Let me tell you about my grandparents, Tata Rose and Jiddo Halim. They grew up in Haifa as neighbors. Jiddo’s family were Christians, and Tata’s were Jewish.
It didn’t matter then. They both thought of themselves as Palestinians. Jiddo was always in Tata’s kitchen, rifling through the pantry. Their parents were friends. Jiddo called Tata’s mother Khalto Nada: Auntie Nada.
Jiddo’s mother, Zamileh and Nada were best friends. The families ate together nearly every week, and Zamileh went out of her way to make sure that she had kosher recipes for when Nada ate with them. The two women spent nearly as much time together as my Jiddo and Tata.
Tata and Jiddo were always running through the streets of Haifa. Where one was, the other could always be found, whether they were sitting under the fig trees in Jiddo’s yard, or soaking their feet in the salty water of the Mediterranean. You could find them by their laughter.
This was before the war.
My grandparents were only 16 when they fled the violence. Jiddo’s family ran away to Lebanon for safety. Tata’s family joined. They wanted their children to be safe and happy, and that wasn’t much of an option in Haifa anymore. They gave up their homes and their belongings, ran for the beach, and followed the coast line into Lebanon, hoping for safety.
They lost everything but each other. It wasn’t long after they made it to Lebanon that my grandparents married. Tata moved into Jiddo’s home, and together they eked out a small living raising seven children together. They made Beirut their home, never once forgetting the beautiful streets of Haifa where they held hands, chasing frogs like Palestinian children of every faith used to, back before your faith defined you.