There are places that I avoid to visit, as much as certain memories that I prefer keeping in the depths of the past. Among those places, Anata. I remember my very first encounter of what I perceived as a perfect picturesque of Les Miserables. The state of a human failure within a spacial enclavement that successfully transforms human beings into a deformed act of a human behavior that could perceived as aggressive, manipulative and savagely maybe from outside. It takes only a tour inside such enclaves of what is called neighborhoods to understand how the cruelty of occupation’s dimensions can reach.
Anata is a village inside Jerusalem, that its land outreaches Jericho. It was originally attached to Shu’fat and later became the home of Shu’fat Refugee camp and was separated from Shu’fat through a settlement road and a checkpoint and today a huge separation wall. From one side it is also separated from the French hill though another wall and road, as well as a new Israeli security site that is not clear until this day what does it stand for.
The trip to Anata is like what may appear to be some doomsday. Leaving the vicinity of Jerusalem and entering through that massive wall feels like being swallowed into a hollow existence that you keep resisting to realize.
Is it a refugee camp that is taking you back to the fifties when services were null and civilization was not yet reaching? But your stopped instantly realizing that this is not the refugee camp. You are officially inside a neighborhood were people pay taxes to the Jerusalem municipality and the municipality bulldozers are actively working there demolishing houses with no permits. Actually, probably most buildings there are with no permits. It is place where human beings shouldn’t be living and count them into civilization. After entering the massive wall and the official huge border point that is totally unsystematic in design with the space. It is like entering an open jail with all kinds of charged criminals. Suddenly human beings are all over crowding one another. Children in the streets at the late hours of night. The smell of sewage taking over the breeze and obvious sewage leakage is taking its natural position amid the road. Garbage containers sit explosive filled from all directions and in its all surroundings.
Everything is jammed and crowded; buildings, people, stores, roads and garbage.
With the mystic hidings of the night it all seems unreal with the movement in the streets and lights coming out from different stores.
Year after year, nothing actually changed in this place, except for the wall that each time enclaves in the land of the village in a circular snaky way. The checkpoint that became a barrier. The density of the people and the buildings increase with a relatively sarcastic dimension with the expansion of the wall.
It is one of those places when you are forced to think, if you consider yourself coming from a civilized world. So these are the Palestinians? Unless you keep reminding yourself that you are still inside Jerusalem, and just meters away from the French Hill, and very attached to Pisgat Zeev from the other side, you will just get swallowed in the required impression. You will not be able to differentiate between the injustice that is strictly occurring as a result of such living, and the human behavior that you see exposing itself in the streets. I keep asking myself, if I were living in such a place, what kind of life would I expect? Walking in a house surrounded by garbage and sewage from all directions. Streets are dug and smell stinks and children, dogs and cats wonder in the same manner and direction and places in those streets. How can a young girl grow or a woman perceives a life or a dream. How can a man open his door out and say each morning good morning to the word when all what surrounds his is a congested filthy surrounding mixed with the air.
To my surprise, people were still friendly. Thye talk, they smile, they laugh, and apparently they dream. Normalizing such reality is a crime on its own.
Israeli TV broadcasted some days ago the massive Palestinian invasion to the Mediterranean beaches in Yafa and Tel Aviv, complaining about lack of order and garbage left. If those people come from the west bank with similar if not worth living conditions inside Palestinian villages that are refused services. What can we imagine of their situation in comparison to those tens of thousands in places like Anata, who live under Israeli municipal rule that claims to be giving better services and ring the world with bells of civilization that they have and the Arab neighbors don’t.
Anata is a true painful reflection of a real face of occupation. Ugly. Filthy. Disgusting. Dehumanizing.