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Siham Abu Gazaleh
Memories of Palestine...Concern for culture, refugees

Head of Palestinian Cultural Committee When I was approached by the Arab Times to write about issues I consider important during the holy month of Ramadan, my thoughts carried me to many different locations, places and memories. When I was just a young girl in my town Nablus, Ramadan was very important to my country as well as my family. The rituals and preparations made by people as the holy month approaches, starting with the act of putting olive branches on the doors as a sign and wish for abundance, as well as what the olive tree means to Palestinians and to others, because this holy tree was mentioned many times in the Holy Quran.

It was so nice to see the holiness which starts 2 months before Ramadan, wherein the feelings of tranquility and deep faith begin to seep into people’s souls. Families inviting relatives, especially sisters and their families, to lunch by the middle of the month of Shaaban — the month before Ramadan, as a beautiful sign of love and warmth, not only between families but specifically a symbol that the brother’s duty is to take care of his sister. At night it was lovely to see people gather together perfecting meals for Ramadan like handmade pasta as well as drying mint, zaiter and many other things in season and are needed for Ramadan.

I still remember how we, as a family, would sit to help prepare food for dinner; while one of the old ladies told stories that were very interesting for us children. Though I’m still not sure if she read them from the book, “A Thousand and One Nights”, but each night we gathered to help while looking forward to the continuation of this lady’s imaginative and very captivating stories. Every time the holy month of Ramadan starts, the family gathers for Suhours (eating before sunrise), although it’s so difficult to get out of bed especially during the winter month and the freezing cold that characterizes Nablus’ winter.

But being together with our mother, doing different dishes every time to keep us happy and healthy, gave us the sense of warmth and love for fasting. I still have a pleasant image of how us, children, would happily go out each night with lanterns in our hands, singing special Ramadan songs with other children in the area, and many other practices that gave Ramadan its fond memories. Well, that is aside from the special and delicious dishes done only in Ramadan. Then when I came to Kuwait, I found almost the same practices done on the fifteenth of the holy month, when children go out at night singing and knocking on doors for sweets and songs specially sung for the children in the house.

I noticed the feeling of Ramadan as a holy month was strongly present and was celebrated with simplicity and generosity, besides praying in mosques. We saw people and families visiting and inviting each other, either for Ramadan breakfast or Sohour; buying new clothes for Eid and preparing Eid Kaek — special homemade sweets. Everything is done with feelings of family values as well as the appreciation of what God gave us. But above all, I think of my dedication to preserve the Palestinian culture, and help needy families in refugee camps through our support system which serves to empower them and to live their lives with dignity. I think about how all of them are living away from home as refugees with all the sufferings and needs — whether food, clothes, health care and education.

I wish that we all think of them and many under privileged more often with less wastage and more of giving. The Kuwaiti society and some others are known for their very generous and giving nature, especially during this holy month of Ramadan. I hope we can use the exquisite feelings of peace and tranquility that God bestowed on us in this month, to give to others what we can, as it is part of Ramadan rituals and not just giving according to our Holy Quran teachings, but more. Happy and placid Ramadan to you all.

By Siham Abu Gazaleh

By: Siham Abu Gazaleh

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