We all called her jiddi

We all called her jiddi, grandmother in Arabic. She was not our grandmother, but that word symbolized the affection we all had for her and had become almost a forename for us. Living with her grandchildren she sometimes mistook us for them, but never at important times, when it was urgent to act she called us ajaneb and we knew what we had to do. Her story has been important to me: in a context where, as a woman, it is difficult to speak and move freely (even with the privileges of being a foreigner), she was a role model. Through her actions and words she was able to influence the men in her family more than any other, showing me that strength is not always where we expect it. Hafez told us many times how she was the one who made him realize that nonviolence would have been the most effective struggle. She who never backed down and who first glimpsed another way. Famous are the videos in which she is forcibly dragged away by the police, in which she threatens soldiers with a slipper, in which sitting on her ground she does not move an inch. She was already old, in our eyes she has always been.

She was young before 1948, was born before the State of Israel, and lived as a refugee before settling in Tuwani. Her stories, narrated to us in unintelligible Arabic, told of life before the occupation, the oldest traditions, and the deep connection to the land, witness to History, from a small corner of Palestine.

Without speaking she showed us how important the land is. She always cultivated her garden, which she hoed while sitting, on cold evenings she slept with her newborn lambs to keep them warm, she always participated in every planting and every harvest, and in summer she slept every night on the roof, under the stars. A woman, a farmer, a widow and yet from this position of fragility she exuded an authority that made her respected and followed by all. Together with the other old women, they were the secret force in the village, who passed on the sumud to their daughters.

We volunteers arrived in the last years of her long life, and for everyone she was a symbol of nonviolent resistance but also a presence in daily life. With her, we spent long winter evenings around the stove, and summer nights on the roof, when at dawn, still sleepy, we would find her already awake and intent on some work. Surrounded by grandchildren of all ages she would give each one a task, and they would all support her, accompany her, and talk to her. Her watchful eye followed us in every movement and her rare smiles restored our conviction when we doubted. Today we say goodbye to an icon of resistance and our jiddi.