From a young Palestinian: On Joining the Friday protest in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank

Saturday, June 18, 2011

by Linah Alsaafin

The amazing Frank makes me want to learn Hebrew so bad after hearing his musical swearing. Hebrew can actually be musical, it's all not kha's and kho's!

Nabi Saleh has got to be one of the most phlegm ridden villages in the world. I told my sister in a nonchalant way that I was going there the night before. The next day I got dressed and walked from my house to the Manara Square, where I was told transportation would be at around 7:30am.

Friday mornings saw the streets completely devoid of any human life. I took my time walking, enjoying the cool wind and sun, and repressed a shudder as I passed by the renovated Muqata’a compound, where a soldier was posing with his gun, probably ready for his shift to be over.

There were only two other guys sitting around the Manara Square drinking nescafe from plastic cups. I hesitantly approached them.
“Good morning, do you know if the Nabi Saleh cars took off already?” I was after all about 20 minutes late.
“Not yet.”
“Are you both going too?”
“Yep. Where are you from? Hayaki Allah.

I took my seat on the pavement next to them and began writing, their conversation washing over me in light waves.
“…for that the foreigners don’t agree with it.”
“Balash.”
“Ya zalameh, my dad hit me, trying to stop me from going today.”
“Your dad hit you? With all my respect, but your dad is a complete wackjob/متخلف”
“Why? He cares about his son, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“How old are you, to be letting him hit you like that?”
“It doesn’t matter, he’s been hitting me since I was seven for the things he doesn’t like to see me do. He cares. After I got out of [Israeli] prison, I spent a year there, and I stopped going to the demonstrations. The first day I started going again I got a bullet in my leg. His intuition is amazing.”

I wondered what my family would say if they saw where I was sitting right now. I smile. All I need now is a cigarette in my mouth and a few girls to hit on.

The conversation turned to being around dead people. I was getting a little exasperated (“I think my dad was still alive when they put him in the morgue, the next day his head had moved”) when two more guys joined us. They introduced themselves and offered me cherries from a black plastic bag. We hung out for a few more minutes, before a policeman walked up to us, eyeing me curiously. One of the guys broke away and explained to me in a hushed voice full of contempt.

“Every week one of them comes and asks the same damn questions again.Who are we, where are we going, why, who’s giving us rides, and so on. Can you believe it, these are our very own defenders of the nation!”

The police car came and parked right next to where we were sitting. The guys began to talk about their experiences, taking my wide eyes for adoration.

“You do know about the shit truck of course. It’s something unbelievable. And now they want to come out with diarrhea gas. Tear gas, ok we get it, but how the hell are we gonna combat diarrhea gas?”

Two more police cars began to circle the Manara. We got up and walked a little down the street, waiting for the ford/microbus. More guys showed up, we were probably ten in total. I asked about the low number.
“Don’t worry, the others from here will join us later today.”

I got the seat of honor next to the driver, as it would have been morally unacceptable to be squished in the backseats between male bodies. That’s how far their chivalry extended, as the banter turned raucous and they began to tease one another about their manliness. Then they all broke out singing numbers that were popular during the first and second intifadas. I couldn’t help but to smile at their off-key voices, drowning each other out. One of the shabab told the driver to take the long way around because he swore he heard a policeman talking in his walkie-talkie to stop any microbus heading to Nabi Saleh. The driver complied, swinging the vehicle around with gusto.

It’s a 20 minute ride to Nabi Saleh. As expected, the gate to the village was closed by the IOF and so the microbus turned into the street below the village. We all jumped out, the settlement of Halamish looming up behind us like an imperial crown, and I saw the big rocky hill we had to climb in order to get inside the village itself. Some good morning exercise for you. I could see burnt patches here and there where the tear gas had spluttered into oblivion. Once we reached the village, one of the guys, who goes by the name of Abu Nasr, took me to the first house on the right, the home of Bilal and Manal Tamimi. I asked him why he was taking me there, and he replied so that I can wait for the other female demonstrators and how I’ll be safe here. I bit my tongue; this was my first time and I didn’t know how things usually went so I took his patriarchal sexist attitude as one of genuine brotherly concern.

Palestinian hospitality is astounding. I was greeted warmly by the family, and they took me downstairs to where they had foreign diplomats and consuls watching the footage Bilal Tamimi and others such as his brother’s wife Nariman documented. Nariman’s husband is Basim Tamimi, currently imprisoned for what the Israeli court calls “incitement”/”engaging in unlawful protests” and what every other human calls “standing up for your basic human rights.” Most of the videos weren’t new to me as I had already seen them on YouTube. Thanks to the social media, these videos get circulated widely, but apparently not enough for the mainstream media to raise its heavy sleeping head. Manal was commentating in English for the foreigners, who were all deeply engrossed. The family made sure I was sitting comfortably and could see perfectly, even in a crowded room. I asked Bilal if they do this every week, hosting foreigners and educating them a bit about how the demonstrations usually panned out. He told me that this was the first time, and that these diplomats/consuls from Holland, Malta, France, and the EU weren’t supposed to even be here because of their work. I recognized Jonathan Pollack, the Israeli activist who is always in Nabi Saleh for the protests, and was surprised and a bit annoyed at myself that his Arabic was better than mine.

After watching the videos, we all trooped outside and into the opposite house, Abu Hussam’s. A lavish breakfast smothered every inch of the dining table. The drinks-juice, tea, coffee- were all served in glass cups, and when I went to the kitchen to ask if they needed any help, the two women there shooed me out, looking like they definitely did not mind acting as dishwashers. If it were my house, everything would have been served in throwaway plastic cups. I need to get in touch with the hospitable side of me.

Nabi Saleh is a small village. As one of the locals put it, we number 500 counting our chickens. It’s basically one main road with houses on either side. In 2009, after Israel expropriated more of the village land in order to expand the settlement of Halamish which was “established” in 1977, they took over the village’s spring, Ain al-Kus. Manal Tamimi recounted what the settler women said about the spring, how it was a biblical site and very holy and how it washes away the sins of the settler women who bathe in it. Apparently, holy water is exclusionary. The protests have taken place every Friday. Along with Jonathon Pollack, Joseph Dana has been another key voice in writing about the events as a firsthand eye-witness.

Activists kept dropping in, saying hello, grabbing a quick bite to eat before making their way to the village center, the congregation point. They were treated like family, everyone knew each other’s names, there was a real sense of camaraderie. Finally, the calls for noon prayers sounded. The consuls went up on the roof to witness the protest, and I walked with Abu Hussam to the village center. He kept pointing out each house to me.

“This one, right here, and the other two around it got sprayed by the skunk. It was inside the house, God forbid should you ever have to live in that smell. It stays for weeks. And this one, the one with the broken windows, the army threw teargas at it and it started a fire. A whole sofa set was burned.”

‘Amo, is that the skunk smell? It’s horrible.”

“Yes, I told you, it stays for weeks, even on the streets. Now this house here…”

We reached the center. He dropped me off under a large tree where a crowd were milling about, and went to the adjacent mosque to pray. I sat down next to one of the guys I was with at the Manara square.

“So, how’s it going so far? Are you scared?”
“No,” I answered truthfully. “Why would I be? These people have been doing this for two years now, every single week.” Plus the fact that I honestly can’t get past my condescension for the IOF.
He didn’t believe me. “It’s ok, nothing to worry about. You’ll get your first taste of tear gas, see if you like it or not, that’s all there is to it.” He pointed to a group. “These are the Israeli activists. I don’t trust them. The other shabab, look how they’re fawning over them.” Just then one of the Israeli activists came up to him and they embraced tightly.
He sat back down again, ignoring my smirk. “You know, I don’t even trust some of the guys that we came with. I don’t think their intention is at all noble.” He glanced at me sideways. “Just to make it clear, I am talking to you like a brother and nothing else.”
I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t aware of any sparks between us. “Would you let your sister come demonstrate?”
“No.”
“You are a perpetrator of the patriarchal system! How can you be so hypocritical?”
“I told you, some of these guys…they come here just to see and talk to the girls.”

Bullshit. And even if they did, are they gonna make out every time the soldiers pause to reload?

Prayers were over. Everyone stopped fooling around and went back to business. My lovely female comrades drilled my head with What to Do and What Not to Do.

Do NOT rub your face when the tear gas hits you. You’ll only make it worse.
DO hold your breath and move as fast as you can away from the gas.
DO cover your face, Do NOT even think about rubbing your eyes.
DO put your mask on. Make sure to get some gauze drenched in alcohol.
Do NOT stand or remain in the street when the soldiers intensify their shooting of the tear gas.
DO run inside any house, they’re all open and will welcome you.

We made our way back to the beginning of the street, near the two houses that I was in before. We chanted and chanted. I looked at each soldier’s eyes. They betrayed no emotion. How do you explain that cool dispassionate stare? The tear gas was fired. Everyone ran. I ran. I forgot to hold my breath though. How do I explain tear gas? The nasty, acrimonious taste at the back of your throat, the sudden sharp stinging of the eyes, all coupled with unbridled fury. There are CHILDREN protesting, there are HUMAN BEINGS unarmed harmless using only the weapons of their voice-boxes, WHERE ARE THE EYES OF THE WORLD TO WITNESS THIS! The soldiers are decked out from head to toe looking like an infantry troop about to embark on another Operation Cast Lead, and here we are, no more than 40, all dressed in jeans and shirts and holding up posters, flags, two fingers in the victory sign. Before at breakfast the family recognized a new face and asked me why I came. I told them to see it firsthand. To know what it feels like to resist the occupation, as opposed to Ramallah’s suaveness. I wasn’t prepared for this fury though.

We regrouped and began chanting again. Louder and louder, more vociferous than before, stamping our feet on the ground, yelling out “5,6,7,8 Israel is a fascist state!” and the more creative chants in Arabic. The tall blond German next to me moved a couple of steps down to my left, when I turned my head again seconds later all I saw was blood streaming down his face and the flurry of people as they began to run again. The screams, the yells, the high pitched whistling of the sound bomb canisters before they exploded in momentary deafening. More tear gas was followed, tears streaming down my face. I followed blindly around the back of some house before getting inside. The blood on the German’s face turned out to be pepper spray, which was squirted right into his face. I heard that this was his first time in Palestine, his second day only. As he was getting treated into another house cum makeshift hospital, he just couldn’t understand why him. “I wasn’t even doing anything!” Abu Hussam laughed. “Tell him it’s exactly those who don’t do anything that get targeted.” One girl grimaced. “A hundred tear gas canisters over getting sprayed by filfil any day,” she remarked. “The poor man…God help him.”

It’s easy to read about the protests in Nabi Saleh, Bilin, and Nilin. Sometimes it’s hard to stomach the violent videos, but as long as you’re watching them and not actually experiencing them, then it’s easy to think in a calm and collected manner about the whole situation. Being on the front lines really makes you think about your survival only. In Bil’in Jawaher Abu Rahmeh died after getting hit by a tear gas canister fired at a high velocity at her head. Her brother Basem died the same way only it was aimed at his chest. This wasn’t about finding a bit of glory and fame, I don’t think that idea exists in the protesters’ minds anyway, it’s about something much more simpler. There is a well that belongs to the village. They depend on it. That well got stolen from them. They are banned from coming anywhere near it. They want it back. They want the land that Halamish was built upon back. Rocket science, oh imperial powers? Israeli children have a right to security but Palestinian children do not? The three boys and one girl of Nariman and Basem Tamimi, are they also not entitled to security and a safe environment, instead of witnessing their father being dragged away on ludicrous charges, their mother every week with her camcorder, trying to do her bit for B’tselem but inevitably getting caught up in the demonstrations? Nabi Saleh is a tiny speck on earth. It is a seriously aggravated tiny speck on earth. Human rights mean nothing at all here compared to the tiny settlement outposts?

I asked in the morning whether it was the same troop every week. It is. The demonstrators have their faces memorized. The shabab broke away from the demonstration and went to conduct their own nuisances against the Israeli army. It takes a hell lot more guts to stand there, in front of the IOF’s faces, demanding basic rights, keeping an eye on their hands and fingers always alert on their huge guns, than throwing rocks at them from a distance. At one point, it was three young women standing at the front, protesting loudly. The other protesters simply disappeared. There were five jeeps blocking the end of the street, blocking off our advance. Nevertheless we crossed to the other street by jumping from behind a house, to where the gas station was on the opposite side. Two jeeps left, to guard the shabab throwing rocks at a distance. At the end of that street is the yellow gate with the Israeli watch tower next to it. As soon as they saw us moving, the tear gas started again. This time I lost my head. I took a deep whiff and backed into the wall of the house, coughing and clearing my throat. I heard yells to move forward, but my eyes hurt so bad, I couldn’t open them. I stumbled in one direction, and the smell of tear gas got sharper. I forced my eyes to open, and finally crossed over to where the gas station was, all fluids flowing down like Niagra Fall’s mother, tears and snot and everything in between. I was immediately handed gauze drenched in alcohol and was instructed to wipe my face with it after breathing it in. Note to self: please do NOT wear mascara next time. The other guy who I sat with at the Manara in the morning was wearing a paramedic’s vest. He was torn between concern and amusement.

“How do you like it? Is it to your taste? No seriously, be more careful next time. Here, stand there, just breathe.”

Be more careful next time. There’s no telling what those maniacs will do. They fire straight at a person, or on the ground to purposely let it bounce up and down before ricocheting uncontrollably.

The German man who had earlier gotten pepper sprayed was speaking in awe to his companions. “I’ve never seen anything like this. The amount of…of inhumanity in a person. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m..I’m shocked!”

After a brief lull, more chanting. This time the IOF used sound bombs, firing at close range. There were only meters between us. One sound bomb hit my ankle, causing it to throb for a good few hours. I barely got out the way and become temporarily deaf as it exploded. The more sound bombs they threw, the more aggressive the tone of our voices. Eventually, the protesters made their way across the rocky hill because they couldn’t get down the street. They have never succeeded in getting near the spring. I stayed behind because I didn’t know what they were doing, or saw no point in it. As expected, the tear gas once again hailed down on them like swirling grey cotton candy. One guy wearing a paramedic vest became unconscious. Because of the distance, we thought it was only a vest on the ground. Then one of the soldiers came and started kicking the vest, which turned out to be on a body, just to further demonstrate the humanity in him.The guy was carried, after a lot of yelling not to shoot. The Israeli border police, decked out in riot gear were the ones to play with us on the hill, instead of the army.

After that we all crossed over to the hill. It sort of fizzled by then. Plenty of time to reflect on the tactics used so far. On one side of the hill was where the road extended, where the spring was, and where the settlement was. The settlers had come out to celebrate their trophy, taunting us up on the hill. The police were forced to calm them down and disperse them, a minor victory on our part. I was wondering whether chanting every week was going to change the status quo. Maybe it’s my impatient nature, but there should be more creative angles to deal with this problem. Chanting works when there are masses, huge rolling crowds of them. That is definitely not to deter from the sheer amount of effort and work the activists and protesters do, both during the tear gas confrontations and after, but the new youth movement in Ramallah needs to shake its shackles a bit more (to be discussed in a later post.)We finally make it back to the village. The sun is lowering itself steadily. Protesters are in a good mood, some saying that this is the first time they felt something like optimism. I’m gathering it was a quiet day compared to the weeks before. Obviously, the presence of consuls watching from the rooftops made the IOF behave itself marginally better. I talked more with Manal and Bilal, and found out that this was the first time the jeeps didn’t advance into the street itself. Usually, around 4 pm when the foreign activists leave, the army moves in and within seconds the whole village looks like a war zone. This time, it was after 6, and the jeeps were still parked. Children were playing football with the sound bombs used earlier.I stared at the couple in front of me. “How do you find it in yourself to do this every single week? Your faith is enviable.”
Bilal laughed. “You said it yourself, it’s faith itself. When you have something to believe in, you fight for it no matter what.”
Manal looked at me with twinkling eyes. “We’re originally Hebronites,” she tapped her head. We laughed. Hebronites are known for their notorious stubbornness.

Three of the jeeps began to move up the street, obviously not to start anything, and the little four year old children began chucking stones at the armored flanks. Little Jana screamed with delight and jumped up and down waving her arms in the air, victorious as her tiny stone hit the back of the jeep.

It was getting dark, the microbus was here. I swooped up a four year old Spiderman in my arms, the youngest son of Manal and Bilal and took a juicy bite out of his cheek.

“Do you want me to come back next week?” I asked.

He nodded shyly. I kissed his cheek again, said goodbye to Manal, and left Nabi Saleh, my head swirling.

—————————————————————————————–

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Unwanted Reaction to Nabi Saleh Excursion

One thing I neglected to mention in my Nabi Saleh post was that my parents had no idea I was going there. I knew they wouldn’t let me, so I took advantage of my mother’s absence of a few days where she went to Amman to help my father move into another apartment. She left Thursday and got back on Monday. My sister told everyone I was at a friend’s house in Ein Yabrood.

I faced the music Saturday night. I was over at my uncle’s house, and the electricity in Ramallah got cut off for an hour. My uncle’s family had come from the US only a couple days before so their house didn’t have any candles or flashlights. We were plunged into darkness. My sister called Mama before letting my uncle talk to her jokingly about the electricity. Then the cell phone was transferred to me.
My mother’s voice was brisk and all-knowing, a tone of Don’t Bullshit Your Way Out of This. “Where were you on Friday Linah?”
My heart sank.
“Where you in Ein Yabrood or Nabi Saleh?”
I answered in a resigned voice, “Nabi Saleh.”
“Nabi Saleh ah. Okay, I’m not going to say anything, talk to your dad.”
All I could think of then was how my dad was scared of roller coasters, how he over-panicked whenever his children got sick, and how I could picture my mother standing next to me in protests instead of him. I then got the rollicking of my life.
“What the hell were you doing there in Nabi Saleh zift! Next time before you go anywhere, remember you have family, remember to ask for their permission, to let them know where you’re going! This is the last thing I need on my plate right now, for my daughter to be protesting amid choking on tear gas and getting hit by sound bombs and then getting arrested and thrown in the back of some Israeli jeep! For you to be in jail! Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you ask me?” The decibels were getting louder. “What were you thinking!!”
I sensed the panic behind his yelling. I kept my voice even, low, neutral, quiet. I answered in one words. When my dad is in a temper, you let him continue steamrolling on. Maybe later when calmness is regained again, we can have a proper discussion. A tiny “maybe”.
“I don’t want you to be involved in this nonsense anymore, do you understand?” he shouted on. “This is the first and last time you go, I forbid you to be involved in this stupid shit, is that clear? It’s all empty words, nothing is going to change! You go out to your friends’ houses, out to eat and socialize, but none of these protests do you hear me? Even to the stupid ones around the Manara square!”
I was grateful for the darkness, as the tears coursed silently down my face. I squeezed my eyes shut, taking deep inaudible breaths as images of Friday’s events flitted across, forever tattooed to my inner eyelids.
Dear Baba,

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you where I really was on Friday. I knew you wouldn’t let me, so I saw no point in asking you if I could go to Nabi Saleh or not. So instead of asking you and getting the negative answer and then going on to defy you anyway, I didn’t beat around the bush and thought it best not to mention it. You have to know, “tear gas” and “sound bombs” sound threatening in the news and in print and on screen, but I was never really in any danger. These protests are glorified a bit, to garner more attention and sympathy, but if you were protesting with me, if you actually were there you’d know that if you don’t get out of the army’s way when they’re firing tear gas and sound bombs then there’s nothing more to it really. I know you care deeply about me, and I love you a lot for that. But you have to understand something. Yes it sounds like I’ve just tried to minimalize the dangers of the protests, but I never felt that I was under anything close to a life threatening situation. I have a job interview on Tuesday. My grades are really good, and I’ve sent you every article I wrote that was published over the internet. Baba, if I had children I would encourage them to go out and demonstrate. I wouldn’t want them to become squares, getting a university degree and then a boring job and treating politics with sneering disdain discussed over overpriced lattes and cappuccinos. I would want them to be active, all for the sake of fighting for a worthy cause and for a better future for their own children. If there is no voice, how can we fool ourselves that the Palestine cause still exists? You know that the youth are imperative to changing the political landscapes, not the corrupted officials and politicians. I wish you could relate to this more, and it’s frustrating to me because you can but don’t want to. I know how immensely active you were during your own time at Birzeit University, to the point where they had to expel you for your political views. I never told you how in my first year, I was sitting with friends and an old guard came up to warn us about not leaving our food on the ground. We offered him cake and he asked me who my parents were. I told him your name, and he smiled ruefully. “I remember him clearly. Your dad was a troublemaker,” he said. “Very outspoken, caused a lot of commotion. Your mother was deeply in love with him.” Don’t think I don’t understand the gravity of the consequences. I am not an idealist, I don’t get sucked into slogans and banners. I explained my presence to one of the foreigners as a sort of citizen journalist, almost like a casual observer. I had my notebook with me all the time, jotting down a few words here and there. I’m sure this isn’t about the case of me being a female Baba. You cannot undermine the immense role the Palestinian women played throughout our history. Leila Khaled became active when she was barely out of her teens in Lebanon. The ones making the most noise, the ones who were leading the chants at the protest were young women, all of them passionate and realistic. I wish you still lived here and made a report about Nabi Saleh. They have the most incredible steadfast families. I wish you could understand it from my perspective. I know that the one thing you care about first and foremost is my safety and well-being. How can I convince you that being at the protest actually invigorated me, and that I never felt like I was in danger? Sound bombs don’t hurt anybody, and I’m not stupid to let the tear gas engulf me. We don’t instigate and we don’t taunt the soldiers, we just stand there chanting, and they show their fear of our freedom ringing voices by dispersing us with the canisters. I’m sorry I caused you to worry and be shocked into a rage, but please don’t tell me I can’t go to any more protests. I won’t go every week, and I personally know some of the protesters, as do my brothers, and they are good people with normal jobs and everything. Don’t think that they are the ones who have influenced me, you know where I stand politically, or rather, apolitically. You know how frustrating it is for me having to write about the incompetence of the PA and Hamas, the indifference of the street, and the increasingly heavy hand of Israeli occupation. I was well aware of the protests in the villages of Bilin, Nilin, and Nabi Saleh. I once shared the view that what the youth are doing there is pointless and as you said, empty words. I didn’t see the point in getting tear gassed every week after throwing a few rocks. But then a new youth movement appeared, designed to resist “non-violently”. It is still in its fledgling stages, but I honestly believe with the right amount of dedication, passion, and leadership this movement will make history. Non-violent resistance obviously includes writing up firsthand accounts and disseminating that information all over, but once in a while you must be in the field to maintain that level of authenticity. I dreamed of having these kinds of discussions with you, but I’m not very articulate or eloquent or convincing when it comes to speaking, as you might have gathered. I do understand your concern, but you must also understand that I would never unwittingly put myself in an “intense” situation just because that’s where all the action is and how secretly I crave that sort of attention. That’s not the case at all. Believe me when I say that if I felt like I was in any danger, I would stop going to the protests immediately and content myself with writing about the events I wasn’t part of. Believe me when I say this isn’t bravado. Who knows, maybe I’ll become disillusioned with the whole state of affairs pretty soon, and maybe I’ll be part of the close knit network (who have already expressed their enthusiasm for my writings) that will have succeeded in changing the status quo. All I am asking you is to please give me a chance, let me find out on my own, or I will never forgive myself. I have never known a more ardent family about our land and history than ours. Do you remember Mama taking us to every Arab-related protest in D.C and London? Even if there were only 11 people, she’d take us. I consider it a duty to continue protesting, because history has taught us time and again that in the face of oppressors, it is the oppressed who will finally triumph in the end.


Happy Father’s Day.
I love you,
Linah.


UPDATE: This morning another phone call. Much more calmer, and a million more times worse.
“I’m extremely angry with you,” he said quietly. “Listen, putting the fact that you acted irresponsibly and lied to us about where you were on one side, there’s something you must understand politically. The protests that take place in Nabi Saleh and Bil’in and Nil’in all happen with the blessing of the PA and Israel. You think the PA has nothing to do with this? You think Israel can’t crush the protests once and for all? Their tactic is to confine and encourage resistance to these tiny villages, and that resistance completely debilitates armed resistance, as if it’s something that is taboo now. They know that the protests have no chance in spreading to the larger towns and cities, and the youth get caught up because they believe they are making a difference when they are actually the victim of the PA’s stratagem. I’m all for popular resistance, but what’s happening now isn’t that. You’re not going next week or anytime after that, ok?”
I fought to control my voice. “I won’t be in the protests themselves. I’ll be in the houses, talking to the families and the women.”
“You are not a credited journalist. Whatever you do there, even if it’s so something completely innocuous, you’re still technically involved in the protests.”
I tried to make him understand. He hadn’t read my letter yet because he didn’t have internet access. [He since has:”Thanks for educating me about civil resistance and patriotism.” Now we all know where I get my sarcasm from.] He kept telling me that I would not go again, and I stayed silent, refusing to consent. My dad has a way with articulating even the most banal thing powerfully but I wouldn’t say, “Yes Baba.” He finally told me that I wasn’t allowed to go until I graduate, and even then we’d have another long discussion about what I was allowed to participate in. In the meantime, he encouraged to me to continue writing. “Look at some of the journalists who go to Gaza for a week. They continue to write about their time there even after a month, a year even. Khalas, you went to Nabi Saleh, you got the experience, now you know what it feels like.”
After that, I went into my full cleaning mode. I cried as I washed the dishes, thinking of my promise to Samer, my little spiderman. I broke a couple of trinkets dusting. I threw books from the shelves. I finally calmed down, realizing that the song ‘Killing in the Name Of’ was playing loudly in my ears. I finish university for good in another three weeks, completing the most useless years in my life in three not four. Did he mean then, or in August where the stupid little graduation ceremony was going to take place? Life gives you lemons, turn them into lemonade. Yes, there are other things I could do within the borders of Ramallah. I breathed.

One thought on “From a young Palestinian: On Joining the Friday protest in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank

  1. “We don’t instigate and we don’t taunt the soldiers, we just stand there chanting”,… i think i understand your father point of view, and i KNOW that u’ll never understand what he is talking about, not because you can’t, but because you clearly still think ,.. no,… BeliEVE ! ,… that he is telling you all of this just because he is worried about you and he doesn’t want you to get hurt,… and thats not the whole case here.

    he’s really tellin’ you this because its ,… let me put it this way “it’s more useless than useful”,… way,… waaay more,… i red your letter several times ,… your WORDS !!! ,… damn you’re GOOD !! That is a Gift my friend !! use IT, not all people can write this way, instead of what you call “just standin’ there chanting”,… you can make -way- much more difference in this world by these words than “just standin’ there chanting”,…

    try to think of this from another perspective, if anything went worng while you were there (and it could easily happen) things will change so fast, in a rhythm that you wont see happening, and it would be such a loss if this world losses you that way, and you wont be able to forgive your self coz of what will happen to your father then, and one more thing, you have to know that “What was taken by force, can only be restored by force” and history can easily teach you that “politics solves NTHN” !

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