Returning to Haifa: Analysis of the Story

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The story tells about Safiya and Said, who were forced to leave their home in Haifa in 1948. Haifa became the subject of military conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Jews during this period, which caused the inhabitants to leave the city. However, in the chaos of the escape, the couple’s five-month-old son Khaldun was lost and left behind in the city. After escaping from Palestine, the couple began to live in Ramallah, which is located in East Jerusalem. Safiya and Said return to Haifa twenty years after the opening of the Mandelbaum Gate to look for their son. After a long search, the couple found their house, in which the widow of a long-dead military man lived. Their son also lived there, whom they found under a different name and wearing an Israeli Army uniform. The story focuses on revealing the characters’ feelings about the events of the past, as well as highlighting the situation they had to endure.

The story of Safiya and Said and the fate of their son is tragic, but more tragic is its ending. Safiya and Said epitomize defeat, as Khaldun rejects all ties to them after their return to Haifa. First of all, when they arrived at their home in Haifa, the couple found it occupied by other people, Miriam and Dov. It was later revealed that Dov is their son Khaldun, but he does not agree to accept his biological parents. An interesting scene unfolds between Safiya, Said, and Miriam as they wait for Dov or Khaldun to return home. Miriam describes how Dov never returns on time, always being late as his father (Kanafani 171). Miriam hesitated, but then Said suddenly wondered: “What is fatherhood?” (Kanafani 171). This episode shows how doubts in Said’s soul were born because he realized that twenty years was too long a time. Moreover, their son was raised in another family and brought up by other people, which cuts off all ties with his origin.

Safiya was completely sure that Dov, upon meeting them, would immediately return to her biological parents. She claims that “it’s impossible to deny the call of flesh and blood” (Kanafani 172). However, Said explained to her that Khaldun had lived in an atmosphere of deception for twenty years, and the truth was different for him. After that, Safiya expressed her bitter regret that they had left the city twenty years ago, but there was no way to change the situation. Upon returning home, Dov, having learned about his origin, objected that he did not know other parents except Miriam and her husband (Kanafani 179). The defeat of Safiya and Said is illustrated by the fact that their biological son was raised as a Jew and perceived the couple as enemies.

Khaldun, who became Dov, did not know any other power and truth than that which was given to him by the Jewish people. His Arab roots did not become an argument for accepting biological parents; he did not doubt the ideas that were familiar to him. In the end, Safiya and Said are convinced that their hope for the return of their son is illusory. They admit that he is a different person, not the five-month-old boy they left in Haifa. They acknowledge their defeat, which is epitomized by Israel’s success in instilling different values ​​and beliefs among the locals. They managed to raise a generation that is true to the Jewish people and considers itself a part of it.

Work Cited

Kanafani, Ghassan. Palestine’s Children: Returning to Haifa and Other Stories. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 200.