Archive for August, 2007

August 27, 2007

The road is ridiculously pot-holed. His servis threadbare: drivers mirror cracked but functional; bare minimum of upholstery with trivial bits of frill dangling around the ceiling edges. He’s working on a Friday –the holy day –and literally getting no breaks.

Just outside of Fawwar refugee camp we approach an impromptu roadblock (a “flying checkpoint”). Rather than risk the potentially long wait, he turns up a road, chugging up, up, up, and nagivates this pittance-earning servis over crusty roads.

He stops to ask locals for directions, alternative roads, then shares his new expertise with servis drivers passing in the opposite direction.

It isn’t about security, this flying checkpoint. A rambling and coughing servis can easily dodge the checkpoint. So, too, could those who supposedly want to commit terror attacks.

August 22, 2007

8:40 am

A round of walking to survey morning activities. Many of the problems reported by shepherds have occurred in the morning and at pre-sunset hours while they graze their sheep.

We sit atop a hilltop off the main highway. It is again a lovely scene, with rolling fields beyond and the angled morning light catching the white of the sheep –at sunset this is even more incredible.

Beyond these arid hills that somehow manage to nurture plants and harangued Palestinians, the expanse of Yatta stretches far, expanded by former residents of the older, greater Susiya, before the days of settler menance and IOF house-demolitions.

As with so many settings and incidents seen already, it is the harsh contrast of this serene environment and the local Palestinians’ brutal reality that stuns me again and again.

One can lose oneself to the wind, the birdsongs, the lulling heat, and pleasant view. And one can snap rudely awake to the absurdity of the settlers, soldiers, and the situation.

Days ago, we visited families across the valley, far west, moving from boy Suliman’s tent, where the women ask about bread in Canada [I’ve promised to bring a photo of my friends’ outdoor cob oven], to a cave where a young mother nursed her 2 week old boy and cared for her sullen, timid 2 year old son. The cave –quite cool in the heat of the day, and surprisingly functional –is isolated and seemed vulnerable to settler/soldier attacks and harassment.

We headed for Abu Malesh, whom we’d heard has had problems with passing settlers who stealhis figs, pilfer from his well, and assault even his sheep. Along the way, we were pulled into the tent of Aziz and his brother Abd’ Rachman who were assaulted, along with their young children, only last year by armed settlers, some wearing rifles, wielding a knife .  We later saw the house his family had been terrorized into leaving: a compact stone building overlooking the terraces of agricultural land below. Idyllic.

August 18, 2007

Najer, smiling, pays for my service, points out his home for a future visit, and smiles his way away, “M’assalamme!” in peace.

August 17, 2007

Visiting with people yesterday again highlights the privileges of having basic necessities, the devastation at not, and the grace of a many-times-battered Palestinian smile. A tentful of these smiles is blinding, and forgotten muscles stay locked in reciprocation.

August 16, 2007

A phone call from M in Rafah leaves me dumb and numb.

He thinks the recent IOF slaughter in Khan Younis is the start of something big.

“How can I use my privilege?” I asked him. “How can I influence my governments, my people, bring awareness and change?”

“I don’t know.” There was a long silence. I told him to take care, then immediately apologized for coming off so trite. How do you take care when being air and land bombed?

And I remember the Abu J family dancing in midday heat under the shade of their tent; I recall countless instances of young children touchingly concerned for even younger kids –or for me, offering tea with such graciousness. Memories of kids making do with barren, dusty, potholed surroundings, smiles bigger than I remember from my own safe childhood, playing football, sledding down a Tel Rumeida hill on a push-dolly, flinging out Dabka steps, shimmering to pop music from Egypt and Lebanon…

And I’m sure, Fatah or Hamas, kids and people are the same in Gaza, which is currently –yet again –being pounded by Israel.

There’s the family who, last week, welcomed me and another volunteer into their Hebron home, though we arrived after 10 pm and not actually knowing anyone present.

Sultan had earlier in the day told me of his sister’s wedding to occur the following day, minus significant family members stuck in Gaza. The sister was heartbroken, he said, that the family wouldn’t be together. He’d asked me to stop by the pre-wedding celebration that night.

But they graciously welcomed us, showing more interest in and hospitality to us than we deserved, unexpected strangers crashing a wedding party in tragic times.

I look at the words M brings together from his observations and from other news. It gives me deeper insight to the largely unreported tragedies occurring daily in Gaza, as well as the sporadic positive events and celebrations.

When I see the photos he takes, I cannot image seeing death like that on a near-daily basis. I cannot imagine the futility and bitterness that must grow with each click of the shutter. I can’t image how he gets any sleep at night, or gets past his own personal tragedies.

August 15, 2007

The young man at an Ar-Ram convenience store –always smiling and welcoming, this time giving me a cold glass of juice after a hot walk uphill –told me today, still smiling sadly: “I don’t want to live. What can I live for?”

He described finishing university and lamented the Occupation. Having seen its effects and heard the trauma from countless Palestinians, I still don’t personally know the Occupation. All I could do was say I knew about its effects and restrictions, that people around the world know about it and despise it. My words felt empty, as empty as the countless UN resolutions and international condemnations which, in the end, do nothing to prevent Israel from doing and taking what it wants to Palestinians.

The young boy, 9 or 10, beside me in the servis caresses his sleeping sister’s hair and cheek absentmindedly. His mother had shifted the 4 year old child over onto his lap, he accepting her uncomplainingly. And like so many I see, he displays the open affection and care for younger siblings that I rarely see to such a degree back home.

tired of peace talks

August 14, 2007

I’ve just come from an Israeli-organized Israeli-Palestinian peace event, where many of the Israeli participants were young, funky, dreadlocked men and women who talk of peace.

Combatants for Peace  
spoke there, Osama and Shimone giving their testimonies, Wael and Itimar fielding questions.

A few older Israeli women threw out accusatory questions on suicide bombers and Israeli military-resisters.

I drifted away.

Down roads lined with healthy fields, past a gas station and a military memorial museum –between which no less than 20 sprinklers tended a vibrant patch of grass –and along a trail.

Paused to admire some unusual bird calls, sniff the unfamiliar odor of moisture in the air –from the 20-sprinkler-strong lawn irrigation, the lush growth all around, the reservoir ahead –and watch the sunset illuminate trees and distant hills. Was struck by how far away, within this small stretch of land formerly known as Palestine, Hebron and Susiya were, with their thirst for water.

Gaza is on another planet, so cut off and unimaginably different it seems. Followed the path around, turning up another just as a small fleet of IOF jeeps trundled past.

The Israeli peaceniks, some do appreciate Palestinians’ daily trials and obstacles. And a great many are oblivious.

I admire Orr, and even Itimar who today talked of having vowed he would kill 200,000 Arabs with ease in order to defend Israel. He is, of course, changed, aware, fighting non-violently via education and dialogue to awaken other Israelis. They take on the hard-liner patriots, like the women of today.

M sent me an edit today. More Gazans killed in another IOF alleged hunt for “wanted men” and targeting of bystanding civilians.

It is all so tiring, all this Occupation and denial of history. And the re-playing of history, where the once-occupied become the Occupiers.

visit

August 4, 2007

Another nice visit to Yaata. Zayid brings Zain, a bundle of baby chortles, to me to say good morning. Ayid himself is only 7 or 8 but (as kids do here) assumes responsibility for the little one.

Zayid is a handsome boy, with upwards arching fuzzy eyebrows and a classic nose. His smile is innocent and knowingly confident at once. Yet he is gracious.

25 minutes from Yatta and out of the servis playing religious discourse, I’m suddenly in hot, dry landscape which, apart from the olive trees, could be Tibet leading from Samye monastery. Brown-green earth, open spaces, quiet, and over-arching Occupation. So similar.