Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd – A Powerful and Tender Voice of Palestine

Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd - a review on My Little Hawk

Preface To Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd – A Powerful and Tender Voice of Palestine

I was glued to my phone yesterday, looking for the scraps of information from Gaza after Israel cut off all communication in Gaza [read: bombed the telecommunication centers].

The scariest part was not knowing what was happening in the blackout and what Gaza would we wake up to because they intensified their already intense attacks on Gaza.

The news that also devastated me was the votes at the UN General Assembly’s resolution calling for a ceasefire, voted on Friday. I have never felt more shame for my country. My country is young, only a few years older than me. We were raised together.

People who fought for their homes, people who died, those who were never found, people alive today, with shrapnels circling their bodies, who lived to see their country free but didn’t live to see their hair turn grey, they raised my country.

I have a home to love, come to, and identify with, because of them. Our government’s decision to vote against a ceasefire is a spit in the faces of our defenders, the birth of our homeland, and all our principles.

It’s like when you try to raise a child and teach him morals and principles, and the child still turns out to be a terrible person. That’s what it’s like witnessing what my country is turning into. Our branitelji, my country’s birth-givers, who birthed and raised her, now watch her put shame on their faces.

How can I be proud? What is there to be proud of? And remember, kids. The next time that somebody tells you the government wouldn’t do that, oh yes, they would. Whose pockets are we in? But that is not the question. We’ve known since 2013. Our governments don’t stand for their people!

Is It Convincing Enough?

In the Afterword to his collection, Rifqa, El-Kurd says that, at first, he tried to soothe his language and “humanize” the people to get his word out.

Striving for a vocabulary void of accusation, I replaced “arrogate” with “confiscate”, “dispossess” with “evict”, and “lie” with “allege”. This phenomenon is common among writers writing about Palestine, writers who worship the mythology of objectivity instead of satirizing it. There’s this naive belief that Palestinians will acquire credibility only once they’ve amassed respectability. I did this to appear rational and unhostile.

Afterword to Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd

He goes on to say that he tried to humanize Palestinians. He tried to “infantilize Palestinians in hopes of determining that, indeed, they deserve liberation.” The world has grown so ignorant of the sufferings of others. We have become so willingly blind, detached, and hypocritical that no convincing, pleading, or urging will stop this.

The phrase that often circles in the media, “the world is watching closely as events unfold” used to sound like a warning. All eyes are on you, so be careful what you do. Now, even that doesn’t mean anything. They know we’re watching. They don’t stop.

And what are we watching for? What are we looking at? This isn’t another Hollywood propaganda action movie, this is real-life, real-time, genocide on our hands! Do something, world!

Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd

Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd - a review on My Little Hawk
Dedication, Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd

From Amazon:

Each day after school, Mohammed El-Kurd’s grandmother welcomed him at the door of his home with a bouquet of jasmine. Her name was Rifqa—she was older than Israel itself and an icon of Palestinian resilience. With razor-sharp wit and glistening moral clarity, El-Kurd lays bare the brutality of Israeli settler colonialism. His poems trace Rifqa’s exile from Haifa to his family’s current dispossession in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, exposing the cyclical and relentless horror of the Nakba. El-Kurd’s debut collection definitively shows that the Palestinian struggle is a revolution, until victory.

Rifqa is El-Kurd’s debut collection, divided into four parts with 38 poems in total. It uncovers the story of Palestine in plain language, with sharp and concise images, and with a heart that can only be felt beating in art born from passion, love, and pride.

Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd – A Review

In Palestine death is sudden,
happens in between breaths.

Born on Nakba Day, from Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd

What it’s like living in Palestine now, and what it has been like for the past decades, is difficult to narrow down, and it’s apparently even harder to get across to the Western world. Voices like El-Kurd are crucial to pierce right through the bubble of indifference of the West and to show that the cries caught in the throats of Palestinians won’t go unnoticed.

I hope the world listens more intently. (Strain your ears! Under the noise of the bombs and political skirmishes and empty rhetorics, you might hear the children cry.)

The whole collection is brilliant, and I highly recommend you pick it up and read it, but now I want to highlight a few poems that I found especially resounding.


The collection contains a poem of the same name – Rifqa – and it is the final poem of the first part of the book. Intriguing metric, circle-back repetition of the introductory verses and vivid imagery weaves the story of Rifqa El-Kurd, the author’s grandmother.

She was a prominent figure in the author’s life or, as he words it: I grew up in her wisdom, and my poetry reflects that. She is the axis to my actions, the orchestrator of my cadence. She cameos in my poetry and praxis.

To me, grandmas were always those who held the family, the pillars, mainly because my grandma is such a key figure in my life, my childhood, and my faith. That’s why this ode calls so much to me.

On the other hand, within the confinements of a single poem, El-Kurd brings a story of his grandma’s life. She’s someone who lost her home to Zionist colonizers, was forced to be a refugee, and witnessed the oppression and conduction of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Her activism led her from court halls to protests to hospitals. Relentless, she worked until survival became a funny story to tell with what remains of the family.

Farewell, Palestine’s Jasmine, from Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd

This poem breathes love, nostalgia, and sadness, showing many instances of injustice, with details such as keys around the neck, roses with thorns, or folded clothes that seem minor but speak volumes in Palestinian reality. They become a symbol of suffering, hope, and resilience.

Bulldozers Undoing God

What I’m amazed by throughout the whole collection is the author’s brilliant mastery of poetic devices. His play with imagery, specifically, leaves me in awe after every verse.

His verses call you to take a moment to take them in. Every verse demands that you stop and think about what you read.

Another poem that I want to direct your attention to is Three Women. I’m going to repeat myself now and express once again how much in awe I am of El-Kurd’s poetry.

Sharing Is Caring

I have to stop this post somewhere, although I could go on. This collection is one of the best pieces of literature I’ve read in a long time. I cannot recommend it enough.

Apart from that, since, like I said, sharing is caring, I want to share with you a short documentary called Children of Shatila that I highly recommend you watch. It is on Netflix, only 47 minutes long, and it is so beautiful, innocent, and gut-wrenching.

With that, I bid you farewell for today. I hope you liked this post! If you read Rifqa, let me know your thoughts in the comments, and if you haven’t yet, I hope I can persuade you to do it. Okay, thanks, bye!

3 thoughts on “Rifqa by Mohammed El-Kurd – A Powerful and Tender Voice of Palestine

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: