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1948-A Story of Loss and the pre-St. Patrick's Day Dance

We read about a program that would take place at the Cleveland Heights Library on Lee Road titled "1948-A Story of Loss" presented by the Cleveland Peace Action Education Fund. The description on the literature we received read: "Two Palestinian-American speakers will recall their personal family stories in 1948, related to the cities of Jaffe and Deir Yassin. Palestinians term the events of 1948, "The Nakba", Arabic for 'catastrophe.' Dr. Nahida Gordan, Ph.D., professor emeritus of bio-ethics at the CWRU School of Medicine, is a member of the Interfaith Council for Peace in the Middle East. Her family was forced to depart Jaffe in 1948. She and her husband, Donald, helped lead the campaign in the national Presbyterian Church for divestment from corporations which profit from the occupation in the West Bank. Abbas Hamideh is the National Chair, Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition. He is also Cleveland Chapter Chair. Abbas is a rare descendant of a Deir Yassin survivor...He is also director of the Global Campaign for Palestinian Prisoners."

We realized that the content would be very controversial but we have several friends in Cleveland Peace Action like Ms. Rosemary Palmer, Mr. Kim Hill, Mr. Jeff and Ms. Denene Kassouf, Ms. Janet Loehr, Mr. Don Bryant, and Mr. David Berenson (who is the son of a WWII holocaust survivor) so we decided to attend the event because we are always interested in stories of people who have immigrated to the United States from foreign lands.

Mr. Hamideh said that both of their stories were similar as are those of all Palestinians. Dr. Gordan was born in 1939 and was only 7 or 8 when her family had to leave Jaffa and journey to Lebanon. In 1951, when she was twelve her family immigrated to the United States and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. She became a United States citizen about 1957 when she was 18. After Mr. Hamideh's family was forced to leave Deir Yassin, they lived in a refugee camp in Jericho until they were expelled. From there they moved to Amman. After Mr. Hamideh's father he divorced his first wife he left the Middle East in 1967 and traveled first to South America and later to Puerto Rico where he met Mr. Hamideh's mother and married her and was thus able to relocate to the United States. He did not forget his first family, though, and arranged for them to immigrate to the United States in the 1970's.

We were impressed by both speakers because they did not seem to be bitter at all. Instead, they both made an impassioned plea for justice which would involve right of return for all of the Palestinians and that they be treated with dignity and respect according to international law. Both stressed that what they wanted more than anything was for all sides in the Middle East conflict to be able to live together in peace.

Even at one time during the program, when a young woman (who later told us that she plans to do graduate work at a Hebrew University and protested divestment at Ohio University) challenged the speakers on several points, things still remained calm and no one let their emotions get the better of them; instead everyone treated each other with respect and Mr. Hill had a good discussion with her afterwards in which both stated their opinions and agreed to disagree.

Along these lines we particularly liked it when Dr. Gordan told us how she returned to Jaffe because she wanted to see the house where she spent her early years. She located the house and found that it was occupied by a Jewish woman who invited her in and they enjoyed coffee together and had a pleasant visit.

After we left Cleveland Heights, we drove out to Olmsted Township to attend the annual Pre-St. Patrick's Day Dance at the West Side Irish American Club where we watched their Pipe Band (yes, our beloved bag pipes played beautifully) and the Ladies Drill Team and the Sr. Pipe and Drum Corp. perform. Even though we were tired at the end of the day, the effect was rousing and we felt re-energized after they were through. We spoke to Ms. Sharon Fraley, an Irish dancer herself when she was younger, who told us that several of her family members participated in these functions over the years and how much discipline and dedication it required.

Other entertainment included Ms. Deirdre Reilly singing with her band in one room and Mary's Lane, another band, playing in another room. To be sure, both rooms were packed and the musical selections varied from Irish to country to Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson."

We had a wonderful time walking around and greeting people who remembered us from other functions at the West Side Club but there were also a couple of people there who knew us from the East Side Club and one person named Rosemary who talked to us at the Robert Burns Scottish dinner several weeks ago. Rosemary asked us if we planned to blog about this party also and we told her that we were but not to worry-we were having a good time.

We learned that Ms. Kathleen Mangan, who was named the Woman of the Year, was born in County Mayo in Ireland and immigrated to the United States when she was 16 years old. The West Side Irish American Club became an important place for socialization for her and she ultimately met her husband here. She worked at Baldwin Wallace until she retired in 2012. Ms. Fraley, who worked with her at Baldwin Wallace, told us that after she retired Ms. Mangan really worked hard for the Club and was very deserving of this honor that she received.

We also saw our dear friend, Father Bob Begin who told us that since his retirement he is taking French classes and still going to St. Colman's every weekend. He went on to say that, more than anything, he is learning how to slow down. He then grinned and said that "at the end of your life, one must grow more spiritual!"

Of course the name of Ms. Margaret W. Wong did come up in a couple of our conversations. Ms. Doris Murphy told us that years ago when she worked for the "Plain Dealer" she did the advertising for Ms. Wong. We sat with Ms. Karen Ginley who works at the Cleveland Clinic and said that she drives by Margaret W. Wong and Associates every day on Chester Avenue. Ms. Ginley believes that Ms. Wong does "lots of good work" and that Ms. Wong impressed her as being "an interesting lady to meet." We told her that yes, she was indeed.

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