Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Radio Greetings, a story about 1967 in Palestine by Mike Hanini Odetalla

Jordan, 1955. Refugees form a line for food at a camp in Amman. In the aftermath of the 1948 war, many Palestinian refugees relocated to neighboring countries -- Syria, Jordan and Lebanon -- as well as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Three Lions/Getty Images 

Radio Greetings...

I was listening to the radio a while back during a long drive, when I heard people relating greetings to fellow co-workers and friends...A "shout out" to use the slang of today!

My thoughts went back in time. Back to the time when I was a child in Palestine. Back to the time when there were no telephones or electricity in most of the rural villages. This was the time, just after the 1967 war. There was no cell phones, TV's, or computers. Also there was no regular mail service between Israel and the Arab countries.

We had an old radio that was sent to us by my father who was in Venezuela, South America at that time. This radio was our prized link to the outside world. We used to listen to the broadcasts from the surrounding Arab countries. These included News, Music, and other forms of entertainment. On Friday afternoons, there would be broadcasts of taped greetings. Palestinians living in the refugee camps outside of Palestine (the Diaspora), would go to the radio stations and tape a short greeting that would be broadcast over the airwaves, and hopefully heard by their relatives. Sometimes they knew where their relatives had ended up, other times they were more of a plea for information...Hope!

My mom and the other neighborhood women would sit silent and listen to these taped greetings with tears pouring down their faces. I will never forget my mother sitting there and crying along with our people on the radio. These people were usually women sending greetings to mothers, fathers, and other siblings. There were also sons and daughters sending greetings to their parents.

Most of these people had no contact or any other means of contact with their loved ones. So they would go and record a short message in the hope that their loved one happened to be alive and listening.

These messages were absolutely heart wrenching, especially when a mother would come on and start saying," Ya Ibni Ya Habibi ( My son, my love) and then they would start crying as they say how much they love him and miss him. Or when a daughter would come on and start by saying," Ya Oumy ya rouhi ( My mother, my soul) and start telling her mother how she misses her, loves her, and how her kids keep asking about her and so on. They would almost always break down in tears as they were delivering their message. The emotions were just too much...

Being a child of 6 years of age, I truly didn't understand nor fully comprehend the importance of what was happening. I hated these programs because they made my mother cry for hours on end. I blamed theses poor tortured souls for causing so much sadness to my mother. Not until I was older, did I fully comprehend the pain and anguish these refugees were going through. This was their only way of trying to contact long fractured families. This was their only outlet to send a message to their loved ones.

They were in essence casting a bottle, filled with the message of their loneliness and hope, into the sea of their exile from their native land and the people that were left behind, or exiled elsewhere...

Mike Odetalla 3-2012 All Rights Reserved!