A day in Real Life
Today was a real extraordinary day. I went to ICAHD the building camp in the morning, and we were informed that there is a demolition about to take place somewhere, either in A-Tour or E-Sawiyyeh. Meir said that in order not to provoke the Border Police, not everyone should come to follow the demolition team. We’ll have a chance to see the demolished houses later. So we left off, and after a while, we found out that the demolition was taking place in ANATA, not only in Anata but possibly, exactly, at our building site. So EVERYONE had a chance to witness!!!!
I don’t know whether to say “ironically” or “luckily,” but it wasn’t the house we were rebuilding; it was another house less than a hundred meters away. The police cars, individual units, Border Police, army, a bulldozer, jeeps – the whole set was right there in front of our eyes. Meir asked the internationals to stay away so that they wouldn’t get involved and somehow he didn’t want to provoke problems and make the Border Police come to the building site.
We were all stationed on the rooftop of a neighboring building, and we were all watching with silent rage and desperation what was about to happen. It was all there, like a live movie. Police dogs were the first to enter the site of the house. The police then started knocking the door down, and a few minutes they broke it and began. The house was empty of its tenants/ They surrounded the whole area and started emptying the house of its belongings.
From a distance it looked like a very organized moving procedure: they were moving things, putting them in plastic bags, holding them and putting them nicely at the side.
I couldn’t keep watching. I didn’t want to provoke the internationals into a situation where I don’t know its consequences. But I felt so useless.
I saw Meir, and Shay and another Israeli volunteer and one American volunteer closer to the house on one of the hilltops. I decided to go there and see if Meir would agree that we all go and try to do something to at least prevent the demolition or even try to reach the family. I went to them, and a moment later we were confronted by three Border Policemen who were positioned to prevent us from getting any closer.
I went to the neighbors to ask about the family. How could we reach them?
The family, which consisted of nine people, had left the day before yesterday to Hebron to pay a visit to their family on the occasion of the engagement of their oldest daughter, and they were supposed to come back today.
From my place with Meir and Greg and Shay, maybe the only thing we could do was to intimidate those soldiers stationed next to us. They were behaving like robots. I was too angry to even “understand” their being obliged to do whatever they were doing.
The area started to get surrounded with kids after half an hour. The moment the police saw a Palestinian youth they quickly went to him and tried to harass him. By then the whole group was getting close, but they didn’t allow them to get as close as we did.
We were mean to the police and kept saying how bad they were. I yelled at them when they went to a boy, and as I saw those kids watching the demolition, I yell at the police that, and in some years, when these kids grow up, you will wonder why they become what you would call terrorists. He responded: Why don’t they go to schools? Why don’t they go to parks instead of coming here? And I was like: Because if you look around and see the facilities they have besides the natural dumpsters every centimeter, you would see that these kids live violence and terror; they have nothing.
It was so devastating, so unfair, we all felt useless and desperate. An old lady came and said that she was the owner of the house and I had to go to them to explain to them what she was saying until they allowed her in. (It turned out that her son is the landlord). Luckily, maybe, they never suspected that I was a Palestinian, perhaps because I was so offensive and behave as if I am so much in control. God, I was worried they would ask me for my identity card, and I would be DEAD.
When they finished demolishing, we all went to the site. A man came, the brother of the woman who lives in the house, and then another man, the owner, came. That old lady was sitting there crying silently talking to herself. I walked through her belongings, and it killed me. A whole life of a family. A life memory, all packed and thrown in plastic bags next to rubble to what was once, not once, just a moment ago, a home. I saw school bags, books, a diary of a teenager, photo albums. The woman never expected that she would have “visitors” who would go into every detail of her life and her family’s. People going through her personal belongings, her clothes, even her underwear. She didn’t know that her fridge would be lying in the road, about to be opened by total strangers, she didn’t know that the pans with left oil and grease inside the stove will be passed around through so many strangers invading what just a while ago her private life.
ICAHD decided quickly that this is a home we will rebuild at once, and by the end of the two weeks, we will hopefully get two homes rebuilt instead of one. Maybe that was hopeful. To be honest, I don’t if this is the solution. We know that they could come, actually WILL come back and destroy it, but at least we fill in a certain feeling of outrage and resist this unfair and unjust situation. It could be a kind of vague scream, but at the same time, a kind of resistance that could, maybe, be helpful.
I suggested when we went back to Beit Arabiya, the home demolished and rebuilt four times which serves as the base of the summer work camp, that we spend the rest of the afternoon at the new destroyed family’s site. Maybe they need help; they would definitely at least need the only non-effective thing we could offer: our support.
As we went there, I tried to stay with them as much as possible, feeling more and more desperate and ineffective. I found myself crying, looking at the poor woman who seemed to have been once upon a time, just a few hours ago, a strong woman, trying to hold back her tears, trying to manage a conversation. She kept going towards her belongings stuffed and thrown away close to the rubble from what just an hour ago was her home.
She would occasionally go inside the rubble looking aimlessly towards things or objects she seemed not to know. She would go collect some items and try to put them together; she would go check out some of the belongings and come back and sit speechlessly. I asked them what it was they were determining to do now, and they couldn’t answer, they simply didn’t know.
The family whose house was demolished couldn’t find refuge with their extended family because of they, too, already lived in dangerous conditions and they don’t have any extra space. They couldn’t leave whatever was left, their hurled belongings, just like that. A state of absolute loss, total defeat. No clue, what will happen to them next? Nowhere to sleep, nowhere to go, no shelter of any kind. They were stuck, both of them unable to think or even have any clue of what to do or where to go next. I felt so bad, and again very ineffectual. I asked them if they needed anything, just to call us and we will try our best to help. We will be in the other building not far from them.
After an hour, I suggested that we go back to them again. They have decided to collect their stuff and go to Essawiyyah where they have an empty piece of land, and they would put their stuff there and sleep there. Sleep there on the earth and get covered with the sky. This is not a metaphor or an attempt at poetry. This is all that they had.
The husband had already taken a load in his Ford and headed towards the other location. After 15 minutes he came back with the stuff because the soldiers at the checkpoint refused to let him out, saying that they don’t have the equipment to check the car, so if he wants to pass he would need to go to Kalandia, at the border with Ramallah, where they are EQUIPPED with the proper search equipment!!!!!!
LUCKILY, the neighbor from the different land, whose house had also been demolished, had a gate which he could close so that their belongings would be safe.
They were hesitant to do it; the husband said that he didn’t know, so I stepped in and said, “You will have people trying to build the house again, the bulldozer started removing the rubble so that the workers start rebuilding tomorrow, and this man is offering a solution.” I looked at the man, and I asked him if he was serious; he said he was. I looked at the other one and asked: “What is the problem? Let’s start moving.” It was 5.30. I told him we have an hour where we can help. I will call the group, and we will do it quickly. Before they both even had time to think, I asked the volunteers if they were ready. One of them immediately went to call the rest, and in a minute everyone was there. We created a chain between the two sites and started moving the things.
It was the best thing we could have done. We finished in an hour.
I felt good that we had succeeded in at least being proactive and useful for once. It is so hard to think. It is so hard to think about that woman, about the man, about those children. I felt invaded and insecure the moment my purse was stolen the day before. It seemed the end of my security. I felt as if was walking naked, without my purse. What would this woman feel? She came home and didn’t find it. What would her teenage daughters feel? Their whole life was stolen from them today, right in front of their eyes. Yesterday they had a home, today it vanished, and it was demolished. And that poor man, he has a whole family who he seems to be worried about how to get them the bread of the day. Now, he cannot provide them shelter. What is left for them?
If losing a purse made me feel naked, how do they feel?????? I felt invaded when I knew that the one who stole my disc-on-key would get to some personal stuff of mine.
What would this woman feel about total strangers holding her clothes, her underwear, her pots and pans, her whole life, her privacy, and passing them from hand to hand. Not only through the hands of the oppressors, but through ours as well, those who were trying to help. Why would we have to see if she cleaned her fridge or not, if she washed the dishes after her last meal at that house or not? Why would we have to have a look over a whole life that s not ours?
This family, a few hours ago, was just a family. We didn’t know anything about their existence, and now we’ve invaded them. This is so unfair. It s all unbearable. And at the end of all this, they wonder why these people become TERRORISTS.
لقلب تغرقه دموع
مأسور بأجنحة مكبلة بجروح
تسكنه ذاتا مدمرة بأزمنة غادرة وعقود
يكسوه جسدا مرت على حشائه عهود
تمر من شرايينه أوردة مغللة بقيود
لقلب نبضه أنين مسموع
دقاته حركاتها تلينها دموع
دموع تغرقها حرائق لهيبها ماجوج
يتأجج من نارها أحزان يبنى عليها ثصور
لقلب تشعله نيران دموع
تحرقه الام جروح
تأسره أجنحة مكسرة مقيدة مكبلة بقيود
Entering a different time zone ,after striding a kilometer or so inside a tunnel of pre-existing spaceship that belonged to an outer space of a famous hollywood creation ….Gaza welcomes me with some vague memories of a time i don’t know if they have ever exist .
A city of a strange existing … people weirdly moving in all directions and no directions in what should be called roads ..i am not sure if i am in this day on this date of this century , or is it a day and date of previous decades in another century that history has dwelled .
Donkeys visibly taking the streets , in which seems a major mean of transportation . another funny tuktoks as they call , some small motorbikes attached with trolleys . A challenging competition between the donkeys and the trolly attached motorbikes all over the city . Cars i remember back to my memory of Gaza as a child visiting with my father and family … at some
point i saw infront of me the memory of a fading past so visible.. it was so confusing .. except that i grew since then thirty years .
the thirty years of the older woman i became from that child back then , could have added to me some maturity and beauty that evolves by age …. something that in this part of the world women don’t grow to become more beautiful , but exhausted and drained from life burdens and frustrations and above all patriarchal system abuses that made them overgrow their age and their beauty. This city seemed like a woman i wanted to escape from becoming some years ago .
Women walking veiled , young women carrying infants in this rainy day , a scene that so remarkable to see .. i was noticing a woman out of every three walking with an infant cuddled in her arms . Posters of martyrs occasionally decorating the streets with green flags , slogans on every wall and empty space …except on some walls that belonged to the “police street” . Mosques built in different colored domes ,some unmodified architecture that reminded me of Afghanistan .
a gracious sea standing so powerful and grey , with high waves and angry moves ,attached to a mixed grayish sky . another long scene of a fantasized memory of a sea that can embrace a lover’s dream ,and yet , it was a deserted beach with haunted memories of an exiled nation , hanged from both sides in refugee camps with steel sheds and mud structure. watching carefully from the top of the other side of the scene , refusing and agitating any form of acceptance to a normal sea .
after touring the city …..long and mixed with destroyed plantations and obscure rubbles … of huge buildings that have been marked with bomb shots and sheds. strange meaning of survival ….movements unharmonized and so often meaningless and definitely hopeless inside an encircled city that spins around itself …i found myself again crossing the twilight zone through the open passage that is wired by steel and enclaved by a cement wall … cockroaches speeding and crushed by unnoticing eyes … all desperately moving that passage of de-existence … entering inside a series censored boxes and steeled doors , buzzing in red and green , scanned by machines and monitored by some observers from a higher floor through a distance ….
finally out … to another day of occupation
Not Only Had They Occupied The Lands,
But Also The Tongues,
A few days ago, a conference under the title of THE ARAB LEADERSHIP took place in Van Leer Institute.
As one of my exquisite friends was supposed to make a presentation of a paper he prepared for the event and a journalist friend of mine who wanted to go and do interviews and try to find contacts for her references urged me to go, I went.
I was hesitant about the fact that the language that will be used in the Conference is Hebrew; in spite, the fact that most of the speakers were Arabs except for very few Israelis from the Van Leer Institute personnel.
My friend told me that it was in Hebrew because the audience that was addressed were mostly Israelis.
I hummed something inside myself and thought, maybe right, in the end, it is an Israeli institute, and regretfully it is Israelis who come and listen most of the time.
I was besieged with the ingenuity of the institute as I entered. I appreciated the way they used the three languages, Arabic, English, and Hebrew all the way as anyone enters the premises.
It reminded me of the beautiful, welcoming words as we cross the threshold to the Bethlehem checkpoint, with peace words all around us in the three languages, as if we enter a peaceful patch, and right above those words a soldier is sitting inside his stall on top with his weapon intended and ready to stroke at any instant. I felt iniquitous as I associated the two prospects to each other. I am inflowing a research center that endorses peace, and its staff is all leftists, and many reverential Arab intellectuals work there.
Inside the hall, fastidious quotes all over a full wall, all in English and Hebrew, not a single word in Arabic inside. I tried to focus on the articulate quotes, very powerful words, but frankly, something inside me didn’t buy it.
Inside the conference room, spacious room, with the best equipment, out of the 300 settings, only half of them were occupied, I felt glowing as my friend was expecting not more than 40, so it would be at least motivating.
I sat between my friend and another appealing looking man, my eyes crept into his papers, and I glimpsed his name, and he was a government economic consultant, I wanted to hate him, but my friend was talking to him as a friend, so I told myself, listen, girl, we are inside the Israeli premises, Palestinians, whatever they might call them or call themselves there are part of this whole system, so it is ok to be an economic consultant, but my curiosity didn’t stop there, I waited for the break to ask him “financial expert for whom” for the Arabs? He smiled and didn’t answer my naïve question.
Maybe at that point, I seemed to be too good looking to be smart, so he took me with this naivety smile.
Inside the conference, all speakers were respectful, holding first status from where they are coming from, sturdy, eloquent speakers, and researchers. And speaking Hebrew.
The audience, however, was over 80 percent Arabs, for the irony of the situation most of the girls there were wearing veils.
Honestly, each time I looked at the speakers, speaking in Hebrew and looked around the audience most Arabs, I felt irritated, and the topic was about Arabs.
I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t be judgmental, and maybe all those Arab veils will disappear at the next session as my friend predicted, they even moved us to a smaller room, searching for more intimacy in the topic.
My friend’s and the coordinator prediction failed as the room was filled with everyone, and all the veiled youngsters were still there.
I wanted the veils to fade away so that I would induce myself that the use of Hebrew in that event was justifiable. I wanted to see all the other Arabs who were there were not Arabs; I wanted to see a 90 percent Hebrew audience.
It is true that it was a hundred percent Hebrew speaking people, though.
The second part was tedious, one of the speakers even allowed himself to talk about the PA. Luckily, another friend of mine joined and helped me survive that part.
I was wedged there because my friend who was supposed to speak was the last to make his presentation, and yes, it is true, that he broke the monotony that was occupying the place and his appeal won.
But nothing rallied around what was already marching into my mind,
swiftly, I was some less than thirty years ago in a history class, with that sentence that might be the only sentence that I got out of from history in all my life, CULTURAL OCCUPATION, there was this small paragraph in our history book in 3rd grade that explained about how when occupiers invade lands, they occupy it not just through arm invasions but through cultural and social facets too.
I was seeing before me the Algerian and Moroccan occurrence, how these people until this day suffer from being unable to exploit their language efficiently.
I was gazing at those sophisticated intellectuals, my friend among them, sitting around that table before the audience, and I could only envision research white mice inside white uniformed thick eyeglasses scientist’s labs.
I imagined a staff of scientists bringing their mice experiments into a conduct show.
I sincerely detest what I am saying, but the verify that you have Arabs, coming and make a representation for researchers that they did about their cases within their societies and correspond to it in Hebrew before mostly Arabic speaking audience was more than upsetting.
These people came with a serious study of the status of education and the obstacles for better leadership inside the Arab communities.
Why couldn’t they do it under an Arab forum with the sponsoring of an institute like Van Leer? (If the fact is that Israelis only have source of money)
I am someone who actually believes in mutual assistance between Israelis and Palestinians on diverse levels in order to attain a just solution at the end; But as I grew up hearing the word normalization and attacking it without understanding what it meant, and each day I get involved with Israeli-Palestinian (a word I shouldn’t be using, ARABS) forums I come to a closer perceptive of the danger of the word normalization in our case.
I don’t know what the word that suits what I deem is, but it is positioned there close to those thin lines between normalization and demoralization.
I believe if any decent Israeli institute exists, it would at least help mobilize the Arabic as a mother language for these people.
Another thing I realized while I was sometimes listening to what these intellectual representing, something I always thought that I was making up, and somehow, I always thought who I am to believe that this way, I have no knowledge or experience in the political indulgence, and my theories come from very personal things that I aged in my life ever since I was a child.
In the past years, I have been watching the situation in Jerusalem with great fear, and the only thing I was seeing is the previous experience of the 48 occupations inside the green line.
I am seeing Jerusalem being Judaism(ized) in every aspect, streets, signs, people’s absolute indifference, everyone entrapped into his problems and benefits. I haven’t been them during the 48 time, but what is happening today in Jerusalem makes it a living experience of the past, but what alerts me is the augmentation of lack of awareness among people. During the 48, people didn’t have a prior experience, model, but today, we know what it means to try to uproot our identities. The uprising that is happening inside those people intellectual generation in trying to re-root their identities doesn’t come from outer space. It comes out of a mental suffering that was passed from one generation to another.
As those people were discussing the voluntary, planned process of uprooting their identities, their nationalities through the educational system, I understood what it meant to stay steadfast. I knew the great thing those in Jerusalem did by refusing to submit to the Israeli laws after 67, especially when it came to education.
In the end, there was a real movement of resistance that I never understood or appreciated, (I was too young for both). We were saved by not allowing the Israeli system to evolve in our education.
No matter how wrong or how I disagree with the Jordanian and the Palestinian educational system ( too tight, and doesn’t promote thinking ), but it kept our identities, I understand how important it was to refuse to teach Hebrew or to allow it in our schools.
And I see it today, as one school after another is diminishing in the trap of judaizing our minds, into enforcing their schools, in pretending to give better circumstances, in feeding those schools with money per HEAD, in forcing people in registering to these schools to prove their private rights inside the city.
If the poorest and the least given person among us saw those sophisticated intellectuals discussing their sufferings and obstacles in Hebrew the other day, they would understand the virtue of living inside our roots.