Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Top 40s Will Bring Us Together

Things of mine that the Israeli police stole after a raid on our apartment in direct violation of the Oslo Accords: laptop, two cell phones, my ipod. Last week they stole my hula hoop from Sheikh Jarrah! BOOO!
Story time:
It is raining. I am in Ramallah donning my head-toe northwest certified rain gear. I’m on a street corner across from the Stars & Bucks Coffee shop waiting for someone to give me some money to deliver to someone else in Jerusalem for an ISM volunteer in Gaza. I have her passport in my pocket, by the way. Across the street, Akron’s Right Now (Na Na Na) plays from the shoe store speakers rapping about things I know would be so unspeakably inappropriate in Arab culture and probably not allowed on the loud speakers if the songs were translated. I however, am indulging myself in this top 40 ear paradise, singing along in my head because, yes, I know all the words. Then without warning, in the middle of the chorus, the music stops. Quickly replacing Akron in the shoe store speakers is the Muslim call to prayer, a 5 times daily moan set on a volume so high that everyone in the entire city, inside and outside of buildings, can hear it. Just a few moments later, a fellow in his mid thirties approaches me. “Are you waiting for something?” he asks. “Yes” I reply. Without another word, he pulls out a handful of Euros. “One, two, three….ten, one thousand Euros. You count it.” I do. I nod. He walks away. The call to prayer still blares from my top 40 speakers.
Fast forward four days-I’m sitting at a super posh hostel in the super posh border town of Eliat, Israel with my sister (she is still sleeping). The sun is shining and I’m in sandals. Britney Spear’s new video is playing on MTV on the television mounted to the ceiling.
Perhaps pop music diplomacy is a strategy we should try.
I am still spending most of my time at Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem. Winter has arrived in full force and I’m more grateful for the treated-wood bonfires than I ever thought imaginable. The chemical scented smoke is in my hair, jacket, and jeans and I love it…to an extent. There seems to be an ongoing battle at Sheikh Jarrah between those of us who do not think a smoky fire should be brought inside the tent and others who want the fire to follow them wherever they go, including inside a poorly ventilated tent. It usually plays out like this: I go inside the tent, sit down, make myself comfortable, then a few minutes later a smoke-loving guy comes in and tells me I must be freezing. He will fetch the fire. “No no no I’m fine. I promise!” I say. But, in just a few minutes, he has dragged in the fire barrel and I’m putting on my shoes to go back outside, into the cold.
The tents are not holding up so well against the wind and rain. We have resecured them with wood boards, duck tape and even string. Luckily, lashing and knot tying is one of Trip’s favorite activities, so he is right at home and I have a chance to practice my newly acquired knot tying survival skills!
When the tents do manage to withstand the night’s wind, they must next withstand attempts by the municipality to take them. Last Monday, they were not so lucky and the police took the site and cleared the site. Police took the tent, a couch, chairs, and HULA HOOPS! Damn them. Hula hoops have no security threat whatsoever! Boo. Trip and I were not there the morning they were taken but we got the call the moment it started and got to work on a media push to get media and activists to come to the tent building event later in the day. An awesome press release was written and sent out to an extensive list. By 4pm at Sheikh Jarrah there were over 2 dozen media outlets covering the event. A few settlers were in front of the house in the pre-tent building period and the press were addicted to them like they were endangered species at a zoo. It was so funny; 20+ journalists snapping photos of the settlers in there “non native” habitat.
I have started to do more community organizing in Sheikh Jarrah. This has been great, however it is a change from the environmental work that I’m used to. I find that I cannot hold onto my environmental values so tightly. When I try to do this, my intentions are lost in translation (figuratively and literally). For example, we started doing Wednesday community dinners in Sheikh Jarrah. I spent all afternoon a few Wednesday’s back cooking maklube or “upside down.” It is a rice dish that you flip over at the end onto a big tray and everyone eats from the tray. First, you deep fry all the veggies, then you soak the rice, then you put the veggies and meat on the bottom of a big pot, cover in rice and add the super special and tasty Palestinian rice spice and cook. While I have taken to eating meat that is cooked for me in situations where it is rude to turn it down, buying and cooking meat is a whole other level. For the first weekly dinner, we made a vegetarian maklube full of super great veggies. While the Israeli vegan activists were pleased with the meal, the locals in Sheikh Jarrah were not so keen on it. Most just ate at their homes and milled around politely. Upon evaluation, we decided that at the next dinner, we would cook one chicken and one veggie maklube. The dinner was much more successful, despite the near freezing temperatures and rain. Score one for community organizing, minus one for the environment and giving into the factory farmed animal torture industry.
One Israeli activist told us that he was glad to have come to the dinner because he does so much work against the occupation, but rarely has an opportunity to just hang out with his Palestinian peers. This made me feel really good about what we had organized. We also had face painting and I made a bunch of new hoops for the kids. But it was too cold for parents to let their kids come out and play. Maybe next week.
This week in action news included a settler/solider starting a fight with the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah by throwing rocks at the tent then grabbing a kid. When Nasser Gawi pulled him off the kid, a fight ensued that led to the settler/solider (living in Nasser’s home) to loading, cocking and waving his M-16 at everyone, including me. I filmed it all. To see the video and read the full report:
Upon review of the rest of the video (not posted) from the incident, I learned that I have developed a nervous hum. Great. I hum a Rainbow song that I learned from the Germans I met in Spain. It goes like this:
Deep inside my heart I’ve got this
Everlasting love that’s shinin
Like the sun it radiates on everyone
And the more that I give
The more I’ve got to give
It’s just the way that I live
It’s what I’m living na na….repeat.
Ohi. I wonder if this is one of those things that will stick with me forever. I’m probably old enough to be developing habits that will stick with me throughout my lifetime. I remember my parents telling me I hummed a lot as a kid. Perhaps this is just my old trait coming back out again and in that case, I will probably do it for the rest of my life. hummhuummmmhummmmmmmmmmm. goodbye.

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