Handala meets Jesus


I haven't posted in a while - my hands have been full with Palestine solidarity organizing. My friend Sush just sent me a link to Handala.org. The cartoonist Naji Al-Ali created the character Handala, a 10 year old Palestinian refugee child, who has become and icon of Palestinian resistance. Al-Ali's summary of the meaning of this child is posted below. To the right is one of many images in which Handala interacts with Jesus. Jesus is thinking "Bethlehem" in Arabic, signifying the fact that his hometown is still suffering under Israeli apartheid and occupation today. Handala is looking up at him with a mix of hope and despair, a mix that Jesus himself must have felt on the cross. Jesus is wearing a key around his neck, like the Palestinian refugees who still carry their keys to their homes on both sides of the Green line, inside and outside of the 1948 boundaries of Apartheid Israel.

Here is Al-Ali's reflection on Handala:

“The child Handala is my signature, everyone asks me about him wherever I go. I gave birth to this child in the Gulf and I presented him to the people. His name is Handala and he has promised the people that he will remain true to himself. I drew him as a child who is not beautiful; his hair is like the hair of a hedgehog who uses his thorns as a weapon. Handala is not a fat, happy, relaxed, or pampered child. He is barefooted like the refugee camp children, and he is an icon that protects me from making mistakes. Even though he is rough, he smells of amber. His hands are clasped behind his back as a sign of rejection at a time when solutions are presented to us the American way."

Handala was born ten years old, and he will always be ten years old. At that age, I left my homeland, and when he returns, Handala will still be ten, and then he will start growing up. The laws of nature do not apply to him. He is unique. Things will become normal again when the homeland returns.

I presented him to the poor and named him Handala as a symbol of bitterness. At first, he was a Palestinian child, but his consciousness developed to have a national and then a global and human horizon. He is a simple yet tough child, and this is why people adopted him and felt that he represents their consciousness."