I Got It From My Baba

No amount of birthright trips will make you Palestinian

Nada Chehade
ILLUMINATION

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Me in my mom’s authentic Palestinian tatreez jacket
My mom's authentic Palestinian tatreez jacket—I've taken it out of her closet and put it in mine; it's mine now.

I found my watheeqa in Baba's things. Baba. Allah yirahmo, he even saved the transcripts of my school grades, a fax I sent him when I was abroad at university, and the cheques I gave him when he covered my rent after I got divorced. He never cashed them—thank God. It made me cry and laugh. He was so irritated I got divorced, but he loved me.

I thought I had lost my watheeqa forever, but there it was, almost 20 years later, in Baba's cabinet next to the staircase, between his many files and papers — not just the one I lost, but all the old ones, too. It was like I had found a pot of gold. I feel rich in refugee documents. You have no idea. One day, I will go home.

I remember the days I used to travel with my refugee document like it was yesterday. It was such an odd-sized thing. Bigger than a regular passport but smaller than an A4 paper, with a hard brown cover. It stuck out like a sore thumb. Maybe it was designed that way on purpose — Identity, What is it? by Nada Chehade

Baba was the guy who knew where he came from and was proud. A Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, his father used to beat them when they went to the beach. He and his siblings would wrap their t-shirts on their heads to shade themselves from the sun on the way back from…

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