Elias Khoury’s Letter to the Real ‘Gate of the Sun’

baufbrfcmaatlu2Bab al-Shams before

First posted on January 13, 2013 on Arabic Literature (in English).
A few days ago, Palestinians started to erect a new village, Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun) on land seized by Israel for new settlements. (More in Electronic Intifada, NYTimes.) The village’s name is taken from Elias Khoury’s beautiful, epic novel, Bab Al Shams, or Gate of the Sun (trans. Humphrey Davies, published by Archipelago). Yesterday, during the night, Israeli police forced the evacuation of Bab El Shams. But before that, Khoury sent a letter to the people of Bab al-Shams:

I won’t say I wish I were with you, I am with you. I see you, and I see how the dream through your hands has turned into reality rooted in the earth. “On this earth is what makes life worth living,” just as Mahmoud Darwish wrote, for when you built your wonderful village you gave back meaning to meaning. You became the sons of this land and its masters.

This is the Palestine that Younis dreamt of in the novel Bab Al Shams / Gate of the Sun. Younis had a dream made of words, and the words became wounds bleeding over the land. You became, people of Bab Al Shams, the words that carry the dream of freedom and return Palestine to Palestine.

I see in your village all the faces of the loved ones who departed on the way to the land of our Palestinian promise. Palestine is the promise of the strangers who were expelled from their land and continue to be expelled every day from their homes.

Strangers and yet you are the sons of the land, its olives and oil!

You are the olives of Palestine that shine under the sun of justice, and as you build your village, the light of freedom flares up with you.

“Light upon light.”

I see in your eyes a nation born from the rubble of the nakba that has gone on for sixty-four years.

I see you and in my heart the words grow. I see the words and you grow in my heart, rise high and burst into the sky.

Finally, I have only the wish that you accept me as a citizen in your village, that I may learn with you the meanings of freedom and justice.

(Beirut January 12, 2013
Translated by Sonja Mejcher-Atassi).

Bab al-Shams after:

Ammar Awad/Reuters
Ammar Awad/Reuters
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2 opinions on “Elias Khoury’s Letter to the Real ‘Gate of the Sun’”

  1. I have little doubt that Elias Khoury is a fine writer. This one example would be sufficient to prove the thesis. He is very good with words. One might go so far as to say they are pretty words, pretty words indeed and they high light the full extent of the Israeli problem. In a word, it is marketing. They are in dire need of a slogan or two. They must stop being so transparent. Better they should erect big signs in these areas welcoming all Palestinian settlers to ‘Hamasville’ where they could live in squalor on ‘Hezbollah Boulevard.’ There would be no water, electricity or jobs as the Israelis have those and who wants anything to do with them? That would require talking and compromise which, in the spirit of the U.S. Congress who finances both, is deemed impossible, sacrilegious and/or culturally abhorrent. Jihad buttons and T-shirts (featuring the ‘I HATE THEM’ slogan) would be offered to all who came to see the ‘Excellent Rocket Sites’ available to all qualified rocketeers. In order to qualify you need only be able to dig a tunnel, smuggle arms and hide behind somebody’s grandmother. These “sons of the land” should find no difficulty qualifying.

    Another problem, aside from marketing, is the requirement/demand to “return Palestine to Palestine.” How do you return what never existed in the first place? In 1947, the territory known as the British Mandate for Palestine included some 500,000 plus Jews and well over 1,000,000 Arabs. Some might call them all Palestinians. Certainly the Romans did. Surely this does not mean the return of land to Israel?

    You may gather that I weary from tearing up each time Israel seeks to separate itself from those who seek the “destruction” of their country or those who choose to “fight to the death.” Their opponents can write what they choose, they can say what they want but their actions, human bombs and rockets speak volumes.

    It just might be that all the campers in the ‘Gate of the Sun’ are innocent, well meaning and lovers of peace. It might be that they are unarmed and rocketless. If that is so, let them be the first to sit down and make a deal with Israel. It has to start somewhere and like all things, it begins with willing people. Like Khoury, I too am with them. I just sense that our motives are different. Other than peace, I don’t have one.

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