Archive for May, 2007

more encounters

May 8, 2007

Abu Bassam, every time I pass him in downtown Ar Ram, greets me with a well-weathered smile and an offer to coffee. We sit, exchange hellos and inquiries of well-being and watch life pass by: never-orderly traffic, fruit and veg customers, friends with warm cheek-kissing greetings…

He and I have little to say to one another in actual words, but the encounter is always refreshing.

The 1st meeting, after asking if I wanted to buy fruit, he gave me a coffee. I hadn’t actually needed or bought fruit. Returning later from a walk, I stopped to give him business. Bagging the mini-plums, he refused my shekels, followed me as I crossed to some vegetable stalls across the road which turned out to be his, and further refused my money.

Abu Kahlaf flagged me down, forcing coffee on me. Abus Aessam and Iyeman joined us, translating. All extended welcome after welcome, along with invitations to their homes, to meet their families.

A servis passenger saw me tracing the lines and curves in my Arabic book. He took an interest, promising to find me and give me a better study book. Having passed me his business card, he hopped off the servis and disappeared into the Ramallah market crowds.

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meetings

May 4, 2007

Meetings in Jericho, to discuss logistics of bringing together Israelis and Palestinians for the June peace event. The difficulties lie not in finding the people but in getting them to a mutually ‘safe’ and accessible venue. Anata proves easier. [later note: Tulkarem proved impossible. Aside from a handful of regular Combatants for Peace Israelis, the busloads of Israelis who arrived at the checkpoints near Tulkarem were denied entry by the Israeli soldiers controlling the region.]

Passing through a checkpoint back towards Ramallah, a bored, cocky IOF soldier holds us back a little:

“Why are you going to Ramallah?”

“I have friends there.”

“Are you sure you want to go to Ramallah now?” This is asked with a look of disbelief. It is after 10 pm and I’m in a car with a Palestinian. The soldier cannot believe this.

“Of course.”  As if my Palestinian friend were the one brandishing the rifle.

Abu Mohammed

May 3, 2007

…sold me a pair of sandals today.

He didn’t use any of the typical, universal, salesman ruses –promises of above-par quality. Rather, he shrugged off my question of whether the sandals would hold up to serious walking with: “don’t walk too much.”

I bought them.

Abu M deigned to be photographed.

abu-mohammed2-small.jpg

While we talked, he revealed his skepticism on peace. Then again, he is a pre-1948 Palestinian now living in the divided Ar Ram, has seen decades of promised peace, and is fatigued enough with the run-around that he simply wants to get on with his life.

April 30, 2007

Coming to terms with all of the contradictions is proving to be a challenging element I hadn’t considered. I had prepared for brutality and indignation, neglecting to imagine indifference, misplaced priorities, futility –I feel useless.

I also didn’t know –though I should have imagined, based on last summer and previous years –that Gaza would be ravaged by IOF attacks and international sanctions, and would spiral in its already unfathomable conditions. Nor that I would be safe in a comparatively comfortable setting while talking to my Rafah friend, hearing not only his pain and fatigue but also the roar of Israeli fighter planes and the sounds of shelling.

Didn’t expect the great fatigue at feeling to much and at the sense of utter uselessness.

Also didn’t expect the laughter and phenomenal zest for life of a people under decades of Occupation and humiliation.