Monday, July 10, 2006

Lately we've all been glued to the television. The question on everyone's lips is "shu saar?" What happened? What happened in Gaza? What happened in Nablus? What happened last night in Bethlehem? In Beit Jala? In Beit Sahour? Palestine has had nothing but bad news. 22 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. Much of the Palestinian government has been thrown into the jail. The aid embargo continues and more Palestinians wonder how much longer they will be able to feed their families. Even in Bethlehem tension hangs in the air. Olive trees are being cut down, soldiers have arrested two young women, there are nightly incursions into the refugee camps, and even in Beit Sahour the army feels closer every day.

Palestinians and internationals alike ask each other what happened. A nightmare is being played out before out eyes and Palestinians constantly remind me that the international community has done nothing, nothing, to condemn Israel. And there is tremendous fear. Last night, I asked a young man from Dheisheh refugee camp about the invasion of Gaza. "It's sad," he said. "The army is destroying everything. We know that our turn will come someday."
But I will admit that I greet all of this news nothing more than a shake of my head. I haven't cried over the stories in the media. I just feel nauseated. And worried.

It's what passes for normal life here that breaks my heart. I can't protect myself from the daily disappointments and often it's the moments of happiness and human dignity that bring me to tears. I just heard that my Palestinian-American friends from Portland have cancelled their trip home to Ramallah because they fear being turned away at the Tel Aviv airport. I also learned that my friend Nasfat, whose children I've written about repeatedly, has lost his job. He used to work for a USAID-funded development project which had to be disbanded because of the aid embargo. Apparently, building schools and roads provides "material benefit to the Palestinian Authority." I can't help but wonder about the "material benefit" schools provide to children. I dread visiting Nasfat's family. I don't know if I can face what my government has done to him. I don't know if I can watch his children smiling and joking without bursting into tears because of their beauty and vulnerability.

A week ago, a Palestinian cultural center agreed to give us a lesson in Dubkah, Palestinian folk dancing. I, of course, rediscovered my two left feet and lack of rhythm. At the end of the hour, our teachers asked us to show them American "traditional dances." The class erupted into cat-calls, clapping, and laughter as Americans and Palestinians showed off their moves on the dance floor. Naturally, our Palestinian teachers out did us with far more acrobatic break-dancing then we could manage. As we swapped "traditional dances," I felt as though we touched on what it means to be human. Then I remembered that just a few years ago, during the first intifada, it was illegal for Palestinians to gather together for cultural events like dancing Dubkah. I wished I had a video camera or a giant mirror that I could hold up and show the reflection to the world. I would say, "Here. Watch my friends dancing. See your own humanity reflected back to you and tell me why this occupation is justified."

These are the moments that bring tears to my eyes.

3 comments:

Halla said...

"sigh" (shake of the head)

Joy, thank you for your input. Keep blogging, I have been trying to pass your blog along.

joy_in_palestine said...

Thanks Halla. I'm always very happy to hear from you.

in sackcloth and ashes said...

Hey girl, It sounds like things are rougher than I can imagine. I'm in Calgary for a wedding and the news in Oilberta is really poor. the airport bombing in Lebanon is the big front pager today and the headlines all seem to read like this is a military victory for Israel, I can't help but feel like this sort of reporting is in poorest taste.

I think can understand though one reason you've not yet cried.

When I got home from LA I found out that one of my friends was in the hospital with a respiratory illness. Later he was diagnosed with TB and for a while I was afraid he might die. This fear didn't really seem to affect me until one night while I was praying I finally admitted to myself that I didn't know if he'd be alive next week or when I got home from Baltimore in September. It was only when I confessed my own fear to myself that the reflexive barriers I had put up in order to function all came down and I cried for quite some time.

I can't really compare what you're seeing happen all around you to what went on for me but I guess what I'm saying is that it's good to cry over these things and if you feel it coming on take the opportunity to go somewhere you won't be disturbed and just let go the world won't change but you'll feel a little better.

love from Vancouver and other parts of North America