Sunday, July 2, 2017

Family Reunion in Rhodes

Just got back from a family reunion in Rhodes.  It was basically for the descendants of my grandfather Andoni Khoury from Jaffa  (my  mother’s father.)  His six children have all passed away and so did some of his grandchildren who were with us in the 1984 reunion in Cyprus.  So my generation was the front line generation, and we missed the doyen of the cousins Tony Khoury who could not make it for health reasons.  Also especially missed was  a cousin from Germany,  Marie Anne Kleber, the daughter of cousin Nadia Khouri Michon, who passed away shortly before the reunion.  However we appreciated it very much that her husband and family did join us, and we felt her spirit was with us because she wanted her family to stay connected.  With the second and third generation we were around eighty  persons coming from different parts of the world.  From outside the immediate family, my sister Rima’s brother- in-law,  Hani  and his family joined us.

Well we made it home safely and as I look back at the  effort that everybody made to be there,  I realize how strong the family and the Palestinian Jaffa bond must be to keep us connected.  For my sister Rima, it was an occasion to have all her four boys and their families who live in different parts of the world come together, and over and above we all had the opportunity to meet the youngest member of the extended family, her grand son  Faris Tarazi.

Many of us had enjoyed a mini reunion at the wedding of his parents Nabil and Lara in Aqaba four years ago.  His competitor with her charm, but slightly older than Faris, was Laila, the daughter of Sami and Mona Baramki.  Once you look at her charming face you cannot but remember the film Gigi, and the   beautiful song by Maurice Chevalier “Thank heavens for little girls…….”

Hanging around the breakfast tables and around the pool bar was a great time for reminiscing.  For me personally, Rhodes brought back lovely memories of our honeymoon in 1960 when Yousef and I had stayed at the Mira Mar hotel,  the  only hotel on the beach at the time. 

For us who continue to live under occupation, it was a lovely break.  However, there is never a dull moment.  One morning while we were swimming in the pool the children were playing musical chairs on the side of the pool, and a young boy from  our group won.  But when he was asked where he was from, and said Palestine, the lady in charge said that there was a mistake because the music had not stopped; it was only  a pause.  So as they repeated the game an older girl joined in and pushed him when the music stopped, and was announced the winner.  Not surprising that she was an Israeli. 

At the Rhodes airport, on our way back,  they were just as pushy and by the time a young girl from  our group got to the passport control the attendant was going  crazy.  “But I am not Israeli” she said, “I am Palestinian.”   “Thank God, ” he said while crossing himself .  Maybe that is why they always get away with what they want. 

We enjoyed every bit of the  program that the planners, my grand-daughters, Haya Yasmeen and Zeina had prepared.  The welcoming reception in which I had a chance to read my special rhyme for the occasion, the boat ride, (which the front line generation skipped),  but I heard it was enjoyable with lots of adventure due to the false alarm from Mona Said.  My son Suhail entertained the group with his clarinet which was greatly appreciated.  Then there was the trip to Lindos, the Greek night which after the official show,  ended up a Palestinian Greek night.  And the grand finale of the dinner dance, in which  even Rima and  I could not resist a few dances, and the usual laughs.  There were also a number of  honorary funny awards during the dinner.   And joining us for that special  occasion were the honey-mooners, George and Wilhelmine who had been on a cruise celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary; the memorable wedding that took place on June 4, 1967, just one day before the war. 

The keen interest of the younger generations to hear from the older ones their stories of how they left Palestine and ended up where they are now was amazing.   The family tree which our late cousin Vera,  had prepared for  the first reunion in 1984, which she had planned, was available.  We realized how much updating it needs. Everybody bought the special  Tote bag which Omar had designed with the logo of the orange business in Jaffa and the date of the reunion. 

Already the younger generation is talking about 2020 for the next reunion.  I am not sure who will still be around, but I know that registration will start as soon as the first invitation is circulated with no need for reminders or hesitancy until the last minute.   Yet it was a treat to have Jida Farradj Mushawar, accompany her mother Nina Farradj (not mentioning age)  at the last minute.  Go for it younger generation and stay connected through all the new technology, and encourage your children and grandchildren to join us for special visits in Palestine.

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