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I was born in Boston and proud to be American. 

Raised around the world, mostly in the UAE, I graduated from NYU.

I travel the world, but I always go home to Lebanon. On August 4th 2020, the Beirut explosion took my home away. My dad ran to the bank just in case it was war. “We need cash”, he said.

Our windows were gone. Our glasses were all broken. My friends were hurt. Some people I knew died. I swore, never again, not my children. 

Beirut explosion. (Provided)

I am American because I am Lebanese

In 1984, my father fled Beirut. The night before he fled, he slept in the corridor of their apartment to be safe from the incessant shelling. My grandfather, my uncle, my father’s neighbors and my father all huddled together. 

A shell exploded in their building. The door flew open in my father’s face and they all got covered with dust and debris.

Then, the Americans came. My grandfather, his brother and my dad asked, “can we go?”

They said, “now or never.”

A photo of Joumana Asfour’s dad and his brother standing in line to evacuate with the American marines in 1984. (Provided)

Leaving their family and friends behind, they hopped on the Chinook and left. My aunt told me that my father, at 20 years old, arrived with his younger brother at Boston airport.

They only had their clothes that they had on, their backpack and their passport–nothing else. My aunt took them in, and they lived with their cousins for several months until they settled. 

America became my father’s home. He swore never again, not my children.  

I am Lebanese because I am Palestinian

My grandparents are Palestinian Christians. My grandfather is from Shefa-Amr, an Arab-majority city in what is now northern Israel. In high school, he was one of only two Palestinians selected to study in the UK on a full scholarship.

Just before the creation of Israel, his scholarship was cancelled, and he ended up in a high school in Lebanon. The Nakba happened while he was in high-school.

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My grandfather got trapped in Lebanon, separated from his family. He made it through high school and medical school alone.

I don’t remember details, but he never made it back to Palestine.  My cousins are still in Shefa-Amr, but we can never visit them. 

Joumana Asfour’s grandfather’s graduating class of pediatrics. (Provided)

My grandmother is from Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city. Her parents owned their house. 

They were driven out by fighting and the terror of rolling “barrel bombs” exploding in random neighborhoods. They were supposed to come back when it got safer. Settlers from faraway took their home and all their belongings. Our home became theirs. They said it is, and so it was.

Joumana Asfour’s grandmother, her siblings and her mother outside their house in Haifa, Israel. (Provided)

We still have the key to a home we can never go back to.  

Lebanon became my grandparent’s home. They swore never again, not our children. 

My grandparents. My father. Me. 

Maybe I can keep the promise. Maybe my children will be free.

Joumana Asfour is an American of Lebanese and Palestinian descent living in Boston, Massachusetts.

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