Written by: Marah Herzallah

Who is Handala?

I am 100% sure that you’ve had the pleasure of meeting him and have even shared an experience with him at some point. He is a well-known Palestinian figure among people of all ages and backgrounds. Ever since he was introduced to his audience, he never missed an opportunity to be involved with them; sharing and witnessing certain details of their lives. Theoretically, he is no more than a picture posted on your wall, a keychain, or a necklace that you bought when you suddenly felt that enthusiasm for being a true Palestinian. He could even be a signature on a caricature that’s published in a newspaper, which your mother uses to clean the windows. But in reality, he is way more important than all of the mentioned trivialities; he is a fellow faithful, national Palestinian! “His name is Handala and he has promised the people that he will remain true to himself.” (Naji Al-Ali, handala.org)

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What does he look like?

Handala, a representative for the Palestinian refugees, was meant to have several unique features. Naji Al-Ali, the Palestinian cartoonist who created Handala, describes him saying, “a child who is not beautiful; his hair is like the hair of a hedgehog who uses his thorns as a weapon. Handala is not a fat, happy, relaxed, or pampered child. He is barefooted like the refugee camp children.” Handala is portrayed as a ten-year-old refugee child and has never aged a day! In fact, he is not meant to age unless his country Palestine is free. This abnormal status is a result of the abnormal condition, which is the occupation, that his home suffers from.

Handala’s Beliefs

Although Handala is only ten years old, he knows much about his country and understands his case, which makes him able to take on positions and express unfavorable opinions. While noticing that the world continues to turn its back to his people, Handala decided to turn his back to the whole world and clasp his hands behind his back as a sign of rejection. He is not in a position of power, which makes him somehow helpless towards many issues. Still, his conscious never lets him betray his people. Despite all circumstances, he will always stick to his national principles.

Palestinian boy stands beside the animated character Handala

A Noble Teacher

Besides being an important symbol of Palestine, Handala can also be a teacher to Palestinian generations. Handala is, indeed, a trusted teacher able to provide Palestinian youth with different interpretations of the incidents that they didn’t witness. It is crucial to look for the meanings and stories of the symbols we use on regular basis. What is even better, is to make the noble ideas they carry present for as long as possible. In a word, create yourselves an icon just as Naji Al-Ali did, and stand up for your beliefs and rights just as his icon did. Despite the bitterness of his name and conditions, Handala has never lost the hope to age, turn his face towards us, and draw the sign of victory with his unclasped hands.

Share with us your own thoughts about Handala!