Friday, May 05, 2006
Never Far From Home
In 1967, as my family was huddled in the hallway of our home in Jerusalem to avoid getting hit by stray bullets, Montreal was welcoming the world to it's Worlds Fair. As we were in 23-hour a day curfew with almost nothing to eat or drink, Montrealers were sharing their good nature, food and drink with hundreds of thousand of tourists. As the bodies of Jordanian soldiers rotted in the streets of Jerusalem after the 6-day war, here in Montreal they were basking in the sunny glare of the world.
The theme for the 1967 Worlds Fair? "Man and His World"...if they only knew...
One of the many talk pieces of the Worlds fair that year was the building pictured above, aptly called Habitat '67. Unlike many of the other buildings erected that year for the fair, this building continues to stand today. It is one of the more interesting parts of the Montreal landscape for me as a Palestinian, for it's uncanny resemblance to a Palestinian village carefully perched on an ancient hillside in the Holy Land.
After years of wondering, I decided to do some research and discovered that it was designed by renouned architect Moshe Safdie based on his Masters thesis at McGill University here in Montreal. Now here's the irony, Moshe Safdie was born in the town of Haifa, he moved with his family to Montreal when he was a teenager, a move he disliked as a dedicated Zionist! 18 years after Zionists in Palestine had destroyed nearly 500 Palestinian villages trying to create the illusion of a "land without a people", a self proclamed Zionist was re-building this one here! I was amazed and puzzled at this find. Was he subconciously lamenting what had been done? Wishing to make amends somehow?
An additional irony, as if mirroring what happened in Palestine, Habitat '67 was designed as 'affordable housing', housing for everybody, but has become a building for only Montreal's elite.
I feel somehow this building is here as a monument to remind me of who I am, where I come from and the work that needs to be done to rebuild Palestine to it's former inclusive nature...a FREE and United Palestine!