Feature: Memories museum in Lebanon's refugee camp holds "keys" for Palestinians to return homeland

By Xie Hao
  • World
  • Sunday, 26 May 2024

BEIRUT, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Mohammed Khatib, 77, was carefully polishing two copper bowls under a dim yellow light in the Shatila refugee camp, south of the Lebanese capital Beirut.

As the collection of the Memories Museum of Palestinians, the two bowls came from an 82-year-old Palestinian woman who fled from Palestine more than half a century ago, Khatib, the founder of the museum, told Xinhua.

Born in a Palestinian village only eight kilometers from the Lebanese border, Khatib came to Lebanon with his parents as refugees when he was only a months-old baby during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and settled in the Shatila refugee camp ever since.

After completing his studies in Spain in 1979, Khatib returned to Shatila to become a community doctor.

Despite having lived most of his life in Lebanon, Khatib, like most of the Palestinians living and working in Shatila, is dedicated to returning to his homeland.

Palestinians here have never considered themselves as belonging to Shatila, he said, noting the idea of returning home filled up their minds.

However, the continued conflicts in the region dimmed their hope, but the belief in returning to their homeland remained strong, which prompted him to set up the Memories Museum in Shatila in 2005 to commemorate their homeland and identities, Khatib said.

For the past two decades, the Memories Museum, situated at a residential building in the alleys of Shatila, has been crammed with collections of old objects used by Palestinians, including fishermen's nets, warriors' swords, food trays, copper teapots, preserving a unique history and traditional culture of Palestine.

Of all the items, two keys are the most important to Khatib.

"The keys represent the right to go back home. As long as we keep them, we will be able to use them to open the door of our home when we return there someday," he said.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, nearly one-third of the registered Palestine refugees -- more than 1.5 million individuals -- live in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

When talking about his plans in the future, Khatib said "if I had the choice, I would give up all my property, just to return to my home in Palestine, even if there is only a tent."

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