Fatima died in March, having lived for more than one hundred years, over half of which in Aida Refugee Camp following her dispossession from the village of Ajjur in 1948. In the camp, people knew Fatima to be a totally focused and dedicated woman. She was the first woman to build an oven so that her family could eat bread and her knowledge was vast, especially in telling the history of Palestine in her lifetime. Till the time of her death, she used to tell her children and grandchildren thousands of stories about the life the Palestinians lived before 1948, the Nakba, and during years after.
Fatima’s granddaughters had themselves become grandmothers when she died as the grandmother of four generations. Her relationship with her children, grandchildren and their children and grandchildren was astonishing, knowing them all one by one and following their lives in detail. Throughout the years, her original village of Ajjur and the Right of Return were always present in her everyday life. The fruits brought into the camp were never as sweet as the figs, grapes, and pomegranates in the village; bread could never be compared with that made of the wheat and barley people harvested in the village; the air was never as clean and the water never as fresh. To her grandchildren, Ajjur – was and remains – the homeland that they saw through the words of their grandmother and through her tears of longing for the dream of return – the dream to be able to fulfil her right to walk on the land of the village again, to taste its fruit, breath its air, drink its water, and to be buried under its soil.
Her last wish was that if she could not return that we, the younger generations of Palestinians, would never give up our Right of Return and when we do go home, we will take her remains with us. As we remember Fatima’s stories, her determination, and spirit, we will continue to carry her dream, which is also our dream of Return. We will remember her and one day, as she dreamed, we will walk again in Ajjur, rebuild her house, harvest wheat and barley, eat figs and cactus fruit, hold hands as we dance dabkeh, and sing songs of freedom dedicated to Fatima and to generations of Palestinian women who struggled for justice, freedom, and return.