Saturday, April 29, 2006


my class...some of the girls were absent that day

Sunday, April 16, 2006

i wore hijab to al-quds, jerusalem, this last wednesday. it ended up looking more like a fashion statement than hijab. but it did provoke different social responses from people. if i assessed the experience accurately, it seemed as though the men were more respectful towards me (no cheesy pick-up lines), and people seemed to receive me more as one of them. not that they hadn't previously received as a part of the community...but i guess that makes sense.

as for jerusalem, the instance i walk into the old city, i feel a strange sense of belonging and familiarity which i cant quite describe or articulate fully. i do know that i love the old city, it feels like home, but i also know that the social aspects of life there leave much to be desired...the racism that exists towards palestinians is intolerable, and the israelis enjoy legal liberties that aren't granted to its palestinian-israeli citizens. the raw beauty of jerusalem is to be rivalled and i wish that it was not crowded with its various man-made problems from the occupation.

last week, when volunteering with the girls from the refugee camp, i brought in my i-pod and played 'somewhere over the rainbow' for them. i had typed up the lyrics leaving some of the words missing so they could fill in the blanks. they were so funny, when they first heard the song they kept shouting "we can't understand anything!! i dont know ANY of the words!" so i sang along and after a few minutes, they were singing along with me. i would truly love if these girls could go as many places as possible because opportunities for travel, even within their own land, come once in a bluemoon. i want to take them to jerusalem because many of them have never been and i know that once they reach the age of 16, they will not be allowed to go. it's a nice little law that the state of israel has imposed on the palestinian people--jerusalem is illegal territory for palestinians unless you have an israeli i.d. card which very few possess. so im crossing my fingers that something can work out-i know that it'd be a really great trip for all of us. i'm pretty sure that most of those girls will never have the chance or means to travel outside the west bank or even the refugee camp. kinda like the inner-city and poor neighborhoods in the US...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"the world is a comedy to those that think and a tragedy to those that feel"

not once have i read an article concerning palestine/israel that is wholly accurate and impartial--whether from the bbc, nytimes, aljazeera, etc. it's interesting to be here, on-the-ground, then read the news, knowing that what is being reported is simply not true or completely obscured. right now, the western powers are threatening to halt aid to the palestinians on account of hamas and its stance on the use of violence against the state of israel. ironic, because i never once heard a western power threatening to discontinue its billions of dollars in aid to israel on account of the violence used daily against palestinians. palestine/israel is a land full of contradictions. i feel as though you cannot live your life here without being blatantly hypocritical i.e. i do not and choose not to support the state of israel, but i purchase israeli products (palestinians are almost entirely dependent on israel economically) thus helping israel's economy, thus also contributing to its military state.

another thing i've noticed here is the much more intimate relationship people here have with life and death. the relationship between life and death is symbiotic...the value of life is heightened maybe as a result of the abnormal number of deaths in this narrow strip of land.

people teem with life; everything feels much more alive and rich with emotion. the unusual death rate, however, cannot account for this intimate relationship because that would not give the palestinian culture itself enough credit. without the occupation, without the number of deaths, without any problems here, the culture still breathes life and energy into every aspect of society. the family and community are the centerpieces of life and people celebrate birth as if it's a sacred gift, bringing another human form into the world. but given the current situation, life perhaps is celebrated more because there is not much else that can bring such joy and happiness. you do begin to appreciate the essence of living and what it means to be alive, because often, that breath is stolen and extinguished from the individual, and stolen arbitrarily. you come to know what it is that you will or would lose if the right to breathe were taken from you.

people have to face loss and grief far too often; to meet a palestinian who has not lost a good friend or family member would be quite odd. moreover, to meet a palestinian who has not been imprisoned, tortured, beaten, or harassed by the israeli military would be unheard of.

people are forced to feel deeply and would think that such a wealth, even overwhelming amount, of emotion would drive the population mad. i know from my experience that in my first month here, i did feel as though i was going a bit insane from all of the anger and frustration at the orwellian layers of occupation. amazingly though, you are able to adjust and cope, but still, the emotions remain. i admire and am continually impressed by the resilience of the palestinian people.