A bittersweet welcome to 2014

People look forward to enjoying themselves even if the New Year's fireworks only come after the tragedies

Bakir Oweida
Bakir Oweida
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As it is said, endings are rarely void of some sort of sadness - even if reaching this end is reason alone for the great joy of an individual, a family, a society, a country, a nation or the entire human race. This is the situation with the celebration of this new year. Some may exaggerate this celebration but it remains an important necessity as people who were exhausted throughout this year look forward to enjoying themselves even if the loud crack of fireworks only come after the tragedies caused by wars and disasters.

A student is very happy when he passes secondary school exams and enrolls at university and it saddens him to leave his school and teachers. But he soon overcomes the sadness of departure and becomes happy as he creates new friendships with teachers and other students at his new place of study. They separate again after he graduates. This moment is accompanied with the pain of bidding farewell. There are tears for joy for succeeding at university as well as tears of pain for separating from friends after spending a long time with them.

Is the situation different when moving from one job to another, or when immigrating or when a referee whistles announcing the end of the game? No. Anyone who looks thoroughly can see how a patient happily leaves the hospital when he’s cured but is at the same time feeling pain for bidding his doctors and nurses farewell - after all, the latter’s kindness healed the soul just like it healed the body. Is it an exaggeration to imagine how a prisoner of conscience departed his cell with joy accompanied by pain? No. The pain is not due to leaving prison and the prisoner’s oppression but due to leaving comrades and friendships forged during his long imprisonment. It will be a long time before he meets them again.

Therefore, the freedom of Palestinian prisoner Samer al-Issawi, the longest hunger striker of all the Israeli occupation’s prisons, became a source of happiness as the will of the oppressed won over the injustice of the oppressor. But this happiness is accompanied by some pain. This is not only because hundreds of Palestinians remain in the prisons of the longest and worst occupation the world has known since the 20th century. It’s also because the future of the entire people of Palestine remains a prisoner of contradictions which obstruct more than six million people in their march towards reaching a normal situation in which they enjoy an ordinary life in an independent country. Is it important to engage in the details of these contradictions or have most people, the majority of Palestinians included, become tired of talking about this issue and about the struggles which divide them or about the governments’ exploitation of their situation?

Each year’s end reminds me of the schooldays with other students who were refugees in the Gaza Strip. We used to write: “One year ended and another will begin...and we continue to [live] in tents”

Bakir Oweida

But since the end of every year is accompanied with the event marking the birth of the prophet of the message of love and peace, it’s okay to remind people that Bethlehem is the cradle of Jesus, son of Mary, peace be upon them.

The Resurrection Church is in Jerusalem and decision makers in Christian Western countries have, since the end of World War II, abandoned their simplest duties of imposing just peace in this part of the world - the part which is tortured by the pains of war.

Each year’s end reminds me of the schooldays with other students who were refugees in the Gaza Strip. We used to write: “One year ended and another will begin...and we continue to [live] in tents.” I look around me and I don’t know which Arab refugees to mourn for. Isn’t it enough to observe the suffering of the displaced Syrian people to ask yourself a question, the answer of which you don’t know: Is this really the Arabs’ spring? Enough. I wish everyone a happy new year.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 26, 2013.


Bakir Oweida is a journalist who has worked as Managing Editor, and written for several Arab publications based in London. His last executive post was Assistant to Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, responsible for the Opinions section, until December 2003. He can be reached on [email protected] and [email protected]

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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