A Journey Through Words

An Interview with Palestinian Writer Rula Arafat

Foreign Policy Brief #142 | By: Aziza Taslaq| May 10, 2024
Featured Photo: www.electricliterature.com

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A Journey Through Words An Interview with Palestinian Writer Rula Arafat

“But I have the heart of a child… I cannot easily get used to absence. You will find me crying, sobbing, and drenched in my tears. I defy my pride and continue to wait.” – Rula Arafat.

Rula Arafat, 32, is a Palestinian writer from Nablus, often referred to as “Little Damascus.” Her love for writing is so profound that she couldn’t be content with a single text. Instead, she emerges from between the letters with novels. What started as short stories no more than 10 pages long evolved into large books and series. Her curiosity and ambition drove her to become a writer whose works are read just as she reads the works of others.

Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Rula Arafat, a distinguished writer and novelist.

Aziza Taslaq (US Renew): Thank you for joining us, Rula. To start, can you tell us about the nature of your literary works and the themes you explore?

Rula Arafat: I write about love and peace, hope and war, injustice and corruption, homeland and exile. I write with every emotion and for every feeling we live, whether by desire or force. Writing is a message, an expression, a quiet scream in the face of the emotions we experience, whether in joy or sorrow.

What inspired you to enter the world of writing?

Rula Arafat: Writing is a response to all the pains that torment us inside. It listens to us and allows us to release that black energy that may have lived inside us for years, unable to be expressed simply because we didn’t find the right person to listen. We write to heal from the pain.

What does writing do for you personally? What do you gain from it?

Rula Arafat: The reward I receive is the feeling of satisfaction that I have a voice that can be heard, even if it’s through phone screens or laptops. I have a voice reaching all corners of the earth, telling me I am human. I have the right to speak, express, be angry, and advocate for myself, those I love, and my homeland.

Have you written anything about the current war on Gaza?

Rula Arafat: Yes, I have written many texts and recorded some of them. My novel, which I have been working on for years, covered the events of the Gaza War in 2020. I made further adjustments to it to keep up with what has been happening to us since October 7th, up to our current moment of the harsh war on Gaza.

Have you written anything about peace?

Rula Arafat: I have written a lot about peace and for peace. It is the awaited hope we spent our childhood, adolescence, and youth waiting to achieve. I am terrified that I will spend my old age and elder years waiting for peace as well.

Which writers do you look up to and why?

Rula Arafat: There are many writers, especially when the focus is on Palestine and the Palestinian cause. The great ones include Ghassan Kanafani, Radwa Ashour, Mourid Barghouthi, Ibrahim Nasrallah, Hussein Barghouthi, Sahar Khalifeh, and Bassem Khandakji.

Is there a particular tradition or style of writing that is recognized among Palestinian writers?

Rula Arafat: The beauty of Palestinian writers who write and sing for Palestine lies in how they mention its streets, alleys, memories, dreams, and hopes. A Syrian friend once told me after reading a Palestinian novel, and he always reads my writings and admires them, that for the first time, he felt that every Arab has a Palestinian part within them. He felt that his Palestinian identity did not differ or contradict his Syrian identity. He felt as if he had walked the streets of Palestine, peeked out from its windows, prayed in Jerusalem, eaten Jaffa oranges, visited our churches and mosques, and tasted our food and sweets. This is the significant role of the Palestinian writer, making you feel that you are one of us, touching with your feelings and hands everything they write and convey to us as if we live inside the novel as if we are its heroes.

Thank you so much for your time, Rula. Your words resonate deeply, and we look forward to more of your impactful writing.

Rula Arafat: Thank you. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Exclusive Text by Rula Arafat:

“This is Gaza… where humans and stones have grown accustomed to crying. Its trees shed leaves not just for one season but for many long seasons. Gaza has lived through five seasons! A harsh winter, a dry autumn, a spring without flowers, and now a scorching summer. And in between all of them, an unending season of devastating rockets that tirelessly destroy whatever they see, be it humans, trees, or stones.

This is Gaza, where children are now without parents, and parents are without children. Every family has lost a part or all of its members. Gaza, the patient and resilient, continues to offer its souls in heaps for the homeland, in vast quantities and with incredible generosity. It is the epitome of all kinds of generosity. Oh, Arabs of miserliness, shame, and darkness!”

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