Wednesday, August 02, 2006


The War Next Door

Today my good friend Marwan told me that he had to go into to see the doctor yesterday. He said he has some sort of problem with his heart. I asked him what happened and he told me that he had watched the news from Lebanon this morning. On the television, there were pictures of the children killed in the bombings in Lebanon. Marwan told me that he looked up at the picture and down at his own children. He shooed them out of the room, hoping they wouldn't see the pictures of dead children, children their age, who look just like them. And then Marwan went to the doctor with a pain in his heart.

"Don't look at the pictures," Marwan tells me. "A little bit of news, that's okay for you. But too much, for you it's not good."

It's difficult to know what to write while this terrible war rages on in the country next door. Whatever I write about Lebanon and Israel will likely be out of date by the time that you read it. Besides, many of you may have more access to English-language news than I do. The truth is, to me the war seems far away. But for many of the Palestinians I live with, the bombing feels very close. Besides, while the world has been concerned about Lebanon and Northern Israel, there have been more killings in Nablus and of course Gaza. There's a heavy feeling in the air, as though sadness and hopelessness have finally taken hold. Even I can feel it.

This morning my friend and host-sister Iylana told me that every group that had been scheduled to come to Palestine through the educational travel program she works with have cancelled because of the war. Actually, until yesterday there was one group still coming. But they were denied entry by the Israeli authorities. "I don't know what we will do" said Iylana. "Without tourism, we have nothing."

I suppose this is how Palestine is effected by the war. Old problems are compounded - Just as tourists were starting to come to Palestine again, they've stopped. The checkpoints are worse then I've ever seen them, since Israelis fear for their security even more. The United States complicity clearer than every and the world's abandonment of Palestine is felt more acutely as more attention is showed on Israel and Lebanon. In many ways nothing has changed. Everything is just a little bit worse.

I just learned from my friend Vivian that in Beit Jala, the village to the west of Bethlehem, the Israeli soldiers stationed there have been releasing their sewage into the town almost week. "It usually happens on a Thursday" says Vivian. Great, I think, almost laughing. The occupation shows its ugly, petty side again. Perhaps there is something that we can do about this incident. In the midst of the madness of the last two months, it's nice to deal with the sort of problem I'm more familiar with. But the truth is, there is no escape from the feeling of hopelessness. We just don't know what to do.

"A little bit of news, that's okay for you. But too much, for you it's not good." I should stop writing about these terrible things. Thank you for working to end this war, but don't stop. And please don't forget those of us who are living near by.

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