A Sense of Joy and Pride at Clifton's Palestinian Flag Raising


On June 4th, 2023, the Clifton Palestinian community's supporters convened for the annual Palestinian Flag Raising at the city municipal complex. The occasion was presided over by Abire Sabbagh, the Palestinian Educator Director at the Palestinian American Cultural Center (PACC), nestled at 388 Lakeview Avenue.

The event unfolded with the resonating notes of the Palestinian national anthem, promptly followed by a procession led by Fedah Mohammed, the Program Coordinator at PACC. A group of enthusiastic children marched in unison, proudly waving the Palestinian flag, embodying the spirit of their homeland.

Sabbagh highlighted the grim backdrop of the gathering, underlining that "this year has sadly witnessed another surge in fatalities among Palestinians." In addition, she underscored the dire circumstances Palestinians grapple with daily as a result of the ongoing conflicts with Israel.

A moment of silence ensued, honoring those lost amidst these struggles. Sabbagh advocated for remembering these adversities not to dwell in defeat or depression but to instill a sense of accountability within the community. She emphasized the collective responsibility to strive for a liberated Palestine.

The flag-raising event is now a cornerstone of the annual Palestine Week. It serves to celebrate the community's contributions and successes and honor the elders who laid the foundation for today's thriving community. It also aims to inspire the younger generation to continue this legacy and address the work that remains to be done.

"As we revel in our success today," Sabbagh noted, "we must always keep our roots in mind and remember the people back home in Palestine."

On June 5th, the community remembers the 56th anniversary of Nakba, a significant event that marked the United Nation’s plan to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states and the military occupation of the Palestinian territory which followed. Sabbagh stressed the importance of upholding the right of return, as Palestinian communities are forced to establish their lives across the globe due to the Israeli occupation.

In line with the week's dedication to Palestine, the PACC extends an open invitation to the community for an enlightening session on Palestine and its vibrant culture. This is scheduled for Wednesday, June 7th, at 6:30 pm, serving as an integral part of Palestinian Week, which runs from June 4th to June 10th.

Mayor Raymond Grabowski then expressed his gratitude to everyone present, fondly recalling his early political career, "I remember back in 2014, at the very start of my political career, when we raised the first flag. It was a moment that I could never overlook."

Since that poignant memory, he has observed the growth and thriving nature of the Palestinian community in our locale. He even alluded to the possibility that the Palestinian group in Clifton might exceed the one in Paterson in terms of size, "which is a great thing," he noted.

Our Mayor spoke warmly about the attributes of this community. "Your students are diligent, your parents are industrious, and we have many businesses and restaurants flourishing, offering a taste of your rich culture to our community."

Mr. Tarek Alnatur was then introduced as the keynote speaker. He elaborated on the crucial role that PACC plays. He asserted, "PACC serves as a vital support system for our youth. It provides mentorship, guidance, and creates networking opportunities through various workshops. Moreover, it presents accomplished role models hailing from similar backgrounds, empowering our youth."

Mr. Alnatur underscored that without PACC's influence, the Palestinian community might have lost its unity and sense of pride. Reflecting on our limitations in directly supporting our compatriots and homeland, he proposed a powerful solution: "Although we are limited when it comes to helping our brothers and sisters and our motherland, we can reach the hearts of our children here, through PACC."

Following Mr. Alnatur's impactful discourse, the event moved on to an awards presentation. Reem Qasem, the Director of Operations and Logistics, and Rania Mustafa, the Executive Director at PACC, presented three deserving Clifton High School students with scholarships. The honorees were Yousef Alnatur, Aref Bsharat, and Lamees Abdallah for their hard work and dedication to PACC throughout their high school careers.

The crowd then gathered in a circle to view a captivating Dabke performance by the Boys Youth Dabke Team at PACC. Traditionally performed in a line with dancers holding hands and facing outwards, a talented boy spinning a beautifully decorated staff led this cherished cultural dance. The team's lively display evoked shared heritage and unity, embodying the event's overarching themes.

Quickly after the Dapke performance, children rushed to the flagpole and gripped the rope, preparing for the highlight of the gathering. A crowd gathered soon after while Sabbagh began to count down from 10. Finally, the flag slowly ascended as the lenses of nearby smartphones recorded the flag's colors, and the crowd cheered in joy and pride.

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