Coffee for all Nations: The Palestinian connection to home and land

Coffee for all Nations: The Palestinian connection to home and land
Film review: Coffee for all Nations follows Abed's story as he tries to recapture his land from Israel, in a deeply personal account of the occupation.
4 min read
30 November, 2018
The film followed Abed's emotional story [YouTube]
For decades, Palestinian villages have been vanishing from the landscape as Israel expands its settlement project.

Hearing stories of settlement expansion, forced dispossession and even being forced to demolish their own houses is so common that many are almost desensitised to the near-daily reality.

While sad, Israeli aggression is a norm and despite the global activism and passion for rights and solidarity, living under occupation is a Palestinian reality.

Coffee for all Nations
, screened at the London Palestine Film Festival on Wednesday took its audience on a journey as a reminder of the emotional toll occupation has on Palestinians living under Israeli military rule, and the unshaken connection Palestinians have to their land.

The film followed the story of Abed, a man whose family were displaced from the village of al-Walaja near Bethlehem during the 1948 Nakba and who moved to Dheisheh Refugee Camp, south of Bethlehem. Despite not being far from his land, he was unable to stay away from it and left his family to begin a legal battle with the Israeli courts to get his family's land back.

Abed built a tiny one-room shack out of wood and metal, but Israel forced him to take it down. Determined to somehow stay, he managed to find a 5,000-year-old cave and he ended up living there with his pigeons, rabbits, chickens and donkeys to keep him company. Even then, Israel refused to leave him alone.

"Let them take their fight to the Canaanites," he repeated throughout the documentary. Abed turned his tiny space where he still had access to his grandfather's orange trees and almonds into a small marketplace and cafe where he was visited by people from across the world in solidarity.

He took the producers on a tour, allowed them an insight into the most intimate details of his life; including a notebook he has with messages of support from visitors across the world, as well as discussing his health and the disagreements he has with his wife.
The obstacles Palestinians have to climb in order to receive basic rights are shown in their reality

The audience was also given a chance to connect with Abed's seemingly gentle character, especially when it came to his relationship with his animals. His connection with nature was unwavering; with his family lightly making fun of him for not being able to slaughter and eat the chickens to calling his donkey habibi, Arabic for "darling", and laughing when the beast covered him with sand.
Watch the trailer for Coffee for all Nations

As our bond with him grew, his battle with the Israeli courts became one in which we were increasingly emotionally invested.

Watching the film, the obstacles Palestinians have to climb in order to receive basic rights are shown in their reality. Without being dramatised, the producers managed to give a natural depiction of the Palestinian experience under Israel, making it all the more relatable for the viewer.

There was a constant reminder to the audience that this is real. Abed refused to shy away from his emotions in the film, nor did those around him. His family were honest about what they thought of his mission, showing the many layers in which Israel's brutality impacts on Palestinians both practically and emotionally.

The film was especially impactful for me as a Palestinian living in the diaspora. As someone who has never even seen Palestine and only lives in it vicariously through the memories of my grandparents and those who have been fortunate enough to see my ancestral homeland, the sense of loss is one with which I am able to empathise.

Watching Abed's story unfold made me realise the suppressed emotions I carry with me when I read, talk and write about Palestine. While it may feel like a natural defence mechanism for all Palestinians - suppression is one of the only ways we can stop our emotions from overwhelming us - for Palestinians who tend to almost forget about their emotional connection to the land when suppressing their feelings, Coffee for all Nations is a bittersweet reminder that such feelings are a natural part of the Palestinian experience. 

Seeing Abed connect with the land that was taken away from him, despite living in the same country - even the same city - is even more of a reminder that Palestinian sentiments about their land is more than just a national struggle. For Palestinians, our connection to our land is more of a spiritual experience.

The fight for our land is not just a matter of principle and justice, but is inspired by love for a land matched by a conviction that the land loves us back. Abed's story depicted this perfectly.

It was a poignant and emotionally intense film to watch. The focus on Abed gave deep human insight to the words "occupation", "courts", "siege" and "apartheid" that are thrown around when describing the Palestinian plight and struggle for freedom.