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If I have Palestinian children, I’ll change my name. I’ll use my middle name. My parents gave it to me just in case. They saw this coming. Genocide, that is.

“Joumana, if anyone ever gives you trouble, it’s okay to use the name Sophia,” they said. “It’ll protect you.” 

I’ve thought about the last name I’d take. Smith? My mother’s maiden name? Thomas? Sophia Smith. It has a flow.  

If I have girls, I would give them pretty American names like Lily, Ashley, Taylor and Emily. If I have sons, I’d give them a strong name: Mathew or Louis or David. They don’t need an Arabic name that makes people trip on their tongue and say things like “hmm, that’s interesting.”

My darlings, I’ll make sure you’re undetectable. Only I will know my children are Palestinian.

If I have children, I’ll choose to assimilate

Their safety comes first. I’ll let our rich culture, language and history go. My children won’t learn about how Israel took their great-grandparents’ land, home, and citizenship. They won’t know how their grandfather fled from an another Israeli invasion.

They will never feel the way windows tremble when Israeli jets fly overhead. They won’t ever need to keep secrets from me because a bomb exploded five blocks away from their party with friends. They’ll have normal secrets, like American children do. 

My children won’t have conversations about war.

I remember driving home from an Iftar. Even though I am Christian, it was always fun to break fast with my Muslim friends. I had lied to my dad though; I told him that I was at a friend’s house north of Beirut.

In fact, I had gone south to my friend’s village near the Lebanese-Israeli border. I was met with aggressive dogs, security with guns strapped across their backs, while the Israeli Air Force circled overhead like vultures. “Just in case,” the security said. “We want you to be safe.” 

Israel’s military and Hezbollah exchange fire along the tense Lebanon-Israel border, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. (Associated Press)

Only the penthouse apartment had walls and a roof. The rest of the building was exposed. The elevator moved slowly up a cylinder column supported by four pillars. Anyone can see you move up and down. There was no electricity once we got up. We ate and drank in the dark. 

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My Palestinian children will be American

When my dad called to see where I was, I told him I was passing by the airport. “How could you be passing by the airport Joumana, you’re in the North?” I could hear the panic in his voice, “You’re going the wrong way. Tell him to turn around.” My stomach sank as I had to confess my sins. I broke his one rule: never go to Lebanon’s southern border, it’s not safe. Israel’s there. When I got home, he hugged me.

My children will be American. With their American names. With their American passport. On American soil. Indistinguishable. Unrecognizable. Invisible. 

And, one day, when they come home from school and say “Israel is defending itself,” I’ll choke on my tears. I will. I’ll hold them back so they won’t know. I’ll tell myself truth and justice are just words. Israel took our home. It can have our humus too, I don’t care. Never again, though. Never will Israel take my children. 

I’ll smile and nod silently. Because my little Taylor or Emily or David or Mathew, won’t know – they won’t know – that when I had children, I changed my name.

Editor’s note: This piece is satire.

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

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