Nadia Saah in Jewish Currents:
THIS PHOTOGRAPH IS OF MY MOTHER NINA, on the left. Her given name was Therese Yousef Saad, but her family called her Theresina because she was tiny and adorable—and she remained that way until her death in 2017. She is standing next to her cousin Leila on the balcony of her family’s home in Jerusalem. It is 1947, and she is engaged to my father Issa. (They would not marry until 1963. But that’s another story.) The photo conveys a deep intimacy: my mother’s easy grip on Leila’s hand; their closeness; the depth and warmth of my mom’s almond eyes. She is looking right at you, and at me. She is letting us in.
One year later, the Nakba ended her life in Palestine. I know that my mom and her family fled on a truck to As-Salt, Jordan, in May of 1948, and for a year and a half the six of them—she and her mother Lily, her father Yousef, her sisters Diana and Irma, and her baby brother Mattia—lived together in one room, over a barn. I know that on their first night they cried as they ate their dinner on the floor. And that the walls shook every time a horse kicked below them. I know that my mother prayed for their return to Jerusalem, until the day that she climbed the tallest hill in As-Salt to witness the waves of Palestinian refugees walking toward her with their belongings on their backs.
I will never know the full extent of what happened to my mother in the Nakba, but I can tell you that during the 47 years that I knew her, I never once saw this look in her eyes.