Monday, March 15, 2010

The Palestine Realization

“Soldiers have entered the village on foot, I am in hiding, don’t turn on any lights.”
The text message was from my friend Omar, who lives in the tallest house in Al Ma’sera. His 3 story home, combined with his personal experience of being taken in a night raid six years ago and kept in prison for five years without sentencing (he is now 25), means that Omar doesn’t sleep at night. Instead of sleeping, Omar sits awake, on his roof, watching-waiting.
It was nearly one AM and I was in the village of Al Ma’sera near Bethlehem. My body was going through Middle Eastern Montezuma’s revenge (which, in my experience puts its Latino counterpart to shame) and I was up every few minutes, visiting the bathroom. The text came while I was in bed. I read it, looked over at the open window, contemplated waking the ISM volunteer sleeping near me, and listened for the sound of steel toe boots sneaking through the olive orchard. I needed to get up anyway, so I closed the window, walked to the bathroom with only the dim illumination from my cell phone and looked out the small window.
When I looked out the small window of the community center bathroom, I was fully prepared to see a tall, masked man with an M-16 staring back at me. I was not afraid. I kept looking, waiting, expecting.
When no soldier appeared, I relieved my gurgling stomach and tiptoed back to bed. This is when the realization came to me. I have changed. This place has changed me. I better understand the Palestinian struggle, what it means to live under occupation, to see more M-16s in one day than bicycles. But it goes further, I have learned how to speak, yell, plea with soldiers, I have learned how to test my limits, read their uncertain 18 year old eyes, tactfully refuse showing them my identification, treat the wounds from their “nonviolent” weapons and leverage my international activist privilege to support Palestine’s liberation.
I laid in bed, waiting for further instructions regarding the soldiers presence in the village, and thought about all of this. When did I change? My mind flashed back to one night, three weeks ago at Sheikh Jarrah, east Jerusalem.
Ayman Gawi was being led away by a military officer. His mother was trailing him, yelling at the officer. I walked up and started yelling too, slowing the officers step significantly. Moments later, a crowd had gathered and Trip and I had successfully pulled Ayman out of the officer’s grip and were sheltering him away to safety.
I was shaking with adrenaline after Ayman’s de-arrest. I felt strong, scared and slightly invincible. Invincible probably isn’t the right word. I don’t think there is a proper to describe it. It is feeling that justifies your actions in a greater picture. Not illegal vs legal, but occupation vs freedom.
Other moments came to mind, like earlier in the day when I crossed under the barbed-wire barricade at the demonstration, sat down with a group of activists and refused to move until the demo was over and every Palestinian had a chance to speak. And a week ago when I de-arrested a guy all by myself. And two weeks ago when I helped lock a certain someone to an olive tree in the path of the Apartheid Wall. The list goes on. It has been a whirlwind.
Since that night in Sheikh Jarrah, I have experienced Palestine differently. I think, in a more personally empowered and occupation exhausted way (I understand that this probably doesn’t make much sense). But what remains constant, is that I really like being here. I think everyone should come here. The third intifada is brewing and things are political relations are deteriorating fast but, inshallah, resistance is growing faster.

1 comment:

  1. My new favorite blog.
    You are both heroes and an inspiration to ordinary privileged white folks everywhere. Thank you both for the excellent work that you do.

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    Hope to see y'all again later this year. Keep on kicking imperialist ass like you do best.