The hall was packed when we entered; the buzz of chatter pulsed in the room as people waited for the next speaker to come up. Due to the huge turn out, we ended up sitting on the stairs. I was all attention, ready to take in whatever would materialize on the stage below. A white-robed man came onstage, and the noise level in the room dwindled to a hush. The man began speaking (in Arabic) about the Palestinian people, and how they are stranded in the world, alienated by even their fellow Arab countries. In true Arab style, there was lots of whistling and applause from the audience after every few sentences. The same scenario was repeated with each new speaker that came up.
Basically, what i understood about Land Day is summarized in the following paragraph:
Land Day, known as ‘Youm al-Ard’ in Arabic, commemorates the bloody killing of six Palestinians in the Galilee on March 30, 1976 by Israeli troops during peaceful protests over the confiscation of Palestinian lands. It has since become a painful reminder of Israeli injustice and oppression against the Palestinian people, and a day for demonstration linking all Palestinians in their struggle against occupation, self determination and national liberation. (1)Let me tell you something, the whole "linking all Palestinians" part of that definition is true, to put it lightly. Arabs are generally very nationalistic, but in nationalism, Palestinians can beat all the other Arab countries combined. After the speakers finished, a folklore musical group comprised of the university's Palestinian Cultural Club sang and danced us through the next hour. And that's when the people started really getting crazy. In a good sense though. There was clapping and chanting and jumping in the hall, especially from the shabab (young men). Everyone was genuinely having a good time. By the end of the event, we were exhausted, but ready to keep going if the band started up again.
Land Day was a very interesting experience for me. Although i'm not Palestinian, my Arabness gives me just as much of a right to love that plot of land. Arabs everywhere cry for and dream of Palestine. After all, the "nations" we've adopted are just lines drawn by imperialistic hands a few decades back.
Despite the general success of the event, there's a comment that i heard someone say that disturbed me. My friend's friend came up to us while the band onstage was singing, asking when we'd arrived. We replied that we came a bit late, just before the singing and dancing. The girl laughed, saying, "Oh that's good. Better than sitting through all those speeches."
And we all agreed.
Hmmmm... that's not too good of a sign for the upcoming generation of Arabs. Lets hope it's just a phase that we'll get over soon.
(1) Miftah.org Fact Sheets; http://www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=3410&CategoryId=4