Rosslyn, the secretary of an international program I attended, met me with a nametag, "Samah Jabr, Israel" it said. I smiled. Before I could comment, the nice lady said, "I'm sorry, I'll correct it. It's Palestine, isn't it?" Was it my quiet smile or a certain look in my eyes that made her realize something was not quite right? I didn't know.
While humanity, morals and ethics, beliefs and, sometimes, gender issues are more important to me than nationality, I have been greatly affected by the nation I belong to. My mood, attitudes and views, my reaction to people and events and the responses of people to me are all influenced because I am Palestinian.
One day I introduced myself to an American woman, now a friend I admire. The day we met, I said, "I'm Samah, from Palestine."
"That is not the "official" name of your country, is it?" she countered.
On another international meeting for medical students, I sat on a round table with representatives from 38 different countries. The name of each country was written in bold letters in front of each representative.
Starting the meeting, the director pointed at the new members, including myself, "Welcome to the new members of our federation from Slovakia, Greece and Pakistan. Please introduce yourselves and the associations you represent."
It is not because I grew up in Palestine that I am Palestinian, but because Palestine grew on me. I am Palestinian because I feel this identity in my heart, although there are no "official" documents to prove my "Palestiniality." The word Palestinian doesn't show on my Jordanian birth certificate nor on my Israeli travel document. My identity card presents me as I feel - as a stateless citizen of Jerusalem.
Being a "pride-freak," intense with a burning desire to succeed, is a hallmark of being a Palestinian youth. We don't choose these characteristics for ourselves; they are the inevitable consequences of being denied the legitimate rights of youth, identity, freedom and opportunity.
It was early in my life when I realized the extra challenge before me. I knew my road would not lead through a proverbial rose garden and, instead, would be full of hazards. I grew from a world of things - toys, baby food, a mother's love - to a world of people, some accepting but many hostile.
Finally, I arrived at the world of thought and reflection. I think about the loss of property many of my people experience. I reminisce about people who have died or disappeared because of our national struggle. I worry about how my identity card represents me.
Property and people come and go, but thoughts provide an endless awareness. Thoughts are the fingerprints we pass on to others, sometimes by plan, other times, unintentionally.
People differ. Thoughts sometimes become words that can shock, hurt or anger. That does not mean the "expressors" or the expressions are bad or wrong. It means we need to understand their intent. Listening helps us grow and our own thoughts can be improved. Even though I believe there should be limits and restrictions on behavior, nothing in the world can limit our thoughts. They make a private haven to use as we each see fit.
It is because of my craving for freedom and identity that I want to share my thoughts with people. I was blank one day, eager to speak the next. What I write includes the fingerprints of everyone I've encountered, of every experience I've had. People and the ideas they've shared with me have shaped my unique fingerprint. I want to pass the messages on.
Palestine Report. Re-published with permission.