Archive for October, 2007

sorrows

October 31, 2007

Two days ago, Iyad’s home was raided for the ninth time. The IOF punishes him for leading non-violent resistance in Bil’in. These house raids, in the late hours of the night, which terrify his 3 young children, are in addition to the assault he and other Bil’in villagers take for not lying down to Israel’s expansion and expulsion tactics.

Abdullah from Bil’in has a roomful of spent Israeli teargas & sound bomb canisters, rubber and live bullets, all used against non-violent demonstrators. Adeeb and Ibrahim have marks and scars from their various ‘rubber’ bullet injuries taken while walking dangerously unarmed on their own land. They’ve all been detained and arrested numerous times for their peaceful protests.

The line at Birzeit checkpoint extended down the hill, at only 9 a.m—morning rush hour, when people are transiting to work or school. It is truly miraculous any finish their education in Palestine, let alone arrive to work.

A was martyred last night. The injuries he received two weeks ago, became fatal yesterday afternoon, finally claiming his 24 years. He leaves behind a 2 month old baby boy and lovely young wife; and his mother, wry and anxious, who must have been expecting this for years. Her stony face today didn’t belie any strength acquired in this expectation, and his sister’s sobbing betrayed the real child behind the toughened 11 year old exterior.

This is one more resistance fighter whose assassination Israel and the West will chalk up to a victory in the name of security, if it’s mentioned at all.

I will remember his smile, his teasing way, his reprimands each time I returned to Nablus after too-long away, him taking my phone one day to prevent me from leaving to work, his pride, his boyish ways watching tv or teasing others, him cradling his newborn son.

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What is it that makes Palestinian, Arab, lives expendable, so much so that we blink, at best, at their death toll, starvation, harassment, and torture by Israel and the US.

This is my 1st personal loss. Qadaffi’s assassination two weeks ago saddened me greatly, though our meetings numbered only a handful.

I sit in a taxi full of people who have likely lost more than one close friend if not a sibling or child. And am treated the servis fare by an older woman, pre-1948 aged, who cannot be ignorant to loss. This is soon confirmed as, learning my reason for heading to Nablus –the funeral –she pulls her martyr necklace from under her robes, showing me the photo of her son, martyred years before at the hands of the Israeli army. She takes my phone number, tells me to call her if I need anything, gets out and returns quickly to the taxi window with a red flower for me.

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growth

October 15, 2007

months ago in ar Ram, i came across two older men working a dirty plot of land.  The surrounding area was old tires, rubbish, rotting trash, and rocks.  they plucked useable stones gingerly from the mess, pushed and dug aside much of the heap, imported new, rich soil, and laboured for days leveling and smoothing the land.  they bought plants and trees, laid stones and protective, decorative tires and barrels, staggered levels artistically, had coffee breaks, and worked to create what has grown into a side of the walk beauty that catches me each time i pass by.

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little to do

October 14, 2007

Iman welcomed me.  It had been a few weeks since I’d been to his internet cafe.

“Eid mubarek,” I wished him, this, the third and last day of Eid.  I asked if it had been a good one.

“Good, yes, but not like in other countries. you see, there’s nothing for kids to do. They can play computer games, but they can’t go anywhere… even getting to Al Aqsa to pray is difficult to impossible for many. We have West Bank IDs; we can’t go to Jerusalem.”

I thought of Christmases as a child, of going on mini-vacations, going across the country to see relatives.

I saw the lines at checkpoints, particularly Qalendia, separating Jerusalem from Ramallah and leading away from most West Bank destinations.

A week earlier, passing through the Dahir al Bariit exit from Ar Ram, an older man befriended me en route. From Salfit, in the north half of the West Bank, he had come down for an eye doctor’s appointment. His clouded eye quite clearly needed attention, as his doctor’s note testified. He was sent away, sent to Qalendia checkpoint where he stood little chance of entering forbidden Jerusalem lands without the difficult to attain permit necessary for West Bankers.

I always feel wary of being trite when wishing a happy Ramadan, happy Eid, nice day…to Palestinians who would be most happy if they were allowed to move freely in their own land.
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birdsongs

October 10, 2007

Inside a small Nablus grocery store, hours after Iftar, the store-owner stands smiling and chatting with neighbours.

Extraordinary chirps spring from various birdcages around the store’s top shelves. “In Arabic we call them ‘canar’,” Zafer explains. “Always, the male, he sings, so beautiful. The woman, she never sings.

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He proceeds to describe the different birds he has kept over the years. “I’ve had birds for twenty years. One time every year, for one month, these birds change their feathers. They don’t sing during that time. Otherwise, they always sing. The nest, the woman bird makes it in two days. I could look at it for 100 years—it is amazing.

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The store owner is maybe in his fifties, and is wearing the more traditional robes that many don during Ramadan. Another older man smiles in the background and seizes the chance to speak when the first man pauses. “Sport?” he asks, pointing at my track pants. I explain they are comfortable and were given to me. He asks my pants’ size and beckons me to the back of the store where he has a pile of jeans, new. He wants me to take one, two pairs.

Zafer joins us at the back and begins pointing at, then opening, the freezers and boxes at the back. “This one is fish, this is chicken.” He takes me into a store room a bit further back and beings opening more boxes, from the rows filling the room: “This is sugar, olive oil, tea, coffee, rice, salt…

As he lists off the essential food ingredients, he pulls out a piece of paper, in Arabic, and explains: “every year, one rich man gives all this to the poor people of the area. Each box is worth about 180 shekels. Every year he asks me, ‘How many poor families are there this year?’ and writes me a check for the families. This year there are 30 in our neighbourhood, and 200 overall in areas around Nablus.  We have food for 200 families.

Each family receives 5 kilos of sugar, 5 kilos of rice, 1 kilo of tea, 2 cans of tomato paste (from Italy!), 1 450g container of tahini, 2 large packages of dates…The list goes on: halwa, chickpeas, corn oil,1 kilo of meats, 2 kilos of fish…

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My host explains that at Ramadan, every person becomes equal.  Looking at a Ramadan for Dummies sort of website later, I read that the month of Ramadan is a time of self-reflection, among other things, to focus on one’s spirituality but also on one’s relation to others:

Allah will say, ‘Back in the world, your neighbor at one time was hungry and sick but you failed to tend for him. If you had fed him and looked after him in his time of need, it would have been as if you were feeding Me.’ It will only be then that this man will realize the tremendous reward of empathy towards his fellow human beings. Today the worst feuds occur between neighbors because people remain ignorant of the rights of neighbors.Among the lessons of good character that the Messenger of Allah brought is good will and etiquette towards one’s neighbor. This is something that has been relatively forgotten nowadays.Living as brothers and sisters and as neighbors has become virtually alien to us, but we need to remember that neighbors are merely a mirror image of ourselves.”

The true purpose of fasting is to value the tremendous blessings of Allah and realize that a large percentage of people in the world do not have what we take for granted every day.Time and again I have seen these values put into practice during my time here in Palestine.

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