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From a Palestinian American Woman

Re-evaluation Counseling, with its theory about the goodness of all people and the use of discharge to regain our minds, provides a perfect way for people of West Asia to heal. I have used the discharge process to find my mind and voice as a mixed-heritage Palestinian woman.

For thousands of years, Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived together in relative peace as neighbors in the same lands of West Asia. The Gaza I remember from my childhood was an orange grove, a bayara, peaceful and benign—a place of nature we used as a retreat from work and school in Ramallah.1 My parents owned it for ten years, lovingly tending to the trees and writing in letters and diaries about the progress and care of the trees and land. Mother described the flora and fauna there, and the local residents with whom we exchanged visits. I remember the resident caretakers and their extended family, whom I later visited in a Gaza refugee camp.

But all was not peaceful in Palestine during those years of the British Mandate.2 My parents told stories of rebellion—of war between the British on one side and Jews and Arabs (Muslim and Christian) on the other—and of Jews and Arabs fighting against each other. But those struggles seem so mild compared to the genocide being implemented now.

In 1952 my father was heartbroken to see the refugees in Gaza,3 as they begged him, “Dr. Totah, please tell the Americans; please do something!” He wept after dreaming about trying to reach through a chain-link fence to his orange grove, unable to reach his land and his oranges, all now in Israel.

I was speechless when I heard about the recent attacks on the Palestinians in Gaza, who could not escape, and the deliberate destruction of all infrastructure, including hospitals, United Nations facilities, schools, homes, farms. I have been discharging on how heartbroken I feel at the simultaneous killing of generations of families, on my outrage at the lies being fed to USers, on my hopelessness and discouragement from watching over the years the slow taking of Palestinian land. But despite all this, the Palestinian people remain resilient, resourceful, kind, and generous. The U.S. and Israeli governments try to dehumanize us, but the reality is not that racist portrayal of us.

Writing this article as an Arab woman is very difficult for me. I feel exposed and vulnerable. Dealing with my feelings about the destruction of Gaza and the oppression of the Palestinian people has been possible only with the safety of much support and counseling.

It has been helpful to counsel with my attention away from the immediate horrors, and to work on my early childhood in Palestine and on my Palestinian father. Counseling on the bayara and its peaceful beauty has brought discharge. I have also counseled on my experiences as a small child during the Arab Revolt,4 when Arab rebels were on our grounds, shooting; British soldiers were everywhere; there was warfare in Ramallah and all of Palestine; and I was hidden alone in a dark closet for my safety. I have counseled on the unspoken fears of the adults around me that I absorbed.

All my life I have felt, as a mixed-heritage Palestinian American woman, that I wanted to lie low,5 to not be seen—especially to not be seen as different. Standing up, speaking up, and being visible as a Palestinian have been scary—as I am a political minority in the United States and face anti-Arab racism—but they have been useful.

Being a woman of the global majority and experiencing anti-Arab racism have left me with low self-esteem and feeling lonely, hopeless, and discouraged. Again, it is support, caring, and counseling that have given me courage to work on the feelings. My wide-world writing (of a book on Bedouin6 weaving and a book-in-process about my father) has been a huge contradiction to my internalized oppression.

I am hopeful that Jews/Israelis and Palestinians/Arabs will be able to live together again in peace. I will keep counseling on this, to find my voice and a rational perspective.

Joy Totah Hilden
Berkeley, California, USA


1 Ramallah is a city in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.
2 When Britain controlled Palestine, from 1920 until 1948
3 Refugees from other parts of Palestine, from which they were driven away by invading Zionist armies
4 The Arab Revolt was an uprising, in 1936 to 1939, of Palestinian Arabs against British colonial rule and mass Jewish immigration.
5 “Lie low” means be inconspicuous, avoid attention.
6 The Bedouins are Arabic-speaking nomadic peoples of the Middle Eastern deserts.


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00