So, what is home? Is it your heritage? Is it the place your parents are from, the land they were born and raised in, where your native tongue is spoken?
Is it the country I was born in, where I spent my primitive years playing with my siblings and cousins? Is it the country I formally grew up in, where I went through most of my K-12 education?
Or, is it the country I have a formal document from? A piece of paper which declares my nationality to others, one which is recognized by governing bodies?
For me, the answer to these questions differ. So, where is home?
Both of my parents were born in Palestine. Though I’ve never lived there, I grew up knowing that this is where I am from.
Visiting it once a year for most of my life, I felt at home at the sight of the maroon dirt that filters the crisp air in the mountains, and the sounds of the roaring waves which collide against century old stone walls.
I know I am home when I smell tea coming from the kitchen, a mixture of mint, sage, chamomile, yansoon and other herbs I do not know the English words for.
But if this is home, why am I harassed by gun wielding twenty-year olds who shoot at pigeons for the pleasure of seeing my parents, worried faces?
Why do my cousins need to spend hours each day crossing an apartheid wall with excessive security checks to get to school? Why can’t my grandmother, who was born, raised and worked in this land, come with us to visit?
I was born in Kuwait, along with three of my four siblings. It is the country which granted my mother’s family asylum when fleeing persecution and genocide in Palestine, inflicted by Israel, a country that can do no wrong in the eyes of the world.
My parents met in the capital, Kuwait City. Kuwait takes about three hours to drive across and on this drive you will see mostly desolate desert.
Yet this country’s wealth is hidden below eye level.
The petroleum industry accounts for half of the country’s gross domestic product, and is estimated to be housing 9% of the world’s oil reserves, according to Wikipedia.
However, if this is home, why does it underpay my family members because of their Palestinian last names despite the monetary riches they possess?
When rumors of a war between Kuwait and Iraq began to emerge, my family moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I lived there for 11 years.
Until 2018, Saudi Arabia did not allow women to drive, and currently still have a male guardianship system. It does not allow Saudi women to leave the country or receive health care without the consent of a male guardian.
I attended middle and high school there and made some lifelong friends. So, can it be home despite it feeling like a prison?
The only official documentation I have is an American passport. America specializes in colonial warfare. It frequently and often destabilizes countries, cripples their economies, then feasts on the country’s natural resources.
When Russia was accused of meddling with the 2018 U.S. elections and I heard disgruntled Americans outraged by this conspiracy, I wanted to remind them of what the U.S. did to Iran, Iraq and now Syria. Only to remind myself that on paper, I am American.
I benefit from the luxuries this passport affords me. So, can I call the U.S. home, even though it has helped fund the destruction of my parents’ homes in Palestine?
In 2015, the U.S. pledged more than $263 million of military-assistance a month to Israel for ten years, according to The Atlantic.
I was born, raised and have documents from three countries I would prefer not to associate myself with. The Kuwaiti, Saudi and American governments all serve to make a minority of their wealthy population.
They fund proxy wars and indulge in personal wants and desires. So, I never considered these places home.
Though I know I am Palestinian, it is hard to feel at home in a place that is blockaded from the rest of the world.
For me, home isn’t a country or specific location. It’s anywhere I feel safe and reassured by the smiling faces around me and who make me feel safe and welcome.