Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Coming home...

I felt blank during my last days in Palestine. Yes, I would miss the people and places terribly. But I could not bring myself to feel sad or excited, for that matter. I had a plane ticket, there was no way around it.
For my last Friday demonstration (tear gas Friday, as Trip liked to call them), I returned to the village of An Nabi Saleh. This village began its demonstrations about the same time as Trip and I arrived in Palestine. Its second demo was our second demo. An Nabi Saleh is notorious for experiencing the most military violence and repression during the Friday demonstration. This week proved no different. We marched towards the land, illegally confiscated by the expanding settlement, Israeli Occupation Forces came towards us, invaded the village and started firing tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets.
My demo buddy was Ellen. Six weeks before she was shot at point bland (4 meters) with a rubber coated steel bullet. She still wears a cast on her right arm which was broken when the bullet penetrated her skin and lodged between her bones. When the Israeli munitions began flying at the nonviolent demonstration, an Israeli activist was targeted. A tear gas canister wizzed by his head, barely missing his face. Targeting International and Israeli activists is usually rare, but not in An Nabi Saleh.
Soon, the village was surrounded on all sides by soldiers and Border Police. Ellen and I were nervous, to say the least. We held hands as we tromped across olive fields, up side roads and through the town center, making ourselves visible but not targets (inshallah). Positive highlights were building a bonfire roadblockade with the little shebab and talking to Anarchists Against the Wall member, Kobi. It was quite a sight, two Internationals, one with a broken arm, and a few eight year olds, throwing boulders onto the road and carrying anything flammable ( and carcinogenic, if possible) to keep the tire-fire going. As for Kobi, I was glad to finally able to tell him how much I admired his activism and that AATW was one of my first introductions not only to the Occupation but also to anarchy.
The lowpart of the demo (besides the muntions and being chased across the fields by soldiers) came while Ellen, me, three Israeli activists and four shebab were taking refuge from the tear gas and foot soldier invasion in a walkspace under a deck. Just after small talk began, Border Police in full riot gear and gas masked came around one corner, guns up, hugging the corner, movie-style. We looked to the other corner for a getaway. Nope. Replay. In a few seconds, Border Police had us surrounded from both sides. I grabbed Ellen’s hand. They immediately went for the shebab and an Israeli activist closest to them and attempting to de-arrest. The ratio was not in our favor for de-arresting. Holding hands, Ellen and I backed away slowly.
While I write this update, it is Friday and I’m stuck in the Chicago airport. Across the world, in my old life, this scene, or something similar, is replaying itself with different shebab and different International activists. Not me. That is not my life anymore. No tear gas today.
I suppose now that I’m home, I will use Friday as a day to welcome the weekend rather than a day to join the local Palestinian resistance to the occupation.
After showering off the gas and changing into something a bit more haram (shameful in the eyes of Allah), the ISM crew headed to West Jerusalem aka Israel to meet up with friends for a going away celebration for me, Ryan and Jamie. After 4 months of not drinking more than a handful of beers, I was wasted after 4 shots and 4ish beers. I was also drunken Party Princess, making people dance, smashing bottles on the streets, etc etc.
My AM hangover was met, not with pancakes or pizza, but with a phone call informing me that the Israeli secret police had broken into our office/apartment in Hebron, stealing two computers, memory cards and flash drives.
I’m looking forward to not being woken up with reports of night raids, arrests or settler attacks. That said, I’m glad I was there to help and would do it again in an instant.
The last few days of my time in Palestine were spent mostly in Sheikh Jarrah. Throughout the past four months, especially after Trip left, I was welcomed like a member of the family. In the mornings, after doing a nightshift and sleeping in the Al-Kurd tent, Nadia Al-Kurd would wake up me by pinching my cheeks, smiling, and rambling something pleasant in Arabic. Myasser would bring us warm tea at midnight, Nabeel would welcome me with a full-face grin, the kids all knew my name and let me play with them and the shebab gave me enough respect to boss them around a bit.
My last night in Sheikh Jarrah coincided with the Wednesday night dinners that Trip and I started in January. I couldn’t be happier about what they have evolved into. On Wednesday evenings, activists and Sheikh Jarrah residents, full of delicious food, fill the streets. Our presence (there presence, now), shows the strength of the neighborhood and the support of both Israelis and Internationals.
For my last dinner, I made maklube, and it turned out perfectly! The evening was also full of dessert. Chocolate with biscuits, courtesy of Ibrahim; devil’s food cake, courtesy of Hiba; and chocolate cake with a very very nice going away speech, courtesy of Saleh.
I don’t think I gave proper goodbyes. I couldn’t think of how. I left a lot of people unthanked. Time didn’t allow me to see everyone, and over the phone seemed strange. Perhaps this was a mistake. Maybe it’s because I think I’ll come back. Probably it was my way of blocking potential emotional moments and the bitter realization that I may never see the people who shaped my life so strongly over the past 4 months.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you got your blog back. When you posted that it was missing I googled to find out what sort of blog it was and then I really hoped it would be okay.