Spending a day in Palestine but never leaving Chicago

As part of its annual campaign to commemorate the Nakba, the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) put on a day-long culture festival in the Bridgeview suburb of Chicago. On the dusty, gravel-covered lot the commemoration was hosted in, AMP successfully managed to bring thousands of us back home to Palestine.

The event included a parade, live dabke performances, intricate models of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and ethnic Palestinian foods prepared on-site. Poets performed pieces from the heart and community leaders reminded the crowd—which was dense with guests from Chicago, Milwaukee, and even Kansas—about the history of the Nakba and how today, six and a half decades later, the displacement of an entire people continues unchecked.

Here is a collection of photographs I took during the event. Every corner I turned, I was reminded of the Palestine I’ve already seen and the Palestine I’ve yet to see.

A Palestinian girl, dressed in a traditional Palestinian thawb, smiles at the camera moments after performing dabke before a large audience. She is part of a team of girls her age who regularly perform at cultural functions and events.

New to the United States from the Palestinian village of Ein Yabrud, a man serves fresh tamr hindi or tamarind juice, a blessing for event-goers during the 90 degree heat. All of his ingredients are grown in Palestinian soil.

Members of the Milwaukee-based dabke troupe Sanabel Al-Quds assess their performance behind the stage after performing a lengthy set.

Donning an intricately-embroidered Palestinian thawb that was gifted to her mother, AMP volunteer Deena Kishawi balances a basket of oranges on her head as her mother looks at the photograph she just took. Deena led tours inside of a tent decorated with items, artifacts, posters, and fruit from the Palestinian city of Jaffa.

The entrance to the event is modeled after Israeli checkpoints. Here, two narrow passageways are enclosed by tall barbed wire. Palestinians—or in this case the event attendees—stand in long lines under the blistering sun to receive clearance to pass through the checkpoint.

Firket Beir Nabala steps towards the stage to perform its own unique dabke variation.

Um Rashad lays out a thin layer of specially-prepared dough on a taboun, a coal-fired oven used primarily for bread-making. Many Palestinian villagers still use ovens like these today.

An older Palestinian man swings his cane to the beat of a sahja, a rhythmic song normally chanted at weddings.

In perfect coordination, a dabke troupe performs a two-step kick during the entertainment session of the American Muslims for Palestine’s annual Nakba commemoration event.

A young girl holds a mock Palestinian passport as she pauses in the makeshift checkpoint passageway.

A young boy extends his hand while waiting in line for fresh bread made on the coal-fired taboun.

A group of young girls don traditional thawbs, each design representing the village the thawb was created in. Each girl also wore a flag on her head to show solidarity with Palestine’s neighbors, specifically Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

The man selling tamr hindi or tamarind juice prepares another cup for a customer. This is a common sight in cities like Ramallah. Adorning the top of his gold-plated drink canister are three tall flower bunches that allow him to stand out in a crowd.

A Palestinian boy waves a flag while standing on a float during AMP’s annual Palestine Parade. The parade featured floats and horses decorated with large Palestinian flags, cardboard cutouts of keys, glitter, and children grappling on anything they can reach.

An event-goer pinned a Palestinian flag to his back as he walked back into the main venue after the parade. It is a reminder to always carry Palestine on your back.

A young Palestinian girl performs in front of a full crowd. Her traditional dress was manufactured and embroidered by hand in Palestine.

Sami Kishawi

There are 8 comments

  1. azzam taher

    i lived my first 15 years in Nablus and visited Ramleh when\n i was 4 uears old in 1947. We still have coins and banknotes with palestine state engravings in arabic, english and hebrew languages. Hebrews were the minority. I have a document of the sale of a building from a palestinean citizen in 1945 to my grand father. the prce was almost 18 thousand stering pounds. The building was in Haifa and its in the hands of the Israeli government. they are takig the annnual rent since 1948. IS THIS JUSTICE. i wonder how the world can permit an official robbery. cher up that some day the whole world will discover the big lie Israel invented to justify their occupation of Palestine.

  2. Marty

    Is this a JOKE??? WE KNOW WHAT PALESTINIANS ARE ABOUT AND HAMAS……STOP SPREADING LIES WHEN YOUR ALLIANCES WITH HAMAS HAVE KEPT YOU WHERE YOU ARE AT….THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “APARTHEID” IN PALESTINE. HOW COULD YOU DARE TO COMPARE THE LIFE OF AFRICANS WITH THE PALESTINIANS WHO SPREAD HATE AND TEACH THEIR CHILDREN HATRED AND KILLING.

  3. Jim Corrado

    Hey, What a great event! I grew up in Chicago and allways wanted to visit Palestine, thanks for bringing Palestine to Chicago.
    As for that last message from Marty, I guess we will have to work extra hard helping others learn how to enjoy life, and teach them how to get along with others. Marty, put down your guns and put on a smile. Jim

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