Returning to my Mother's Baq'a
Ramallah Friends School

Mona Hajjar Halaby’s memoir takes readers on a journey to Palestine, past and present. The daughter of exiled Palestinians from Jerusalem, Halaby, like many Palestinians, spent her life in the diaspora hearing stories from her mother, Zakia, of her parents’ childhood and their home. Unlike most Palestinians in the diaspora, however, Halaby was able to return to Palestine to teach in Ramallah for a year in 2007. Halaby devoted herself to the children of Ramallah, on the one hand teaching them patience and introspection, and on the other, learning from their resilience and wisdom. Halaby describes in detail the impressive march she organized of a group of Palestinians and their supporters through West Jerusalem streets on the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba in 2008. She also tells how she entered her mother’s home in Jerusalem – albeit with the help of an Israeli Jew and by not revealing her true identity – and conversed with the Israeli Jewish occupants in it. A sorrowful and painful account of return that offers a moving reflection on longing and loss, Halaby’s memoir is also an empowering and inspiring must read for Palestinians in exile, and for anyone interested in the historical and ongoing plight of the Palestinians.

Author biography: 

Nadim Bawalsa is commissioning editor at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. He earned a joint doctorate in history and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies from New York University in 2017.