accommodate those displaced, if only through this storm. But excuses always stand in our way. Like myself for example, I resorted to prayers and asking others to pray or help while I was helplessly sitting in my own home. Sure, yes, I told myself that we had no electricity or heating, the weather outside is lethal and catastrophic that no one could leave the house. But its all excuses. We should have tried to do more. I tell myself before I preach anyone else. We failed each other and its becoming “OK” when it shouldn’t be that way. We are mastering ways to mask compassion and humanity with excuses. We, all, could have joined efforts to help save those refugees everywhere. But we didn’t. So tell me, what kind of nation are we now? Because we are no longer representing our honorable history. If anything, we are smearing it.

Porn Star:

Mia Khalife. A trending hashtag and the talk of the town. A Lebanese-American young girl who became a porn star only recently. Yet, thanks to us Arabs, and our endless contradictions, we helped turn her into the “Best Female Porn Star” of the year and the hottest discussed topic. Instead of dealing with serious issues, we go on and waste our energy on commenting or rejecting an issue that shouldn’t even concern us.

Who cares what Mia Khalife does or thinks? I don’t. She doesn’t represent Arabs or Lebanese people or Christians. We are asking the world not to label us and narrow us down by linking Islam to two stupid guys who attacked Charlie Hebdo. Yet, we focus on Mia Khalife and hold her responsible for smearing Arabs and attacking Islam. REALLY? SERIOUSLY PEOPLE? HOW COME?

We are the ones who turned her into a superstar and gave her actions importance. Like those who commented on her wearing Hijab in her porn videos. How did you know that? And why did you watch her? I bet 90% of those who attacked her watched all her videos and got her the highest ranking. Congratulations for being a bunch of idiots. All of us.

She took the Arab media by storm overshadowing the deadly storm that was killing refugees. People rushed to comment and hashtag her on all social media bringing her into a global trending hashtag. Do you think she really cares about what you think? She doesn’t even care what her parents think. So save your energy and invest it elsewhere.

I am not defending nor attacking Mia. I honestly don’t care what she does or who she is or the low hits she takes at Islam. She is after all trying to gain the utmost publicity and money. And Islam is a religion and a faith that can’t be touched by Mia or people like her, its not that vulnerable.

My reoccurring question would be: When will we wake up and start focusing on critical issues instead of wasting time on mundane matters? When will we stop contradicting ourselves and actions? And when will we face our flops in order to advance as a nation?

Lets mind our own business so we can move forward and stop wasting our time judging others and analyzing them.

From Gaza with a boggled mind,
Omar Ghraieb

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Paris March of Hypocrisy

Paris March of Hypocrisy

Gaza, January, Once again, the world fails me but doesn’t fail to impress me with how biased it can be. Two words: Paris March. It made me feel like this: I am an Arab, I am less. I am Muslim, I am less. I am Palestinian, I am less. I am human, I am less. My blood means nothing.

World leaders (including Arabs, and the Palestinian president) marched in Paris to support the “Freedom of Speech” and stand against terrorism. Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, was front raw ofcourse because he is against violence which is why he waged a war on Gaza not long ago killing hundreds, including tens of children. Netanyahu loves “freedom of speech” so much that he killed 17 Palestinian journalists during the latest war on Gaza.

As if the death of Muslim officer, Ahmed Merabet, who was doing his job defending Charlie Hebdo HQ.s wasn’t enough, and the French Muslim Hero (whom, in reality, doesn’t have the French Citizenship) that saved Jewish lives during the attack on a Kosher supermarket, still isn’t enough. I will have to once again say I am against Paris attacks, as a Muslim and a human being. Although words are louder than actions, yet nothing defends Muslims enough no matter what they do or say.

Charlie Hebdo will start printing one million copies instead of the usual 60 thousands. Talk about publicizing and monetizing tragedy. Just wondering why no mention in the media about Nigeria's Boko Haram Killings? Arent those also Islamic Extremists?

Only few months ago, many innocent lives were harvested in Gaza by the evil terrorism of occupation including tens of children and a number of journalists. Why didn’t any world leader come to Gaza and march? Why didn’t Arab leaders visit Gaza and speak up against Israel? Why did my own president visit Paris yet didn’t visit Gaza after it was burned by Israel?

The answer is simple and easy. Our lives don’t matter. Our blood is cheap. As humans, we are less. I cant help but respect Europe for honoring their blood and forcing the whole world to do so. But as an Arab, I feel ashamed and let down. We once were a nation that was the most advanced, respected and imitated. But now, our blood is worthless, even in our own eyes.

Paris urged Netanyahu not to come to the march, he wasn’t invited. Haaretz wrote about it. Hollande, the French President, wanted to focus on the matter in hand and didn’t want any other spotlight to deviate the attention to other mundane issues, say for example the Israel-Palestine conflict. Yet, Netanyahu, and as usual, did whatever he liked without giving a damn about what others think. So he attended uninvited. Just like he keeps killing Palestinians. The world won’t stop him after all.

Only then did France invite the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was also asked not to come at first. And ofcourse, Abbas rushed over there. So we are not considered equals. If Netanyahu didn’t come uninvited, Abbas wouldn’t have been invited. Why did Abbas decide to go march and walk side beside with leaders who failed Palestine so many times? Why didn’t he visit Gaza after the Israeli war? Its beyond me. Oh, and Netanyahu was only a few feet away.

Which brings me to a very sad melodramatic conclusion: The world is so obviously blunt about my worth as an Arab Muslim Palestinian. I AM NOTHING. Many countries think I don’t exist, and those who recognize my existence do it in a symbolic way. I am already considered as a terrorist even when I am not. As a holder of Palestinian passport, I need a visa everywhere, and nowhere would grant me a visa unless I pay loads of money or ask for a divine intervention. And when\if I make it, I will be interrogated, searched and perhaps strip searched at most airports. I will have a target on my back everywhere I go. I am under the microscope. I am forced to respect and support all freedoms even though the world denies me my basic human rights. I will be labeled, narrowed down, ridiculed and automatically seen as a suspect of any incident around the world. Freedom of speech is exclusive for the West.

Ironic how I feel like my life’s mission is to fight for human rights when I, myself, don’t exercise any basic human rights. It’s actually funny and a little melancholic. Don’t you think?

But the question remains: Till when will I keep fighting for ultimate equality when most don’t even care about my blood, worth or rights? I honestly don’t know.

I might get fed up one day soon. And I might end up in California, become a plastic boy and binge on Sangrias all day. Oh wait, that’s only if the US gives me another Visa. And I don’t end up being jailed or spied on because I am an Arab and a Muslim. Sigh. Now even silly dreams are not an option.

From Gaza with whatever love left inside,

Omar Ghraieb

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Why I am not Charlie Hebdo

  Why I am not Charlie Hebdo

Gaza, January, If you haven’t heard about the "Paris attacks" you probably have been living in a parallel universe. And if you did, then you probably didn’t hear about the police officer Ahmad Merabet, a Muslim, who died while trying to defend Charlie Hebdo even though they were insulting his religion.

#JesuisCharlie hashtag took over the world and the cyber sphere, people from around the world rushed to show their support to Charlie and ofcourse took a chance to attack Muslims spewing all kinds of profanities and racial commentary. A campaign to #KillAllMuslims was launched by those who support Charlie, ironically. They think violence is the answer to violence. How ignorant can people be is beyond me.

Muslims, as usual, rushed to declare their innocence by trending the #NotinMyName hashtag that is trending often since Islam and Muslims are constantly under the microscope.

I am not Charlie, nor did I participate in the #JeSuisCharlie phenomena. I also didn’t participate in the “Not in my name” campaign as a Muslim. Why you ask? I will tell you.

Lets me start by saying that the world doesn’t think all lives equally matter. I condemn Paris attacks. Yes, I think of Charlie as a racist who manipulates Satire into insulting religions to get his few minutes of fame and become a hero. However, I don’t believe that violence is the solution and I condemn Paris attacks. Killing 12 people doesn’t help, did it ever? No. It never did. Islam never asked us to kill in its name. ISIS are already doing enough to deform Islam and make it look like a religion that is based on terrorism, we don’t need to add to that. Even if the world denies me of all freedoms, I still strongly believe in them and support them.

Murders, killings and crimes are committed every day by people from different nationalities, backgrounds and religions but they are never labeled or narrowed down to a certain race or religion unless they are Black, Arab or Muslim. If you are all three, then you will probably be a suspect even if you did nothing and happened to be passing by an incident.

I will not defend myself or my religion simply because not every individual represents their nationality or religion. Some people are stupid and they do mistakes. Stupidity and terrorism have no religion. So blame the person not their background. And judge yourself before you judge others because you are not perfect and if you feel like all Muslims should be killed because two Muslims committed a crime, then you are no better.

I am perplexed by a world that is so biased. Where were those who defended rights, freedoms and journalism when Israel was blowing Gaza up killing children and journalists? Where were they when Muslims were going through mass killings in Burma? Or is the European blood more worthy than other blood? Or are freedoms exclusive to Europe only and shouldn’t be defended everywhere else as well? Or are Muslims and Islam easy targets and speaking up against Israel is a taboo?

I stood with Paris against the attacks even though Paris didn’t stand by me or Gaza. They tried hard to oppress and prevent protests in our support when Israel was burning Gaza and the government stood still. Yet, I am the one who need to be defending myself as a Muslim? Why? And how is that fair?

I am not Charlie. Je Suis pas Charlie. Je Suis Gaza, Je Suis Muslim, Je Suis Palestinien, Je Suis Palestine and Je Suis Ahmed. I am Gaza, I am Muslim, I am Palestinian, I am Palestine , I am Ahmed and that doesn’t mean I am a terrorist. I will not defend myself because I did nothing. I stood by Paris yet France only recently and symbolically recognized Palestine. So for the past 26 years of my life I didn’t exist in France’s eyes. Yet I support Paris. Because I am a human being, a Muslim, Arab and Palestinian. I don’t condone the killing of innocent people and I support all freedoms and equality, yup, believe it or not. My dream is ultimate freedom and equality.

I will never be like Charlie but I would definitely look forward of being equal to Charlie. When I feel like my life matters, my blood is worthy, when I live in an equal world that will stand by me like I am willing to stand by it. When the world recognizes that I exist and gives me my rights. When people defend all innocent people the same. I will be Charlie when I find any authenticity in what he does and in the world we live in.

From Gaza with dreams of peace and equality,

Omar Ghraieb

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sex: Don't let words deceive you

Sex: Don't let words deceive you

Gaza, December, I am not known for choosing controversial headlines to spark traffic or discussions, not that is a bad thing. But perhaps I needed to start this post by a reminder to myself and to you all: Don’t be deceived by headlines, words, covers and\or preconceived notions.

It’s always better to dig a little deeper. I know that sometimes we end up discovering a rock after digging up hard, but sometimes we come across a diamond while excavating. I don’t know about you, but personally I think that risk is worth the effort. You will either find a diamond or find the truth. Arent they both worth the digging?

By sex here I mean gender. Males and Females, and everything that falls in between. I am not here to lecture you in science or repeat historical theories and findings about males and females and the endless yet limited differences between them. I am here to talk about a whole different dimension.

I wish it stops at education and science, when it comes to learning about males and females, but it doesn’t. Everywhere around the world, whatever the diverse culture is, we are all raised on pre-defined notions and definitions. Whether its related to morals, or religion, or traditions, or terms or even the simple meaning of things. We are grown to absorb everything as it was decided by others. And we are told that asking questions is bad, it might even label you as an outcast or a rebel.

We become adults based on very old stereotypical definitions that were passed through generations without any effort of thinking things over or adding value to those terms. I am not talking about “modernizing things”, I am just saying that we were given a brain for a reason. Therefore, we should use it and learn that it is ok to challenge old or new meanings. We will either be convinced that they are right\enough, or maybe add to them or change them.

Nobody can define love in a specific way, or success. Love is said to be so many things. Some say it’s a feeling, others say it’s a state while its also said to be a chemical or scientific process. Success too. How can you define it? Is it having allot of money? Or being happy at what you do? Or is it being famous? Or have allot of following? Or maybe all the above? Who knows. And why should we know? Why do we have a hunger to define things and pass them on as the “right definition”?

In different cultures around the world, including the Arab world, we are brought up to believe that men don’t cry, men are indestructible and super strong. Males are raised to become emotionless Hercules who will be judged upon and measured by how much money they make and how many girls they toy with.

Yet, men are expected to be religious and well mannered. Exceptional husbands, amazing fathers, great brothers, obedient sons and good friends. They are expected to remember birthdays and show emotions and really care. But how? And what emotions? If they are raised to be heartless and strong?

Females are raised up to be weak and soft. “The weaker you are, the more men you attract”, and then she falls in love with someone who tells her she is too weak and breaks her heart. Women are told to be stupid, because if they are smarter and more successful  (and they usually are) then men will feel threatened and run away. Women are expected to be a superwoman who happens to be a great wife, marvelous mother, tender sister, obedient daughter and a true friend. She is asked to “find a balance” and “juggle everything at the same time”. She is expected to be the first in her class, yet act dumb. She is expected to soar for success yet let the man feel like he has the superior upper hand. She is expected to be amazing at work and home. She should raise kids, cook, clean, be the perfect maid and yet take care of herself for her husband while she studies and works and does a million thing at once.

But how? And why do you expect her to be strong when she is raised to be weak? How will she believe in herself when she is told she is dumb and must always submit to men? How can she be confident when she is degraded to feel like a maid in her own house?

Men are not brought up to respect the sacredness of marriage. In most cultures, men aren’t shamed for infidelity. And women are raised up to be in competition with each other, not in work or education, but in getting men. So its ok for men to dive into betrayal and infidelity yet they are grilled for it. What do you expect from them when they are raised to fall into such patterns?

Women are raised to be emotional yet oppress their feelings. “Don’t challenge your man, don’t speak about your feelings, don’t complain …..etc” and the list of “Don’ts” continues. Women are told that divorce is shameful and a disaster and that they are too weak to handle it. Yet, they are blamed for staying with abusive or womanizing men. And women are asked to never discuss sex with their own husbands, its an indicator of bad upbringing yet its ok to talk about it with her mother and girlfriends. How do you expect women to be strong and stand up for themselves if they are raised to be mute obedient maids?

And let’s not forget the old tale of all times: “Men are breadwinners, their duty as fathers and husbands is to put food on the table”. Then we blame men for being unfit fathers who don’t help their wives with anything. 

“Women are the center of the house, you are expected to do anything and everything and never ever complain or ask for help”. Then we blame women for being too weak and handling too much and neglecting themselves and not caring for their husbands.

Gladly, we reached an era where we are aware and educated enough to use the unlimited resources we have to questions things and redefine concepts that perhaps we feel like we need to make better. We are no angels and I know no matter how hard we try not to judge, we end up judging. Fine, judge people and things but do go a step further to explore whether your judgment is right or wrong. At the end of the day, you are not god and you are not always right.

We always try to grow as humans, which is necessary and good. But we should also care about the growth of the surrounding environment and the society you live in. Otherwise, your growth will feel minimal. Yes, you need to start within but do aspire to external and widespread change after you start with yourself. And think, by questioning and challenging preconceived constants, you might be paving the way for a healthier better generation.

Writing and reading are therapeutic. I hope you don’t consider my writing as lecturing or telling you what to do. It’s more like sharing my personal intimate thoughts so I could grow with you. We all have our trials and tribulations. Instead of judging each other and growing apart, I believe we should help each other and grow closer. Our time has many advantages but also one of the downfalls is that we are becoming lonely by isolating ourselves by relying too much on technology.

Life is tough, and a constant learning experience. But its limitless too so never stop using your brain or advancing because nothing is impossible and trust me, you are definitely not alone, even though it feels like it most of the time. So let’s get it together.

From Gaza with love,

Omar Ghraieb

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gaza: Dont hit her

Gaza: Don’t hit her

Gaza, December, We grow up being lectured about courage and taking risks and how exhilarating it is. They make it sound like the right thing to do. Until we become adults and we start getting lectured about not taking risks and hearing pro-cowardice sayings like this Arabic one that says: “Cowardice makes two thirds of manhood”, meaning: “When shit hits the fan, RUN”.

“Manhood” and many other terms are being deformed recently in the Arabic region and also the world, but I will come to that later on in future posts.

I saw a man in the street, exiting his house, arguing with his wife then BAM. He smacked her across the face. It was like a scene from a movie. She held her face and started crying, he had visible signs of anguish on his face, they both saw me standing there, and I myself was frozen. Stunned, perplexed, speechless and thinking.

Gaza is like most Arab countries\cities. A little society that is conservative and mainly fueled by traditions. Old, very old ones, that are usually confused with religious rituals. Long story short, if you are a smart person and you saw what I saw, DO NOT INTERFERE between a wife and her man. Just walk away. Unfortunately, I am not smart enough when it comes to domestic violence or violence against women. I was never beaten up as a child and never saw my family or friends use violence against women or each other so I refuse all kinds of violence.

I thought to myself: “So whats the worst case scenario Omar “The Hero of Stupidity”? You say something to the man and you end up getting into a fight which might turn ugly since he can call on his sons and neighborhood backup males. I would appear wrong for interfering and get beaten up. Or he would be a gentleman and just give me a black eye. Or he might listen to me (Ha Yeah right)”. So I decided whatever the outcome is, I am going for it. I would rather get beaten up than feel bad about not saying anything. (Don’t judge, I said I am not smart enough)

I found myself uttering: DO NOT HIT HER, AGAIN”. And hell opened. I distracted him from her but now he got all angry, red faced, cursing me loudly and heading towards me. “Don’t flinch or move a muscle, treat him like you learned how to act around a deadly snake”, I said to myself.
He came and stood right in my face, screaming and spitting. I acted cold and calm as quiet ice (quiet ice? Whatever). 

“Uncle, I am not trying to interfere. You are a respectable man and your wife is a good woman, you don’t want people to misjudge you. Consider me your son”, I said impressing myself but he wasn’t impressed. “You are not my fucking son”, he spat. I knew this means trouble.
I saw his wife making signs to me from behind telling me to stop this and just leave. He saw her. She then told me she doesn’t need my help, she loves her husband, its ok if he hits her and begged me to leave.

The man started going back and forth. Furious. Brushing his hair. I think he was considering his next move. So I jumped in quickly telling him I don’t judge him and I will not tell anyone but its obvious how much he loves his wife and that hitting women isn’t cool. Then I regretted saying “cool”. Like he would care about what’s cool and what isn’t.

To my surprise, he invited me to his house. I thought of politely declining. I knew it has to mean that I am either gonna get killed or kidnapped or beaten. But then he looked into my eyes and suddenly I trusted him. (Again, I am sometimes idiotic, don’t judge). Besides, we live in the same neighborhood, its not like my family wont figure it out and claim my body. (I hope they do)

He asked me all the formal questions, told me he knew my dad (Phew maybe a good sign) and begged me not to call the police or report him to anyone. I said I wouldn’t. But I got scared because it felt like I will end up sympathizing with him and that’s bad. Then I will start finding excuses for him and for every other man who lays a hand on a female.

We started discussing the environment the person grows up in, how he is raised, what he witnesses and ofcourse how occupation ruins everything. I usually get irritated of how much we try to blame occupation sometimes for things that we should blame upon ourselves. But this time he was right. As a dad of 7 children, he witnessed all Intifadas and wars. He is trying hard to make a living, fighting Gaza’s impossible living conditions and yet didnt lose his mind.

He is double my age now, 54, he was my age when the first Intifada happened. He was happily married with one child. He had so many dreams and ambitions then it got all screwed and ruined. Since then, his life has been one big ugly rollercoaster and his main goal is to constantly have food on the table to feed his kids. And education, it’s a very important thing for him to educate his chilldren since he holds a Bachelor’s degree. He worked pretty much in everything. He is responsible for a number of families including his own, his married son, his dead brother’s family and his dad. His brother was shot during the first Intifada. Too much mouths to feed, as he said it.

His wife loves him to death. So on the day this incident happened, the man was sick and his wife was trying to bring him back inside telling him he should rest and she will go out try to make a living. She admits: “He smacks me sometimes, but out of love”. He looked like a tortured soul, a man who endured hell and yet still tries to keep standing and make a living. Still, I reminded myself, whatever the situation is: IT IS WRONG TO HIT A WOMAN.

He told me that his grandson was sick and he couldn’t skip work. He needed to work so he could afford taking him to the doctor. And he wouldn’t let his wife work. “My son graduated a few years ago, he is my eldest, he tries to work, but as you see Gaza is the spring of unemployment”, he said while his eyes turned red. “Do you believe that I hold a Bachelor’s degree? Yes. Me. Yet, I have to work in anything I can find just to keep everyone going. Its exhausting and humiliating but its worth it. And I will never humiliate my wife or let her go and beg for work”, he chocked as tears rolled slowly down his eyes. I couldn’t help but shed a tear as well. But his wife broke down and hugged him. I felt weird. I looked like a foreign journalist who is there to interview them or write their story. 

Weird enough, he asked me if I was a journalist or foreign. I said I am Palestinian and I haven’t written in a while and I don’t use people for stories unless they let me or ask me to share.

They insisted I stay for lunch but it was too awkward so I made up an excuse and left. But before that, I talked to him about domestic violence and hitting women. I tried not to sound like a lecturer but I did. “You need to understand uncle, hitting women isn’t right no matter what excuse you tell yourself. I will not ask you to go the gym to release negative energy, just walk it out or read Quran if you are too tired to walk or just sleep it off. Anything but hitting women. I know it anguishes you and it hurts your wife so why not just stop it?”, I said embarrassingly.

“I never laid a hand on my daughters. But sometimes I get angry, I don’t do drugs like other men here, I have a family to feed, I need to be sober and save money. I need a release or I will die. My wife is a good woman, she tolerates me and I swear I don’t smack her hard. I suspect my son is doing the same with his wife and I feel guilty.”, he said while looking down. I was saddened but understanding. He clearly appears like he wouldn’t do anything to his sons in law if they hit his daughters, he will feel like a hypocrite. That’s just wrong.

Before I could respond, his wife hurried to chip in. “Yes, it hurts more mentally than physically, I feel humiliated but at the same time I feel like as a good wife I need to help him get a release. Or he will die. So I let him hit me and promise myself to stop him next time. I never did. I love him too much. I overcome my shame and pain and anger for him. But inside, we both know its wrong. Atleast he never hit me infront of the children, right?”, she asked me. I didn’t answer because she knew the answer and wasn’t herself convinced that it was “right”.

He promised me never to hit her again. He realized its wrong. But I didn’t believe him, he knew it was wrong all along but did it anyway. She promised me she will stop him if he did it again, but we both knew it will never happen. 

I left feeling overwhelmed, thinking about children who see their dads hit their moms and how they follow the same pattern. Wondering why women are considered second class citizens in their own home? Why do we tolerate that? Why do we shove it under the rug and act like our societies are strong and religious?

I still see him around sometimes. He waves his hand to me and all I can think of is the memory of waving his hand to land on his wife's face. He smiles, but I cant smile back.

I faced the sad truth. Arab women are oppressed, degraded, abused and underestimated.

Ofcourse, many Arab women broke the cycle and soared to success. They fought against all odds, although it shouldn’t be so hard for them to become achievers. In Gaza too, many women revolted against traditions and violence and oppression. They became a beckon of inspiration, hope and success. Yet, many others are still suffering, still being hit, still being degraded and still being forced to shut up about it or lose their house, family, kids or even life.

Unlike the western world thinks, Islam honored women and actually emphasized on their rights more than men’s rights. Women should enjoy equality and all kinds of freedoms, including the freedom of choice. 

Women aren’t only our moms, sisters, wives and daughters. They are our friends, colleagues and peers too. I see men here go from opening the car door for their wives to being there for them and helping them succeed. Some men here even stay with the kids or work under their wives to make sure their business grow. And so many other sweet stuff. Unfortunately, those are the exception to the rule, and not the rule itself.

Its nearly 2015, and you still hear about so many cases of honor killing and beating up women in the Arab region and the world. Its not acceptable one bit. And this global new trend of promoting sexual violence claiming women love that, its beyond disgusting and sick.

If you think hitting women makes you a better man, you are wrong. Manhood is about respecting women and treating them right, not the opposite. Don’t make excuses up.

Your action shouldn’t just stop at not hitting women. It should extend to reach much higher actions like standing against domestic violence and violence against women. Your duty is not only to stop yourself from laying a hand on a woman, but stopping from doing it too.

Be strong by protecting women, not hitting them.

From Gaza with love,
Omar Ghraieb