Meet the Gazan woman turning rubble into building blocks and sunlight into power

For Hussein and other Palestinians, the suffering has not ended; the memories are still painful. As he recalls those days in 1967, tears come to his eyes. “We walked through valleys full of thorns and got lost. My 98-year-old grandmother was with us, and we had to carry her on our backs from time to time.” After fifteen days, Hussein and the rest of his family who survived the occupation of their home finally reached Jordan. “There, things got better somehow. My uncles lived in Jordan, so we stayed with them for a year and a half, until we managed to get in touch with my father who was studying in Brazil at that time. He had a scholarship to study agriculture with help from the Jordanian government.”

Millions of Palestinians still live in exile from the land that their families had lived in and farmed for generations. History has moved on since they arrived in their host countries where they thought they would stay for a few weeks or months, but ended up staying a lifetime. “Everything happened so quickly,” Hussein tells me, “and we couldn’t carry anything with us. However, in Brazil, we started our business.” The family opened a little store at first; then a chain of stores with more than 200 workers.

For Palestinian refugees in the diaspora, economic success means nothing unless it is accompanied by social development. “Now that we have successful businesses, our duty is to succeed socially and culturally by teaching the new generations about our right and desire to return to Palestine,” Hussein points out. “Whether it is next year, or in 50 or 100 years, we will return to Palestine.”

UN General Assembly Resolution 194 is explicit about the right to return: “Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”