I have never thought that I would seriously leave home thinking I may not make it back, or this could be the last time I see my children. I am usually the negligent mother who allows her children to do it all independently. I have no idea how they get dressed and get ready to go to school since years. These days are different. It is true that since we became a smaller family, after my two elder children left to universities, we somehow became more intimate. These days, I feel that I have to wake up first. I ask them to be careful as they leave. I make them promise me that they will not be involved in any unsuitable situation. I take a deep breath and pray for their safety, and somehow I try to gain my sanity and think… Ok woman, Relax. They are not any better than all those other Palestinian children. You are not a better mother who is more worthy of her children among all those losses that we are witnessing. In my insanity I have rationalized the concept recently. I came to a full realization that if anything ever happens to any of them, I will only not stay alive for a moment later. This is a kind of loss I cannot accept. It is as simple as my life will end a minute or an hour later. I can’t really understand how the mothers of martyrs bear to live after such losses. This crazy idea in a way allowed me to accept that my children can leave home, and I can submit to their written fate. I still have to lecture them about how important their life is. How effective they could be to their community alive and how their growing up as educated Palestinians will help us create a more constructive society. How liberation doesn’t just come with words or throwing a stone or stabbing. That in the course of freedom, people should adopt different tactics and positions, and our role is not at its best when we throw stones. My concern only ends each day, when I see them coming back home. The university were I work turned out again into a clashes zone. I am the project management coordinator at al Quds University. Mentioning my wide range of expertise; I am a lawyer by definition. It means that I am a member of the Palestinian bar association, so my name is mentioned every year in the agenda of the bar’s list of lawyers. But working as an attorney has been absorbed inside me as other things in life? Throughout the last decade, I have studied conflict resolution, strategic planning, community organizing, and whatever opportunities where allowing within my personal circumstances of being a single mother with four children whose ages ranged from two to eleven when I got divorced. I am currently writing two MA theses, one in Islamic philosophy and another on Jerusalem studies at two different universities. It is an ongoing struggle to maneuver around a life where you are not by yourself. Being a single mother in my society is anything but easy. Given all that your imagination can take you to, within a patriarchal structure that insists on limiting women’s access to success without a male’s presence. My experience was harsh and sometimes impossible to even comprehend. Many used to say that I was lucky that my courts were within the Israeli system and not an Arab Muslim system. As much as this statement may have some real aspects. I firmly believe that one of the worst moments is when you are standing infront of a court deciding your motherhood, discussing all the injustice, brutality, abusiveness of a man, and the judge who is a woman builds her judgment based on your religion or nationality not on your case as just a mother. I will never forget that moment when the lawyer (one of my ex lawyers who is Israeli) was cross examining me about my insistence on my daughter’s participation in swimming, and when he said: “ I really can’t understand your point of debate here. If it were an Israeli woman, or even an orthodox Jewish woman saying this, I would understand. But you! A Muslim- Arab. You are claiming that you want your daughter to become a swimming champion. I never heard of a Muslim girl swimming.” Among many other racist remarks he made. The court practically took his words for the convenience of the situation not mine. I am proud I am over that period. And I am even more proud to see my children becoming healthy, thriving adults and very much bound to me. Since the eruption of the last episodes of violence here, the university campus turned into a state of anxiety just like everywhere else. After all, three martyrs in the last three weeks are students of the school. The amount of emotions stirred due to what has been happening has been evolving into an eruption that could come out at any moment. It is not new however, for us here I the campus to experience clash. Last year the campus became a direct target for Israeli tear gas and rubber bullets and some fires in its surrounding gardens. The campus has been a direct target for provocations by the Israeli soldiers that we have never understood why. I am not playing victim here. This has really been the situation. And since the past seems like a honeymoon in comparison with the present moment, the previous coercions and provocations are practically not worth mentioning. Amid the circles of demonstrations that are spreading all over Palestine, the demonstrations within university campuses have been a part of the ongoing resistance campaign. My office happens to be in the line of fire. The building stands across from the separation wall those enclaves the town of Abu Dis where the campus is situated. The youth started their demonstration by trying to raise a Palestinian flag on the high separation wall and throw stones at the wall, where apparently army vehicles pass by. Behind the wall is a closed military area that only military vehicles pass through. A new reality of the geography of the land. The wall blocks the panoramic scenery on the other side of the city, which overlooks the Old City and the Dome of the Rock. The king David hotel and the tower of the YMCA. The students gathered on the road outside the university and that overlooks the separation wall. After burning some tires you really never know how the strikes of stones fly from all destinations when a military vehicle appears. For hours our life turns into a sky filled with tear and nerves gas. Rubber bullets stun grenades and live bullets. Whatever comes out from those soldiers? Watching it sometimes makes you think. Who is more in a state of panic them or us. Somehow, we the employees are stuffed in our offices hiding and watching what’s happening. I am not sure what state of mind the stone throwers are in. Considering myself as a product of the first Intifada, I tend to identify with the demonstrations that I witness today. I was around fifteen when the first intifada erupted, and back then I was carrying within me, like all other Palestinian youth, the dream of independence. As I am saying this, I am not sure what it means. As much as I am not sure what it means today; what I am certain of is that state of aspiring – a feeling of freedom – that you try to break out into after feeling so strangled inside oppression. In the first Intifada, my dreams of liberation carried within them the dream of a homeland, a state that gave what is now known as historic Palestine. Back then the notions of Jerusalem, refugees, return, where more factual. Today we don’t know what Jerusalem is this merging of the city. Who are the refugees and where they would return. What is Palestine within all those checkpoints that have become official borders? The outposts and settlements that continue to expand within their official illegality like a cancer around and on top of villages and towns. In the first intifada, we carried within our resistance a real aspiration for a homeland that should be liberated from occupation. I cannot grasp much of my awareness of what the reality was. I grew up in the luxury of someone who went to a private school and had a driver to pick me up and a family that was busy in business. I had some childhood Israeli acquaintances that I called friends whose fathers had business relations with my dad. Israel was a forbidden name in our educational culture. I remember our teacher telling us: Israel doesn’t exist. There are only Jews who occupied our land, and they will disappear one day in the same way they appeared. These were not the accurate words but this is how they sounded to me until I became a mother, who wanted to teach my children to be Israel free. It is true that they are there. But this is temporary. These people will one day leave. Even studying in the Hebrew university for three years didn’t make me see any Israeli. I only saw Jews, whom I identified with only when they had another nationality and upon this I would decide if I see them or not. I have to confess that entering the university in the middle of the Intifada and at the peek of the first gulf war wasn’t the best time for changing my mentality. Living under occupation was never something convenient after all, no matter how one tried to get used to it. With every single clash, hatred and rage would pop up, and that by it was important enough to make us start living under apparent injustice and oppression. I still don’t know how it started. This whole identification of the Palestinian identity. This real inner aspiration to say I am Palestinian, to use the word Palestine. I will never forget that childhood memory when I was maybe seven or eight when I was coming back on Allenby bridge with my father back from Amman with a red wine colored pendant engraved with the word Palestine and had the Palestine map’s shape. It was this 25 cents (of a Jordanian dinar) worth pendant that kept my father and I until the very last person on the bridge that day. I was seeing my dad taken to one room after the other when at some point I saw him slapping me in the face telling me where did you get this? Totally disconnecting himself from anything that he has today was that tiny map in the pendant. I never felt mad at my father because I saw the shame in his eyes. The helplessness, the humiliation. It took me years and years to grasp its meaning. Because the trip from Amman on the way backs was always a journey to hell. As if you pass the borders of hell’s evaluation, I always connect this Islamic concept of heaven and hell when passing that bridge. In my imagination judgment day will be in the form of the Allenby Bridge. The way they used to make us go into small rooms to be stripped out of all our clothes except the underwear for the lucky among us. Naked women with all sizes, shapes and ages. And then we would leave searching for our shoes in the middle of a chaotic hall. A feeling that also attaches to you a sense of humiliation and shame that you really cannot define. Or somehow maybe oppress within you so that you can go on with your day. How could a mother of a martyr forget the revenge she was carrying towards the enemy? Those in prison? The refugees? Those beaten savagely during the Intifada? Those injured? All those losses. How did people manage to overcome and pursue peace? A question that made me thinks of two things that are not necessarily related? One was that peace is also a yearning among people. No one wants to live in a continuous struggle and a bloodshed that only brings losses and pain. The other thing was how much our politicians control the people. As if they use a magic wand for our emotions as well. The second intifada came when I was a mother, and regaining my sense of “non existent” Israel settled in easier. Now that I am another, I will make sure to raise my kids as real Palestinian patriots. I will go along the lines of the past with a better perspective of how to resist. Resistance for me was in not seeing them. Until one day, as my daughter was in her swimming class in the YMCA with other Israeli children and I was discussing some inhuman behavior of the Israeli soldiers with Palestinians and I was taken with my rage, the Israeli woman opposite to me said: I am sorry for what is happening. I fully stand in solidarity with you. I didn’t really get it amid my passionate loud discussion until it got to me. That moment was a life changing moment for me. It was a time when I looked at myself and said: you are in West Jerusalem. Your daughter is swimming with Israeli girls and boys (Americans, French, and polish.so?) and an Israeli trainer (Russian. Well?). The piano teacher is an Israeli (Russian so?) You go shopping in an Israeli mall. You use an Israeli credit card. And you still insist that Israel doesn’t exist? It was a moment that I started recognizing Israel, and I have to say it was liberating. But somewhere having a liberating moment doesn’t necessarily release you. But this time of seeing them. Recognizing their existence, allowed a sense of tolerance inside me to get out of a long slumber. Sarcastically the feeling of oppression was until a long way to disappear. It would have just taken me a few more stops at the checkpoint to make me become the next suicide attacker back then. It was a Friday afternoon when I was also going to the YMCA for the swimming class. The soldiers were blocking the road checking a car every more than one hour. When I arrived there were two cars infront of me. By the time it was my turn the line of cars was invisible. And my limits were completely beyond all reach. I remember telling that soldier who was mockingly eating crackers and disgustingly taking my ID: do you think this is fair enough? Do you think you are accomplishing anything? Do you understand why people become suicide attackers? It’s because you’re alike. Ok … I realized later that I was a fluent Hebrew speaker. It was the real first time I involve myself in a full Hebrew discussion. And God. Who was that person talking? So on that day I was thinking: “ Me? Speaking Hebrew?” well before that journey of realization I entered a trance of a closed circuit where all my system was flashing. The only thing I remember from that moment aside from the gun triggered towards my head was the screams of my daughter and young brother back in the car. That was one of those unique moments when life and death become a thin line with a weight of a feather to break. Somewhere in such moments, you wake up to new realizations. On top of them lies a sense of a new form of liberation. That is tied directly with the fear of death. And here I would say … welcome to the maze of a paradoxed Palestine. I firmly believe that you cannot build a state under occupation. It only cannot work. I have a simple scene to describe the situation. Imagine a room with a ceiling. A tree is planted in this place. You water it. You nourish it. You cut it. You take care of it. It grows and grows and grows and grows… the ceiling is the limit. Shortly, and no matter how well you try; this tree will start having branches going downwards. It will consume the oxygen of its photosynthesis and the whole operation will be disrupted. This very tree becomes a disaster. The only way to make it survive is either to uproot it, or open the ceiling. This is the Palestinian case within Oslo in a nutshell Ever since the aggression on Gaza last year that started after the burning and killing of the Palestinian youth Mohammad Abu Khdeir in Shu’fat; the situation was going towards an apparent deterioration. In my whole life as a person who only knew life under occupation, I haven’t seen occupation in such brutality. A brutality we were told about took place in previous Palestinian miseries such as the Nakba and the Naksa. The Palestinian collective memory is haunted by the fear of those years that one of them marked the creation of Israel and the second landmarked the full occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. The incursions into the West Bank cities last year after the alleged kidnapping of the three Israeli soldiers and\or settlers in the settlement on one of Hebron’s roads, when Israeli army invaded university campuses, houses and organizations in searches for people affiliated with Hamas. The house demolitions that were implemented in the West Bank as well as the unlimited arrests of all that the army’s hands can grasp including children. The scenes of soldiers lynching children less than eight years old. The detention of children as young as three. The violations. The excessive force. The insults. The humiliations …and on top of all the destruction we were all witnessing in Gaza in a mix of a blood shed that only brought instances of terror and murder in a way that was violent, abusive, brutal and above all inhuman. The burdens that were increased on Jerusalemites as a result of an apparent policy of an attempted seizure on al-Aqsa mosque. I will not be surprised if history books would write in a few years that all those violations and restrictions and killings were a preparation for seizing full control or separating the Aqsa as was done in the Abrahamic Mosque two decades ago when an Israeli fanatic who turned out as usual to be insane entered the mosque and opened fire on praying people at dawn and killed more than forty. I am not a hundred percent sure that it is the sentiments towards al Aqsa that drive all those raging emotions amid Palestinians. I definitely understand our spiritual attachment to the place. I firmly believe that al-Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher represent a strong passion for the people of the country in what they represent to each faith. It wasn’t hard for someone like me to understand why helpless Palestinians started ramming (supposed to be) Israelis in the streets of Jerusalem in a final attempt to regain some dignity that has been ongoing stripped away from them. Knowing that they were leaving behind families and children whose lives will practically be destroyed as a result of the known Israeli policy of collective punishment. When a man can just not enter the mosque ever for an act of solidarity. When the Palestinians saw themselves naked with their holiest site being violated by Israeli fanatic settlers accompanied and guarded with police forces under the fake claim of prayer. I will never accept any word that compliments the idea of these people’s entry to the mosque, under the claim of a Temple or other. On the one hand, I honestly don’t care and don’t mind if Jews or Christians enter the mosque. I think they should, the restrictions that are usually made are a result of previous attempts of fanatics to burn the mosque. As much as I enjoy going to the church and lighting a candle and making my prayers to reach God in one way or another. I firmly believe that the Christian and the Jew may think the same way. But on the other hand I would never carry a praying carpet and turn into a veiled woman and start reciting prayers in the church the way I do in the mosque. I definitely expect that the Jew or the Christian or the Buddhist would respect the mosque in the same manner. The fact that those fanatic settlers enter the mosque with an attempt to do their own Jewish rituals is by itself horrific as well as disturbing. The fight for al-Aqsa is not a battle for a place of prayer. It is far beyond that. It is true that we Muslims are emotional people who could insanely die for a holy site. But this is beyond that. The Israeli state insists on stripping us from every feeling that makes us feel human. It insists on dehumanizing us in every possible way. As if we are sub humans. Well … maybe we are … At the end we are people who seem to be ready to embrace death in the same way the world embraces life. But please…. reconsider … When you encounter a human being, whose life is as valuable as death. This human maybe someone whose father, brother, son or best friend just got killed for suspicion of being an Arab. This person could be someone whose house has just been demolished. His father, brother, son, sister, the mother has just been lynched and dragged into jail and sentenced to one or tow or three or maybe seven life sentences. This human being could be someone who has been denied leaving the country for education or treatment or just a trip. This person could be someone who just tried to pass through a checkpoint and a soldier who could be as old as him or as young as his sons stripped his dignity away from him. This human being could be someone who just wanted to go to pray, and he was denied entry and kicked in front of the masses. This person could be someone whose farm was just burnt after a season of waiting by fanatic settlers guarded by soldiers. This individual could be someone who just decided to take a walk and was stopped for no single reason and was body checked, insulted in public and was asked to keep his hands up and his legs spread open while a humiliating, insulting body search takes place. This human being could be someone who was leaving home for school, university, work and a passing bunch of armed settlers decided to shoot down and kill. As Jefferson once said: When Oppression is the Law. Resistance becomes an Obligation. Resistance is the way to liberation. Liberation is the way to peace. Peace cannot be built on oppression, apartheid and injustice.
life on the verge of existence…. my article in huffington post italia
I have never thought that I would seriously leave home thinking I may not make it back, or this could be the last time I see my children. I am usually the negligent mother who allows her children to do it all independently. I have no idea how they get dressed and get ready to […]