“I met my wife Elena in Italy where I was studying for my masters. She came to live in Palestine with me, by after we’d been there for ten months she was offered two jobs. One in Kabul, Afghanistan, the other in Amsterdam. When she asked me which I would choose I answered, “Amsterdam”, and in the end that’s what she chose.
And so our long distance relationship between Palestine and Amsterdam began. I went to her once a month and after the umpteenth day off from work my boss told me, “you can’t take a holiday every month, and you can’t travel to Holland”. This was the day before I was scheduled to leave and via Skype I told my wife the sad news. Elena was disappointed, but realised I had no choice in the matter. Until the next day. She called me on Skype and asked, “do you love me?”. “Yes”, I answered. “Do you love me enough to marry me?” Stunned, I replied with a, “yes”. And Elena carried on to say, “OK, will we live in Palestine or Amsterdam?” It ended up being Amsterdam and since then I’ve never regretted the move. Of course, I miss my family and friends, but Amsterdam is a city where I can be myself thanks to the diversity that surrounds me. In Palestine this is so much more difficult thanks to the Israeli occupation.
We got married in Amsterdam’s city hall which I found particularly special as this is the same place where the first ever gay marriage ceremony was held. Amsterdam feels like home. I feel at one with the diversity and creativity this city has to offer. I recently visited Limburg with my zen teacher. She is bald, and a Buddhist, and a lot of people were staring at her thinking, “what is that?”. In Amsterdam no-one would give her a second look. It doesn’t matter what you look like here.
Elena and I have just bought a house in Oost. If there’s one place that reminds me of Palestine it’s Java street in Oost. Sometimes it’s as chaotic as Palestine and just as diverse. What I like most about this street is that so many different people walk around - not just different cultures, but also different levels of schooling and age. I hope that this kind of environment lasts for a very long time.”