Ibrahim Al-Zant is the guardian of Palestine’s memory. He lived as a stranger and died outside Ashkelon

The Palestinian writer and writer Ibrahim Al-Zant, who was known by the name “Gharib Ashqalani”, has always been; He is waiting for the moment to return to his hometown, the occupied coastal city of Ashkelon, southwest of Palestine, which bore its name to remain a stranger to it throughout his life until he died on June 21, 2022 AD, to be buried at the nearest point of it, the cemetery of Sheikh Radwan, which is only 30 kilometers away from it.

Asqalani lived since his birth a year before the Nakba in the year 1947 AD as a stranger, and died away from Ashkelon, who insisted that he bear her name and be known by him. Adherence to identity and patriotism to be a school in that throughout the 74 years that he lived.

Although he has moved in more than one country since he fled his hometown of Ashkelon after its occupation by the Zionist gangs in 1948 AD while he was a baby, Ashkelon remained in his conscience and became part of his life and kept getting closer to her little by little until he returned to Gaza in 1994 AD to get closer but death was faster He did not allow him to make eye contact with him, but he recommended that he be buried at the nearest point, including the cemetery of Sheikh Radwan, which is only 30 kilometers from Ashkelon.

The Palestinian critic and academic, Dr. Abdel Rahim Hamdan, considered the writer Gharib Asqlani as “a lofty stature and a great literary value.”

Abdel Rahim Hamdan, a Palestinian writer and academic

Hamdan described in his speech to “Arabic 21” Asqalani is considered the “guardian of national memory”, the dean of Palestinian novelists, and he truly represents the icon of the Palestinian novel, and the sheikh of Palestinian novelists.

He said: “The writer Gharib Asqalani left a wide literary legacy in the technicians of the novel, the story, and others, and his literary output was a fertile material for many researchers and scholars inside and outside the country.”

He considered it a new number of Palestinian identity figures, and an essential pillar of Arab culture.

Hamdan said: “Asqalani represented the affiliating refugee father, the caring father, the hard-working, glorified worker, and the virtuous educator. And the ancient writer, without whom Palestinian literature would not have witnessed this remarkable awakening in the history of the conflict with the Zionist occupation and its dirty operations against identity, and Palestinian insomnia.”

He added: “Gharib Asqalani was and still is a great and brilliant Palestinian name that has been associated with defending the novel, and even the Palestinian cultural identity from the systematic theft, repression and Judaization, until he forgot his real name (Ibrahim Al-Zant) to be a distinguishing mark in the history of Palestinian literature and a symbol. immortal in Arab civilization.

The Palestinian critic and academic explained that Asqalani was born from the womb of pain and asylum; To live the stages of oppression and challenge experienced by his people in the camps and diaspora, and to bear the burden of the Palestinian cause on his shoulders with a solid will and firm determination that does not falter or soften, until Palestine was his longing for his solution and travels, in his stories and novel. At home and in the diaspora.

He said: “The writer Gharib Asqalani made a great effort to get his literature out of the traditional story and novel restrictions into the space of the Arab and international novel, employing modern narrative techniques, introducing it into the structure of literary work, which made it an unconventional novelist style, while preserving the originality in which he believed. And his body in his literature: thought and practice.

He added: “The writer Gharib Ashqalan is a novelist who, in his novelistic practice, transcends the concept of the novel as a tale, to the concept of the multi-level novel with a modernist architecture.”

Hamdan explained that Asqalani was a writer who monitored the concerns of his people; Therefore, what revolves around his literature has been reproduced, and thus can be considered a realistic writer, but with his constant attempts to develop his tools towards benefiting from recent achievements in the fields of literature and culture, although in most of his writings he took sides and departed from the lives of popular groups, in poor neighborhoods and refugee camps; That is why some said about him: He is the writer of the camp, and some said that he is the bearer of the memory of the poor.

He said: “Asqalani used to see that it is not the writer’s job to lead the field or the street, but he sees that the writer who is committed to the issues of his country blows up questions in front of the public to rush towards their interests and demands, and here is the role of the politician and the party or factional cadre in organizing the public’s visions.”

He added: “He used to think that the creative writer should be honest with his people, loyal to his cause, not trading his pen even if he ate his flesh, and he should benefit from the cultural achievement from all currents and ideas, and not close a door in front of a particular thought even if it was a thought. enemies, and that the writer must be committed as an intellectual to preserving our heritage and the memory of the homeland, and we have to be patriotic, then belong to the land, and then to the Palestinian collective memory, so that we know the interactions that have gone through this issue over the past years.”

Hamdan stressed that Asqalani was haunted by the love of Palestine, he hated alienation from his hometown of Ashkelon, and returning was a dream he had, but it did not materialize in his life.

The Palestinian critic and academic pointed out that many of the characters in his novels emigrated and migrated from Ashkelon, and did not return to it. The camps of the diaspora, they still carry between their wings Ashkelon, its history, customs and traditions, and they yearn for its villages, cities, and hamlets, where the land of their fathers and grandfathers is.

For her part, Dr. Nisreen Jamal Al-Nayrab, a researcher in literature and criticism, considered Asqalani a distinguished storyteller who enriched Palestinian literature with his novels and short stories, most of which expressed the issue of the Palestinian refugee and his suffering due to the Israeli occupation.

Nisreen Jamal Al-Nairab, a Palestinian scholar and literary critic

Al-Nayrab said to “Arabic 21”The writer Asqalani was born and all Palestinians were born with him by depicting their suffering with his pen, which did not stop writing, and only wrote about the Palestinian issue.

And she added: “The writer (Ibrahim Abdel-Jabbar Al-Zant) chose his literary name (Gharib Asqalani) to form a clear imprint that appears in all his novels and was known among writers, in all literary forums and salons, and among all people, so why did he choose this name?

She explained that the name (Gharib Asqalani) carries in its first part the meaning of alienation, as he lived as a stranger from his original homeland, while (Asqalani) because he was abandoned from his original town (Al-Majdal) as an infant with his family to refugee camps after the catastrophe of 1948 AD, so I made him a novelist and storyteller speaking about the suffering of his people.

Al-Nayrab said: “The estrangement that Asqalani lived in is still experienced by every Palestinian, for he was born and lived far from his homeland. Geographical and emotional alienation.
She added: “As for (Asqalani) because he was displaced from his original town in 1948, which is (Ashkelon) or (Al-Majdal), this town in which he stigmatized himself throughout his life, and it became part of his entity, and of his identity, to announce to the occupier his spiritual connection with it despite his alienation from it; he is the refugee. The concerned lover of his homeland mixed with its past, and to announce to the occupation that our people will not surrender or forget them;

The researcher in literature and criticism explained that Asqalani wrote several stories in the field of short stories, the most prominent of which were: “Exiting the Silence”, “Tales about the Buds of Days”, “The Boy and the Little Sun”, “The Seagull Heading North”, “Ghazala Al-Mouj”, “Playing the Wave” On an old chord”, “War and Death in Gaza”, and “Have you seen the shadow of my death”.

She indicated that Asqalani wrote nine novels, all of which depicted the suffering of the Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation and the life of displacement in refugee camps, with a variety of forms and styles of suffering.

She explained that she reviewed Asqalani’s novels during her master’s thesis in literature and criticism, which she prepared, and it was about “narrative techniques in Gharib Asqalani’s novels.”

She emphasized that these novels are: “The Ring novel”, which was published in 1979 AD, and it is his first novel, and it consists of eight chapters, and it deals with the lives of Palestinians in refugee camps under the Israeli occupation, and the novels: “Time of Attention”, “Najma Al-Nawati”, “The Time of Dahmous Al-Agbar”, “The Return of Mansour Al-Ladawi”, “The Nights of the Lunar Months”, “Awlad Mazyona”, “The Search for White Times”, and the novel “Dry Throat and Bitter Tongue”.

Al-Nairab said: “Whoever studies his stories and Asqalani’s novels finds that his personality overlaps with the narrator’s personality in many of his novels, as if it is a reflection of his personality and his true suffering. Which was a biography of the writer that reflected his childhood life in (Al-Majdal), and his life in the refugee camps, relying on childhood memory to narrate its events.

She added, “In his novels, Asqalani was interested in showing the internal, physical, intellectual and social dimensions of his main and secondary characters, which attracts the reader to reading the novel and exploring the dimensions of its characters. Most of Asqalani’s characters embodied the suffering of the Palestinian refugee under the Israeli occupation.”

And she continued, “He also included in his novels many popular customs and traditions, such as folk proverbs, songs, wedding customs, and songs for popular occasions. His novels were a reflection of our Palestinian heritage rooted in our souls, and an invitation from him for future generations to preserve and adhere to it. It was typed in the historical times in which he wrote About him, as his novels constituted a historical record that can be referenced to learn about the times of wars that the Palestinian people lived through.

Al-Nair b explained that Asqalani used temporal paradoxes through the case of no succession by going back to the past at times, using the method of retrieval and the method of anticipation. distress; His novels came in multiple spaces and he was able to describe them accurately through the childhood memories of the characters, and through the reality in which these characters live.

She pointed out that the camp was the scene of a number of events with Asqalani, describing it with its clear and specific features and its real names.

She emphasized that the language of the novelist Asqalani was a transparent occasion in which he mixed poetry with prose, and mixed colloquial with classical, so he produced attractive and strong words with wonderful meanings, which reflected his literary and political culture. The homeland, dreaming of returning to his homeland, hoping that his homeland would be free of villains and delinquents, which is what he embodied in all his novels.

She said: “The novelist Gharib Asqalani, through the studied text, has really succeeded in leaving a clear imprint in Palestinian literature, thus contributing to the establishment of a distinguished narrative text, and his novels have demonstrated his great ability to narrate and control his techniques in proportion to the privacy of his writings.”

And she added: “May God have mercy on Asqalani, who passed away on the morning of June 21, 2022 AD, after a struggle with illness in his life, and a struggle with the occupier in his novels, hoping and dreaming to return to his homeland on his feet or to be buried in his town for which his soul longed for throughout the years of his life like the rest. Our people – who are still living in the hope of return – and present their relentless quest crowned with loyalty and sincerity for this return.”

The journalist Hanadi Al-Tali stressed that Asqalani is a great writer, thinker and novelist who lived through the pain of the Palestinian cause and embodied it in his writings and novels.

Hanadi Al-Tali, a Palestinian journalist

Al-Tali said to “Arabic 21”: “Professor Gharib Asqalani is one of the pillars of the Palestinian national culture, and the Palestinian curriculum must include his novels, whether in the literary or national historical course.”

She recalled when she first met him years ago, when he gave her one of his novels and a conversation took place between them.

Al-Tali said: “I will not forget that day on which Professor Gharib Asqalani gave me his novel (The Return of Mansour Al-Ledawi), how much I loved books at that time; I was fifteen years old at the time, and we were in a literary seminar at the Tamer Foundation for Community Education.”

And she added, “At that time I asked him about his name, and he said to me (Ibrahim Al-Zant), so I asked him, and who is (Ghareeb Asqalani)? He said to me at the time that he would return to Ashkelon one day.

And she continued, “I remember that I could not sleep at that time until I finished reading the complete novel (The Return of Mansour Al-Ladawi) by Gharib Ashkelon.”

Media Al-Tali expressed her great sadness for the loss of Asqalani, stressing that his loss is a great loss for Palestinian literature and the national cause that he embodied during his life through his various writings.

She said: “It is strange that Asqalani embodied the right of return as a soul in his novels, but his body was buried near Sheikh Radwan, which is close to Ashkelon, in the hope of a near return to Ashkelon, to remain a stranger in his grave until this return is achieved.”

Asqalani was born in 1947 in the city of Ashkelon and abandoned there after a year with him and his family. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the Faculty of Agriculture at Alexandria University in 1969, and he also obtained a postgraduate diploma in Islamic studies from the Institute of Research and Islamic Studies in Cairo in 1983.

During his university studies, the June War of 1967 occurred, and Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, and considered everyone who was outside the Strip among the displaced, and refused to allow them to return to the Strip, and thus Gharib Asqalani became displaced, to live a life of asylum again, as he moved between Jordan and Syria Then he returned to Gaza after years of forced exile with the arrival of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza in 1994 AD, where he held the position of Director General of the Palestinian Ministry of Culture at that time.

He worked as an agricultural engineer in the Euphrates Dam project in Syria from 1970 until 1974, and worked in secondary education in schools in the Gaza Strip until 1994, then worked in the Palestinian Ministry of Culture as director of literary creativity, media spokesperson for the Palestine International Book Fair, and director of the Information Department cultural.

Asqalani was a founding member of the Palestine Writers Union in the West Bank and Gaza, a member of the General Secretariat for several electoral cycles, and held the position of Assistant Secretary-General of the Writers Union, and head of the Union’s branch in Gaza.

Asqalani participated in many cultural events inside and outside Palestine, and represented Palestine in the Palestinian Spring of Culture season in Paris in 1997 AD. He wrote many novels and stories in Palestinian literature. Asqalani published 10 novels and (6) short story collections. With wide fame and popularity in Palestine and the Arab world, some of his short stories were translated into English, French, Russian and Spanish, and were published in an anthology of Palestinian literature.

He was awarded the Short Story Award from Bethlehem University in 1977, the Palestine Writers Union Award in 1991, the Arab Writers Union Award in 2016, and he received the Medal of Creativity and Excellence in 2016 in recognition of his creative contribution to the Palestinian national culture process.

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