Olfat Mahmoud is a Palestinian refugee. Born in a refugee camp in Lebanon, she is a descendant of the Christian and Muslim people who were forced from their homeland at gunpoint by the Israeli military in the 1948’s Nakba, ‘Catastrophe’, and who fled Palestine in the period leading up to – and after – the subsequent founding of the state of Israel in 1948.
In 1949, David Ben-Gurion, one of the founders of the State of Israel and the first prime minister, stated that ‘we must do everything to ensure [the Palestinians] never do return… the old will die and the young will forget’.
Olfat’s life mission is to fulfil the dream of her parents and grandparents to return to their hometown, Tarshiha in Palestine. Her determination to help her people in their fight to return to their homeland, has led to a nursing career that has placed her at the front line of atrocious massacres and wars in the Middle East.
Tears for Tarshiha follows Olfat’s career – as a registered nurse, the director of an international NGO, an internationally recognised peace activist, and most recently, the recipient of a doctorate – amid the death and destruction of Lebanon’s many conflicts; and chronicles the Palestinian people’s remarkable capacity for love and bravery in the most extreme conditions. Olfat’s extraordinary story is emblematic of the Palestinian plight, illustrating their continued survival and determination that has become an inconvenience to the international community.
Despite Olfat’s parents and grandparents never seeing Tarshiha again, this book is part of Olfat’s ongoing campaign to keep her people’s predicament in the public consciousness. This is their story, and the story of all Palestinians and their descendants who were forced from their homeland.
Praise for Olfat Mahmoud and Tears for Tarshiha:
“Olfat Mahmoud has long been a passionate, compassionate and articulate voice for Palestinian refugees. Her account of the agony of dispossession and exile – not least the horror of the murderous assaults on the Sabra Shatila and Borj el-Barajneh camps in Lebanon in the 1980s which she so bravely lived through – is both scarifying and deeply moving. No one of any humanity could fail to be touched by this book.”
– Gareth Evans, former Australian Foreign Minister
“For too long, Palestinians have remained largely invisible in our media and demonised as terrorists. It’s therefore wonderfully refreshing to read the history, reflections and passions of Olfat Mahmoud and understand what exile still means for millions of Palestinians around the world, refused access to their former homeland. I commend this book for its humanity and quest for justice. The Middle East will not see peace until these issues are resolved.”
– Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist, film-maker, author of Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe and My Israel Question