Fourteen years since I returned to Palestine, by Mazin Qumsiyeh

Fourteen years ago in 2008 I left an economically comfortable life and I
and my wife returned to Palestine to give our money and our time to this
country which gave us all so much. I set up a clinical cytogenetics
laboratory at Bethlehem University that served thousands of patients (many
times with no or minimal fees). I taught one course per year at BU for
master students and occasionally other courses at other universities and
colleges (Birzeit, Dar AlKalima, AAUJ, Bethlehem Bible College). Also did
research on various areas from cancer to genetics to biodiversity to
popular resistance (e,g, my book on popular resistance published 2012). But
my service to the community went to a much higher level when we (my wife, I
and a few other volunteers) founded the Palestine Institute for
Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS), BU. Since then we donated hundreds
of thousands of dollars and all our time to this. We also raised over $3
million. PIBS now includes a botanic garden (of about 400 plant species),
the Palestine Museum of Natural History including its ethnography section
(tens of thousands of specimens or objects), a herbarium, a community
garden, a large library, a biodiversity center with molecular labs and much
more. Without exaggeration, we have become the most important research,
education, and conservation facility of its kind in the region. For
example, just this year we are trusted by the Environment Quality Authority
to produce the national biodiversity strategy and action plan and a new
protected area network. To see a glimpse of our work, browse the last
annual report
None of this would be possible without the support of hundreds (nay
thousands) of good people. For this we are grateful.

Upon reflection, there is much to be proud of in Palestine including so
many great heroic people. Of course in these 14 years we met with many
obstacles caused by colonialism, corruption, climate change, militarism,
consumerism etc.. Public money and resources are constantly being wasted.
Both Israeli and Palestinian societies are wasting huge sums of money on
"security services" which only increases insecurity and violence.
Appointments are done out of loyalties to leaders not based on
professionalism or societal needs. The educational system is weak; schools
and universities are facing huge challenges.  Our achievements as a people
are remarkable considering the circumstances. Yet this is no assurance of
victory and we must work harder. Our small effort needs to expand and there
is a need for many other institutions like ours. We still need to do much
more research and we need to fill the gaps between science and policy and
practice. We need to continue to challenge the pandemics of mediocrity,
bureaucracy and kleptocracy.

On this anniversary, the Israeli occupation forces gave us "gifts": they
raided the offices of six human righst organizations Defense of Cildren
International, Al Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center for Research and Development,
the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian
Women Committees. They also forced their way into a home and shot a young
man point blank (execution) then they said it was the wrong house! I have
seen much suffering in those 14 years and personally lost >20 friends
killed by the army of occupation. But also we have seen resilience and
sumood. We at Bethlehem University have graduation ceremonies today and
tomorrow and we start a new semester soon. Life will go on. We continue to
create islands of sanity in an insane world. Yet, soon winter rains will
come, spring flowers will come and Freedom and sanity, just as surely, will
come.  Here is a poem I wrote in 2005

O Palestine
(Published in Human Liberation - Nakba 48- Vol 1, No 1, Sept 2005 &
Published also in French at ISM France)

Your sisters stayed in their palaces
With golden chains and shameless lies
Some grinned and aided criminals...
Others chose to veil their eyes
Some justify rape and expulsions
Others prayed to their silent gods.

When you thought they had their fills
In that dry June of decays,
They climbed over the hills
To finish the ghastly deeds

Sickening became the violations
Dark masses on your strong arms
arms that gently lifted orphans
Armenian, Circasian, Hebrew and Druze
Fractures on your white breasts
That gave milk to hungry babies
Bruises on your gentle fingers
That wiped the tears from so many eyes
Your sad eyes bear their marks
on a kind face that gave millions hopes

Maddening deafening sounds
Of violent bloody rapes
Of countless lengthy reports
Of motions, plans, and resolutions
that sacrificed justice and truths
at the altar of greedy egos

Where goes the hope of children dreams?
In awakening consciences?
In olive trees or returning cactuses?
In time, distance, or struggles?
In awakening heart deep in majestic mountains?
Beating beneath silent deserts?
Occasionally erupting 'intifadas'?

The lost men hopelessly lust for power crums
endlessly argue about keys
While she struggles to break the doors
And tear down the suffocating walls
Clans and Tribes follow mirages
and weaklings imagine strength in lies

But in the end no one denies
Your ancient spirit survives
To help heal all bruises
yours and ours
When the sun again shines
O Palestine
Stay Human and keep Palestine alive

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Founder, and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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