Rose and Halim

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.

On Community

I’ve had a pretty rough couple of weeks lately. Things have been exceptionally difficult with expense after expense piling up, friendships ending, responsibilities overtaking me, and the loss of both a foster cat, and one of my pets.

It’s been overwhelming, but I’ve been okay. My community has stepped in to back me up wherever it can.

My friend Malorie has been helping me pick my youngest, Bug, up from school. Andy leaves work on his lunch break to drive Bug to his preschool class, and makes sure I have a key to his house so I can find somewhere quiet to catch up on work. Nathan makes me a lunch and leaves it in the fridge so I don’t have to spend time making my own. Mara drove an hour with her father in law to help me take care of some roommate business. Julia went and picked up my cat’s ashes so that I wouldn’t have to.

Multiple friends send me reassuring messages and reminders to eat and stay hydrated throughout the day.

I haven’t had community for most of my life, and having one now is a genuine feeling of ease and comfort. I don’t have to worry as much. I can help my friends, and they can help me. We weren’t built to live solitary lives, we were built to love, and to work and fight together to survive.

We can’t survive without a community, and the single most powerful act of compassion we have at our disposal is our willingness to risk everything to keep each other afloat. In a society where we often find ourselves subjugated, alone, and struggling, our most powerful tool is our willingness to love each other.