As a Palestinian born in London, Nabulsi never let distance separate her from her roots and always longed to return home.
When she finally did, what she witnessed transformed her life in a way she never imagined.
Speaking to StepFeed, Nabulsi shares her incredible journey back to Palestine. She also tells us about the life changing things she witnessed and how her experience led her to launch her media production label, Native Liberty and powerful, moving project Oceans of injustice.
On her early bond with Palestine
Even though Nabulsi was born, raised and educated in London, U.K. she always felt connected to her Palestinian roots.
She tells us that her bond with her homeland was strengthened by many visits that she and her family made to Palestine during her childhood and was developed further through reading on the history, culture and heritage of the country. Her parents and family also played a vital role in further strengthening this bond.
"My parents never instilled any kind of hate or anger with regards to Palestine and Israel, but it was very clear though, what our history was ... there wasn’t silence about what has taken place over the decades. So I knew for as long as I can even remember that my blood was Palestinian, my heritage, my history was from Palestine, but it was done in a beautiful and non-confrontational way."
Nabulsi explains that other than visiting a few times during her childhood, her family made no further trips to Palestine and as she grew older she longed to visit again but was deterred by fear.
“There’s a lot of stigma when it comes to visiting Palestine. This is mainly due to the trauma that our families, parents and ancestors have experienced," she says, adding that "while we should sympathize with the stigma many have over visiting Palestine, going back home for those who have the ability to, is a must."
A spontaneous decision
Nabulsi says the decision to finally visit Palestine again was made in the spur of a moment.
"I was growing incredibly frustrated and I thought you know what, I am a grown adult now, and it's absolutely unfounded and unacceptable that I haven't visited in so long, and I can."
Nabulsi also goes on to say that as a mother, she was growing concerned that her children would not be able to identify with their Palestinian identity and so decided to take her eldest son and daughter along with her on a short visit back home.
After that trip, Nabulsi made another extended one a few months later and continued her journey in discovering her motherland.
“There is a reason why Israel makes entry to Palestine so difficult, because once you’re there, you experience it like never before, and you feel so connected to your roots and to where you belong. And this is why, even if it might be uncomfortable, even if you’re held at immigration for any number of hours, it’s still worth it, so if you can go, you really should.”
Life changing experience
“When I got to Palestine, everything that I had read about, everything that I had heard was right in front of me, magnified, true and real. I saw the drastic illegal settlements being built, right there in front of me, I saw the double standards and the apartheid of it all in actual fact and it changed me forever.”
Nabulsi speaks of her shock at witnessing how institutionalized, systematic and normalized the occupation has become.
"You’re talking about an entire population who is now hopeless, because they’ve tried everything but to no avail. Just looking at people in Palestine, you feel as if they have a ball and chain attached to their feet," she says.
This is because even the most peaceful protests are criminalized and met with violence by the military occupier and most Palestinian initiatives are either ignored or quashed, Nabulsi explains.
One of the things that struck Nabulsi most during her visit, was witnessing the plight of her people and the unjust treatment they've constantly been subjected to.
She recalls her encounter with a tour guide named "Abed" - a smart and educated young man who lives with his mother in Shuhada'a street, and has literally become a prisoner in his own home after refusing to leave his neighborhood which is now an area shut off to Palestinians.
"I remember looking into his eyes, seeing this incredible sadness and thinking that he's only a few years older than my eldest son. What painful struggles he must have between his dreams and ambitions as a young man and the brutal reality of his circumstances," she says.
On art, empathy and change
After her life changing trips to Palestine, Nabulsi came to the conclusion that offering sympathy and charity was not going to be enough to make a difference.
Instead, she decided to launch the media production label Native Liberty.
Through it, she aims to produce films that can move people, make them feel something and hopefully allow them to open their hearts in order to emphasize with Palestinians and their plight.
"A big 'aha!' moment for me was when I realized that decades of injustice have been allowed to go on for so long because Israel had worked hard, like any colonizer would, on dehumanizing Palestinians in the eyes of the world, so that nobody can feel with them enough to really take action to stop the atrocities carried out against them," she says.
"This is why I decided to create an organization that engages people not with their minds so much but with their hearts. I decided that reversing the dehumanization and current narratives that frame Palestinian resistance as barbaric and terrorist begins with art, because art speaks to the heart and plays a crucial role in creating change and giving a voice to those who are silenced."
"Oceans of Injustice"
Nabulsi's latest project under her media production label is the soon to be released short film Oceans of Injustice. The film chronicles the life changing moments she witnessed in Palestine.
Speaking of it, Nabulsi says the film "is a metaphorical entry point for foreigners into what life as a Palestinian would look and feel like."
The short is the first of a series of films that will cover more specific injustices and that Nabulsi plans on releasing in the coming year.
Oceans of Injustice will be released online on May 16 at 7:30 PM GMT and with it the official launch of the website: Oceans of injustices.com. (You can support the launch of the film from now via thunderclap.it).
The website is another of Nabulsi's incredible projects and aims to deconstruct and archive injustices committed against Palestinians.
The possibility of change in the age of digital media
Nabulsi says that people around the world today are beginning to get a real idea of what's going on in Palestine thanks to the internet and social media.
"I believe that Palestine is creeping into the mainstream," she says.
When asked what a peace process means in her homeland today, she says "the word peace is thrown around a lot, but to me, it isn't just about quiet and calm. Peace must be just, and therefore, if you want peace, you must also want to build a state that provides justice, democracy and freedom for all, and we don't see that happening today."
Nabulsi also states that before any peace process can even be considered in Palestine, the colonizer must acknowledge what they've subjected Palestinians to and apologize for it. "That may sound ridiculous to some, but it is the very first step needed if people are serious about living side by side. You would be shocked by the impact a genuine “sorry” can have on people," she explains.
Today, the message behind Nabulsi's work is one of hope. "I believe that there's a lot of hope, and I am sure that in the darkest moment in history very few could see it, but nevertheless continued to struggle and tried to do what they could and this is what we've got to do today," she says.
"Not trying to do anything means that one hundred percent, nothing will improve, but if you do something, if you get more and more people involved, it's the amalgamation of efforts that will eventually make all the difference," she adds.