Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tel Aviv strikes me as a alot of things. Beautiful, modern, lively, pedestrian-friendly...but it struck me most as romantic. You can spend an hour walking along the beach past restaurants, gelato shops, volleyball courts, marinas, playgrounds, work-out stations, ropes courses, the inevitable memorial statue, and really amazing sand. So fine. Everyone was out and about, biking, jogging, drum circling, eliptical-ing, eating, canoodling. Yeah, there was a lot of canoodling. I walked for three hours. Every five minutes or so I'd see something new and exclaim how unfair it was that Tel Aviv was so cool. I wonder how my West Bank experience would have been different if I'd done Tel Aviv first. I wonder what my Palestinian friends would think of Tel Aviv-Yafo. It bothers me that they're not allowed to visit the Mediterranean.

Tomorrow's my last day. I'm planning on visiting the Etzel Irgun museum for the Liberation of Yafo tomorrow, then I was hoping to find something akin to a Nakba museum for a counter-narrative, but there doesn't seem to be such a thing. I wonder if someday Nakba denial will be considered abominable, or at least politically incorrect. For now I am perusing the Nakba Archive.

Other things floating around the web:

First Planned Palestinian City Being Built
The PA is using Israeli firms to help construct the city of Rawabi, provided their materials don't originate from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This pissed off the settlers something awful. Haha!

On a more somber note, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy addressed the Alternative Information Center in Beit Sahour (missed that stop, whoops), saying that he sees little hope for peace because settlers remain the strongest voice for Israel.

"When it comes to the unofficial religion of Israel, namely security…the Israeli media has betrayed its mission. Many foreigners who come here are amazed to see how little the Israelis discuss their future, how little they know what’s going on a half an hour away from their homes, how little they want to know, how little they care."
...Read More

Some guy on a bike, born and raised in Tel Aviv, struck up a conversation with me and when I mentioned I'd been in Palestine for two weeks he asked, "What is that, like Gaza?" Hard to say how much of that was cluelessness and how much was collective denial that the West Bank is Palestine. I'm thinking both.

Thirdly...Am I Allowed to be a Palestinian Jew?-a great article on the oversimplified and dangerously dichotomous views promoted in Israel about Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and other words, a much-needed mindf*%k.

Finally, a picture from the Beitin demonstration. More will follow as I get in contact with my friends from France...
My first trip to Palestine has left me discouraged, confused, and at times just seething mad, but somewhere in the last two days I found the thread in my jumble of thoughts, my take-away, my inspiration. It lies in my evolving understanding of resistance in Palestine. When I arrived, I only knew that it was justified.

Al-Aqaba (Dec.20-22)

I arrived in the village of Al-Aqaba with a feeling of utter doom. The mayor, Haj Sami had picked me up from Ramallah and I had spent the last hour looking out the window at settlements, checkpoints and refugee camps. Now, perched on a hilltop in a corner of the West Bank between two Israeli military bases, I didn't know how much inspiration this little town could bring. I really had no idea. Then I learned that the village was the first to win a case against the Israeli high court, to remove a military base from its entrance. Soldiers used to raid the village as practice before their incursions into South Lebanon, and dozens of people had been killed and injured; Haj Sami himself was shot and paralyzed from the waist down. In spite of this history, the village is hopeful for a better future. Organizations and embassies from Japan, Europe and the United States have donated money and resources to improve its infrastructure, which includes a new kindergarten, sewing cooperative, and housing for teachers. Haj Sami has a master plan for Al-Aqaba to expand, even though most of the village, being located in Area C, is slated for demolition. I asked him if he could build in secret, but he said that Israeli soldiers inspect the village periodically to look for new structures to demolish. With the financial and legal support of the international community, I believe Haj Sami and the village will realize their dream, and I myself plan to return next year to teach English.

One evening, I was walking up the hill to Al-Aqaba with Haj Sami, my brother and two boys from the village, and Haj Sami brought us up an alternative road, one that had just been paved by the Palestinian Authority. He showed us where the old military camp was and pointed out his new roads and told us about the new gift of sheep the village had received. The sun was setting on the hills above the Jordan valley, and I stopped to watch the three boys and Haj Sami as he steered his wheelchair up the road and talked about his plan for the village land. This is a beautiful place, I thought, and its resistance is beautiful.

Bethlehem and Beit Sahour (Dec 23-26)

I came to Bethlehem expecting a city of peace, a sacred place. It was a personal trip, to see the "Little Town" I'd sung about every Christmas, and a way to connect Palestine to my New Orleans, a very Christian city. The lights were shining bright in Bethlehem, but the shadow of the Occupation became darker and darker the longer I stayed. I learned that my contact, professor Mazin Qumsiyeh had been arrested nearby in al-Walaja village for showing up in opposition to its demolition. I was able to meet him a few days later and learn about the struggles faced in the Bethlehem district. Because of the settlements, highways and expanding Apartheid walls, Bethlehem has already lost 87% of its land and is in the process of being boxed in and ghettoized. Mazin showed me the village of al-Walaja, which stands in the path of the wall. Unlike two neighboring settlements, the village doesn't appear on Hebrew street signs, and what's left after the wall will be closed in on all sides. After absorbing all of this information, I couldn't enjoy the lights in Manger Square. "Albi thaqil," I told a shopkeeper, "my heart is heavy."

Again I was inspired. The following night, The Shepherd's Night program in neighboring Beit Sahour invited Christmas visitors to support the preservation of Palestinian culture. The night began with a parade of local schoolchildren playing bagpipes and drums and wielding Palestinian flags, then evolved into a candlelit procession for locals and internationals carrying banners that read "Light a Candle for Palestinian Statehood." The walk ended at Shepherd's Field with a performance by a Palestinian dance troupe that combined traditional and modern dance with themes of loss, occupation and return. For return, the dancers moved in unison with hands behind their backs. One dance portrayed a colorful harvest celebration, in days when Bethlehem still possessed its agricultural land. The program succeeded in showing the community and visiting internationals that this culture will never disappear. This culture is not one of fear or hatred. It is proudly Palestinian, and its resistance is the dance of love.

Bil'in and Beitin (Dec 26-27)

For two days I joined the company of 80 or so French activists who had traveled to Palestine to learn and to demonstrate, and I found myself on the road to protest in Bil'in and Beitin. As our bus snaked through the hills, a local guide gave us the run-down on settlement activity, noting that villagers who tend to their olive trees on the outskirts of the settlements risk being shot by soldiers. As our bus pulled in Bil'in, my heart was so heavy that I gathered up my things to leave. I just wanted to check into a hostel in Jerusalem and hide within the alleys of the Old City. I was sick of Palestine and Israel and the whole mess. But I stayed. We were going to eat Maklubeh with a local family, then plant olive trees near the wall. It sounded so nice.

And it was. The procession was beautiful, with the town of Bil'in and dozens of French activist in bright green Free Palestine vests walking down the hill, waving flags and little olive trees. We saw the wire fence that marked the path of the wall, and the Israeli soldiers watching us behind it. I didn't know what to expect, but I didn't expect them to fire tear gas canisters at the mere sight of us. It was a nauseating and exhilarating moment, when our guide gestured for us to walk to the left, up towards the fence. I saw empty canisters on the ground, and somehow had faith that everything would be alright. The next ten minutes saw us all along the fence, planting trees. The village boys were braver. They took two trees past the fence and into the path of the wall and after digging furiously, decorated them with a ring of empty canisters. Then they started. The first sound bomb was deafening. I plugged my ears and started scrambling down the hill, but stopped dead when I heard the pfft pfft of tear gas canisters.

"Look to the sky!" shouted our guide from Bil'in. I looked up. The canisters left a streak of smoke in the sky before spinning rapidly like a firecracker and thudding into the ground. I thought of the girl who lost an eye, and the guy who suffered brain damage, and I didn’t know whether to stand still and watch or continue rock scrambling with my back turned. But at that moment, I was thinking more about those words, look to the sky. The night before I had looked to the night sky in Bethlehem and thought of Robert Frost: "so when the mighty mob is swayed to carry praise or blame too far, we may choose something like a star, to stay our minds on and be stayed." It was ironic, with the spinning canister.

And it was a fact of life. I stood halfway up the hill to Bil'in watching tear gas fall in front of retreating protestors. I saw an elderly French woman walk blindly out of the gas cloud coughing, as the village doctor handed her cotton swabs soaked in alcohol to inhale. I fought back naturally-induced tears, then smiled as I noticed the boys of Bil'in socializing on the hill side as if this was what they did every week. I remembered what some say about Palestinian culture…it isn't a culture if it's just a response. Bil'in's is a culture of resistance, it is beautiful, and it is made from love. Resistance is an existence.

I found the same to be true in Beitin, a community protesting the closing of their road to Ramallah. As a few of us slipped between soldiers toward the second checkpoint on the Israeli-only road, a little boy waving a Palestinian flag shouted, "Yalla al-Ramallah!" and my heart melted. What if we were actually able to walk into Ramallah? Then the soldiers went pfft pfft and we all ran back up the hill, stumbling and coughing out of plumes of gas that had landed between us and safety.

Apparently onions are also good to inhale.

So it's been a challenging trip, a heart-wrenching trip, but liberating in the end because I saw beauty in something new. I will continue to stay my mind on the people I've met here in Palestine, and work for a day when they can go to Ramallah on any road they choose.

Monday, December 27, 2010

In memory

Of the 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed in Occupation Cast Lead.

Letter from Gaza Civil Society Institutions to the International community

Mondoweiss: Childrens Pictures of the Devastating Assault on Gaza

Skip Schiel: BDS, ISM, and the Samouni Family

Israeli Activist Sentenced to 3 Months In Prison For Protesting Gaza War

Petition to Obama-U.S.Campaign Against the Israeli Occupation

Petition to Obama-Jewish Fast for Gaza
I'm pretty behind on this thing. It's not that I don't have time or internet access, I'm just reluctant to summarize everything that's happened without taking the time to express them meaningfully. But a compromise must be reached. This is getting lame.

Bethlehem was lovely, and discouraging. Tris and I attended a Lutheran Christmas service in Arabic, English and German, and I got to be part of the Palestinian Christian community, something I knew very little about. Toss aside the American thing, I've always felt that being Christian carried a privilege, so the struggle of Bethlehem's Christians really hit home for me. It doesn't matter if you're Christian, if you're an Arab in Palestine, you're in the process of being ethnically cleansed and ghetto-ized. Many of them are beating Israel to the punch and leaving for greener pastures, if they have the means. So in spite of all the Christmas cheer, it's not a city of joy or peace.

I've spent the last 24 hours with a French delegation that's protesting all around the West Bank. After having lunch with Mazin (yes, he is free!), I decided to proceed northward with them. There have been two demonstrations and I had my first run-in with tear gas. And no, I didn't do anything that warranted it.

I'll go more in depth later, I just got into Nablus again to pick up the passport I left at the hotel. Classic. Time to have some Kanafe and meet up with the French. It's really cool to hear the language of resistance in yet another language. They call the settlements colonies. And I like the way they say fascist. faSHEEST.

One more night in the West Bank then Westward toward Tel Aviv. I think I'll save the detailed stuff for New Orleans but I'll check in one more time. Stoked to see the lemon tree in Ramla.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Israel/West Bank: Separate and Unequal
Under Discriminatory Policies, Settlers Flourish, Palestinians Suffer

Human Rights Watch article

"Palestinian children in areas under Israeli control are studying by candlelight while watching the electric lights in settlers' windows," Bogert said. "Pretending that depriving Palestinian kids of access to schools or water or electricity has something to do with security is absurd."

In most cases where Israel has acknowledged differential treatment of Palestinians - such as when it bars them from "settler-only" roads - it has asserted that the measures are necessary to protect Jewish settlers and other Israelis who are subject to periodic attacks by Palestinian armed groups. But no security or other legitimate rationale can explain the vast scale of differential treatment of Palestinians, such as permit denials that effectively prohibit Palestinians from building or repairing homes, schools, roads, and water tanks, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its recommendation that the United States, which provides US$2.75 billion in aid to Israel annually, should suspend financing to Israel in an amount equivalent to the costs of Israel's spending in support of settlements, which a 2003 study estimated at $1.4 billion. Similarly, based on numerous reports that US tax-exempt organizations provide substantial contributions to support settlements, the report urges the US to verify that such tax-exemptions are consistent with US obligations to ensure respect for international law, including prohibitions against discrimination.

Mazin released

Friday, December 24, 2010

I won't be able to meet with one of my contacts in Bethlehem. While scrolling through headlines on Mondoweiss I learned that Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh has been arrested by the Israeli military.

Here's the article from Salam News:
Israelis Arrest Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh and Others Again During Peaceful Protest
Mazin was not reachable by phone after that for two hours.

Then I reached him by phone and took down some notes from him during a short conversation.

He said that they are detained outside Bethlehem Checkpoint 300 at the time. An Israeli soldier named Almog Kahalani was very rough with them.

He beat the two young Palestinian men, causing stomach problems for one. The soldiers were very rough with Sheerin, which I could hear in the background while talking with Mazin on the phone.

Three of them had metal handcuffs, he and the rest were tied with plastic handcuffs that was very tight and causing circulation problem. A young men's handcuff was so unbearably tight but Israeli soldiers refused to loosen it.

The soldiers had just untied the plastic ones after about two hours (but kept the metal ones on the other three, Sheerin was one of them) and that's why Mazin was able to use his hand to hold his phone and speak with me.

They were asked to sign on a piece of paper (don't know what's the content but must be in Hebrew that nobody understand). But every one of them refused to sign as advised by a Palestinian lawyer who was present there.

While detained, they tried to speak to the soldiers about international law, but the soldiers were saying that, "they don't give a f--- about international law" and "you people" and they only care about obeying orders.

Mazin reasoned to them that German soldiers were also "obeying orders" during the Nazi regime. The Israeli solders responded by saying that German soldiers would have shot you by now.

Another hour later, I got another update from Mazin that they have been transferred to Atarot (I don't know where is this, but people familiar with this said it is near Ramallah.) They are waiting to appear in front of a judge. They are cold and hungry. The Israeli personnel there sprayed cold water on them, claiming it is an accident.

Mazin said via another call, that three arrested from Jenin joined them, bringing the total number to eleven at Atarot detention.

Mazin asked you all to keep Al-Walaja people and village in your prayers. We should be proud of the villager's nonviolent resistance effort.

Israeli soldiers arresting Shereen Al-Araj, a local activist

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Message 2010
By the Mayor of Bethlehem

Wondrous is this time of year, full of joy and cheer. We prepare ourselves to receive the glorious season in order to renew faith, to celebrate God's biggest gift to mankind and to launch the Christmas message from Bethlehem, the place where it all started.

The never ending honor that God bestowed upon Bethlehem is clearly demonstrated with the birth of our lord Jesus Christ and his message of eternal love, peace and justice.

We hear the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play, wild and sweet, the words repeat: "Peace on earth, good will to men." However, these sounds are hindered by the closure of the town of the Nativity and the separation wall that has cut a 2000 year old relation between Bethlehem and its twin Jerusalem. Ironically the city of peace is missing this noble virtue. Countless difficulties and disasters we face along the years. Nonetheless, we strive on hope, hope for a tranquil situation where justice is fulfilled.

Giving this message, I would like to thank all pilgrims who visited our little town over the course of the past years. We call on them to keep Bethlehem in their minds and prayers and we urge all Christians all over the world to come back to where their roots are stretched, breaking those walls of separation, psychologically rather than physically.

I pray that the year 2011 would be a year of prosperity and tranquility, without any political disturbances and that peace will prevail in the Holy Land and the whole world.

Merry Christmas,
Dr. Victor Batarseh
Mayor of Bethlehem
This trip has been all about opening doors, and thus far it's been incredibly successful. Every school, organization, and person I've met has stayed with me and made me want to stay. Which means I'll be coming back next September. It's a relief, because I had some doubts over how comfortable I would be here. Here were a few deciding factors:
-All of my hosts (whether planned or spontaneous) have showed me tremendous hospitality. My comfort scale has actually oscillated on this one because I'm not allowed to lift a finger or pay for anything.
"Can | buy this?"
"Haha. No."
"Oh. Ok."
"It it yours."

-I have also eaten like a queen. A very, very fat queen. There's no praise for belonging to the Clean Plate Club here. You will get a second serving, and a third, and a fourth. I've learned to eat very slowly.

-I've gotten better at Arabic in the last week. More importantly, I've gotten better at Charades. Trying to act out "My brother has contracted a parasite" has been hard to communicate both efficiently and respectfully.

-I've been moved, negatively and positively. Riding the bus from Nablus to Bethlehem was physically painful. It was surreal, riding in a shared taxi-van blasting an Arab pop radio station that jubilantly used the word "Filisteen" between songs, while having to use Israeli highways with Hebrew signs and watch settlement construction slowly eat away at the future of Filisteen. I'm amazed that Palestinians are able to carry that emotional weight everyday.

-But I've been inspired. Everyone I've met, both local and international, has dedicated themselves to peace--through education, infrastructure and activism. The finest example is Haj Sami of al-Aqaba. I'll have to save a post for him.

Tris and I are now in Bethlehem. We'll be here for the next 2.5 days, enjoying the Christmas festivities, visiting some contacts and venturing out to Hebron or Jericho for a day trip. Bethlehem is not what I expected. I naively envisioned a "little town" in the desert, straight out of the New Testament, plus some hotels and restaurants for Christian tourists. On the upside, Bethlehem is the prettiest Palestinian city we've seen, thanks to sister city projects and support from the international community. The birthplace of Jesus is a pretty easy sell. On the downside, Christmas tourism and a potentially blind decorating committee have left Manger Square bedecked with horrendously-placed blinky lights.

These little updates to my nostalgic vision, whether good or not-so-good, have left me inspired. What do Christians in New Orleans know about Bethlehem? What do they assume about its location, people, current issues? If my world has been rocked, maybe I could rock theirs as well. I'm thinking an Epiphany presentation on January 6th....insh'allah. God willing.

Epiphany. There's a double meaning in that....
Love from the Holy Land,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Currently in a little hotel in Nablus. I wrote this entry in a mini-notebook at 2am after getting into al-Aqaba. More on that later.

December 20, 2010
I just finished reading The Lemon Tree's chapter entitled "Expulsion," which attempts to boil down th most complex 12 years of Palestine's history into 25 pages. I re-read it for three reasons:
1) I'd forgotton most of it
2) I'd visited a monument in Be'er Sheva with Israeli friends a few days prior and unsuccessfully tried to spark a discussion on the accuracy of the site's plaque, which hailed the victory of bedraggled Jewish forces against superior Arab forces. I didn't bring up the motives for that narrative (it was awkward enough), but I tried to explain that the Arab side was also fractured. In other words, it wasn't the Goliath it has been made out to be. I tested the water a lot in Be'er Sheva, but I found it's pretty useless to muddy it unless you know how far you're going. But the experience left me determined to know more.
3) I just arrived in al-Aqaba, in the Northeast corner of the West Bank, and the drive from Ramallah, I'll never forget was horrifying. You can say what you want about corruption and terrorism in the Arab world, but I've seen no finer examples than those of the Israeli occupation and settlement expansion. I felt the first twinge of anxiety when we passed from Area A to Area C and the signs reverted back to Hebrew. Wait, aren't we still in Palestine? Then Haj Sami pointed out an Israeli settlement. Ah, ok. There they are. Then a bigger one, and a bigger one, all perched on hilltops. Then he gestured to the left, where we saw a checkpoint with Israeli flags flying, and young soldiers waving cars up a long, winding street that disappeared over a hill. Welcome home, to your hidden suburb. Welcome home to the New Israel.
Further down the road was a sign that read "Samaritan University" and "Ariel," the settlement so big its cultural center has become the subject of a world-wide cultural boycott. Tris turned to me and asked, "nervous?" I'd been chewing on my straw, apparently very audibly. As it got darker we passed a refugee camp, which looked like concrete projects with a major trash problem and a lot of really listless people walking around. At the edge of the camp there was a stone monument written in Arabic topped with the number 194.
Every Palestinian village in Area C looked neglected and forlorn, places I can't imagine anyone wanting to live. And you wouldn't either, if you were forbidden by occupation forces to build on your own land, your commute involved an unpredictable and discriminatory checkpoint wait (while settlers drive by in their own lanes), and your water supply was limited by the sprinklers and swimming pools of a nearby settlement that you can't even see. I can imagine why someone in Area C would leave, maybe for Jordan, or the Gulf, or the States. Then I remember that the settlements are expanding, and many West Bankers who leave are denied re-entry. Then I remember it's not a coincidence, the flag, the signs, the 20-year-old girl with the gun, the lights on the hilltop, the blatant discrimination, the mass humiliation. Then I can imagine why someone would want to live in a forlorn village in Area C.
"This is why I wait the long lines at airport security in Tel Aviv. This is why I put up with all of it," said a Palestinian American student at the General Assemby protest last month. "They're not going to scare me away."
4) The Lemon Tree was the only book I brought.

We've had a wonderful evening in al-Aqaba. Haj Sami, the mayor, has welcomed me and Tristan as guests of honor, and we'll be visiting the new kindergarten and secondary school in the morning. The village is perched on its own hilltop so I should wake up to an amazing view tomorow, though I'm a little apprehensive about what I might see.

The chapter leaves off with a scene from Ramallah in 1948: "Now tens of thousands of refugees milled about, stunned and humiliated, looking for food and determined to return home."

Sixty two and a half years later I traveled an hour northeast of Ramallah and saw settlements, training camps and Israeli checkpoints in Palestine. And a refugee camp that still asks for UN Resolution 194, the right to return.

So, here I am, in the corner of Palestine, on top of a hill. I usually like the feeling of putting a book down and living in another world while I fall asleep. It's just odd knowing that I'm not going to wake up from this one.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Josh Ruebner-House Vote Against Palestinian Statehood Actually Showed That Israel Lobby Is Losing Its Grip

From the Mondoweiss article:
Most Congressional offices did not even see the text of the resolution until a few hours prior to the vote. Many Congressional offices were reportedly infuriated that such an important foreign policy declaration was being treated in such an inconsiderate manner.

The ability of the Israel lobby to pass a resolution before the text of it is even officially made public undoubtedly reflects its still-considerable power. However, the way in which the resolution was debated and voted upon demonstrates that all is not well in the fairy tale world of Israel’s supporters on Capitol Hill.

Berman, who managed the debate on the House floor for the Democrats, appeared flustered and befuddled as he looked repeatedly and anxiously around the chamber for Representatives to appear magically to speak on behalf of the resolution. In the end, Berman mustered only himself and three other Jewish Representatives—Gary Ackerman, Eliot Engel, and Shelley Berkley—to offer full-throated support for the resolution.

The racism and paternalism of these Representatives’ statements make clear why so few of their colleagues wanted to associate themselves with this resolution. Berman patently knows what is best for Palestinians: “The Palestinian people don’t want a bunch of declarations of statehood.”

I suggest....we put it to a vote in a few years time, when "Palestine" is chopped up into 100 pieces by the illegal settlements that your constituents are paying for!

I took some liberties with the last bit. Thanks California, for electing such a huge twat.
I need to start recognizing the words "Log In" in Hebrew. I'm wasting a lot of minutes.

Right now I'm at the Citadel Youth Hostel in Jerusalem. I almost stayed here in March 08 (on the roof no less) but our group decided to crash at Hebrew University instead. This hostel is awesome. It's a cavernous labyrinth of stairs and kitchens and dorm rooms, with two rooftop areas that overlook the whole city. I need to take a video of the journey upstairs, as well as one of the Old City. I'd love to live in the Old City for the same reason I'd love to live in the French Quarter. The houses are embedded within the city, with courtyards and balconies and tiny staircases....and they're in the middle of everything.

I'll update more tomorrow. On to Ramallah.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tris and I were going to sleep at the Center of Light last night, but another couple, Roay and Adra, offered us a room at their place. Everyone has been so generous.

Yesterday we had lunch with Achi (Achechod, I'd spell it, but I had a little trouble with the pronunication) who volunteers at the Center of Light and is really into vegan and raw foods. We made a huge salad and a mixture of buckwheat, sweet potato, honey, cinammon and coconut. Definitely a feel-good meal. Most interesting part was when I used Achi's phone to call my contacts on the West Bank, and the mayor of al-Aqaba called Achi to reach me. Afterwards when I explained why I was a little anxious about using his phone, Achi looked at his call log and exclaimed, "I got a call from a Palestinian prefix! That's the first time!"

That's the third number to add to my list.
194-Resolution for Right of Return after 1948
242-Resolution for withdrawal of territories occupied in 1967
059-Palestinian area code, or "prefix"

Last night was my first Shabbat celebration. This place, the Markaz al-Hour, does an alternative Shabbat, with candles, singing and a LOT of food. Everyone wore white. The songs were beautiful (Tris and I sang with an English cheat sheet), the food was incredible, and everyone was warm and welcoming. I loved watching this little (almost) 3-year-old girl who knew the words to all the songs and gossipped with the adults like she was 20-something. Her language and personality are so well developed! Tris says it's because she's so nurtured by the community at the Center of Light. Her dad calls her the queen of the Markaz. Her dad also looks like Paul Newman.

I can tell Tris has really been touched by the community too. Almost everyone there came up to me and asked, "You're Tristan's sister? Shabbat Shalom!"

After dinner we had a big jam session with guitars and drums and I taught them Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robot.

We're headed north to Jerusalem soon. I'm so glad to have spent the first two days in Israel with Tristan's friends, this trip would've been incomplete if I had only met with Palestinians.
Until next time, Shabbat Shalom from Be'er Sheva,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 1

What I've learned of Hebrew thus far:

Ani lo midaber ivrit
I don't speak Hebrew

Ata midaber anglit?
Do you speak English?

I've had a tough time navigating Israel with only English. After getting off the airport train to Tel Aviv, I gave up asking people for directions and just wandered around and got lost before calling a cab to the bus station, which is on the 6th floor of a really interesting shopping mall. The words that came to mind were "post-apocolyptic." This might've had to do with my uninformed image of Tel Aviv as a pristine city, but seriously, it was nighttime and I was between the train and bus station.

Thankfully, my friends from the plane helped me deposit my shekles into a pay phone and call my brother's friends, who talked me over to Be'er Sheva. Three hours, three forms of transportation and many shekles later, I met up with Tristan and now we're at the house of Amir and Yasmine. Amir is a musician; he has a room full of guitars and intruments that are like guitars that have names I can't remember. He played some of his flamenco-inspired tunes for us and damn...he is good. Yasmina is an art history student at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and she paints...also very well. We hung out, talked, played guitar, watched Babylon A.D. (haha) and now it's 2:30am or so. Tomorrow is Shabbat so things close early, but there's a big bonfire/music/food celebration that these cats (so Tris calls them) attend, so that will be awesome. Saturday night we make our way to Jerusalem, Ramallah, then to al-Aqaba. Provided I can acquire a cell phone and get in touch with everyone in my little notebook. I have a jillion things jotted down already. Like

Everyone is surprised that I want to go to the West Bank.

Great roads, great trains, great buses. Very Western feel.

From the birds-eye view of lit-up soccer stadiums to the fridge magnets in Amir and Yasmine's house, everything tells me that lives are established here. It's a young country, but it's anchored. The first thought I had coming out of the airport was, what would this place look like now under Arab rule? Would they have put all this together? Is this the ideal? Is there any use wondering, because we'll never know? I wonder because I used my extended layover in Atlanta to finish The Lemon Tree. Dalia started an interfaith school with the house built by Bashir's father, and Bashir remained in Ramallah at 60-something, still unable to return to Ramla. He still wished for the right of return for all Palestinians under UN Resolution 194. So I wonder what he yearns for, among the now-established soccer stadiums and refrigerator magnets scrawled in Hebrew. I note this anchored-ness everywhere, like I'm carrying Bashir's thoughts with me. My thoughts feel intrusive, un-welcome. I'm starting to understand the Palestinian sacrifice. Thoughts and feelings have to be sorted into productive and unproductive, legitimate and illegitimate. I feel that in the end, the only question I have the power to ask is, what knowledge and what skills do I posess that can bring peace?

I feel so defeated, having to throw my questions out like that.

Every sign of anchored-ness is a sign of victory, but there's a lot of fear here, fear that victory didn't bring freedom. Israel will never be free while Palestine suffers, because it will always be afraid.

Dalia says at the end of The Lemon Tree, "Our enemy is the only partner we have."

The highway signs pointing to Jerusalem gave a transliteration of Jerusalem in Arabic under the Hebrew, with "Al-Quds" in parentheses. Erasing Palestinian claims to the city by parenthesising their name for it....I heard this on NPR last year.

And now I'm here. Finally.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I'm about to head to school to teach my last class of the year. Til then, I'm jotting contacts down in my little book. Everyone I've e-mailed has been so welcoming.

Also on the list:

George Rishmawi and the Siraj Center in Beit Sahour

Mazin Qumsiyah

Samar Sahhar from the Lazarus Home for Girls in Bethany

The Palestinian Children's Relief Fund

The Latin school in Taibe

I'll be spending the first two nights in Be'er Sheva with my brother. From there, it's on to Ramallah, Al-Aqaba, Nablus and Jenin. Then Christmas in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Here goes!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm leaving in two days. This is so trippy.

I just taxied my way to Kenner to see George Galloway speak at a gathering for the Muslim Legal Fund of America. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this event, but I was blown away. George couldn't even be there. He was denied entry in the United States, and we don't know if that was a fluke, or if the United States followed Canada in banning him from the country. It seems the Canadian government took issue with his humanitarian work in Gaza, alleging he had given financial and material support to Hamas. That seemed to be the theme of the evening, the tragic implications of that blurry line in Palestine between providing aid and funding terrorism.

I was most impressed by the daughter of Shukri Abu Baker, the President of the Holy Land Foundation. Her father was sentenced to 65 years in prison, after George W. announced that the HLF was at its core a direct supporter of Hamas. Eventually the Foundation was closed on charges of conspiracy to fund Hamas. Hundreds of other organizations, including CAIR and ISNA were labeled as "unindicted co-conspirators," and are still smeared by that label today. Abu Baker's daughter went up and recounted her father's arrest and trial. The FBI stormed their house and rounded up wife and daughters, whom another speaker described as Muslim women in nightgowns with their head scarves not properly on...and handcuffed Abu Baker against a wall. Her account of hearing the prosecution, hearing the verdict, visiting him in a maximum security prison, was just heartbreaking. And moreso now that I've spent some time surfing the internet on the Holy Land Foundation and for some reason, Bush's allegations are still quoted as fact.

If there's one thing we took away from the evening, it's that the MLF is doing incredible work, and injustice only makes the fight for justice stronger. Mr. Galloway was able to join us via Skype and reaffirm his committment to Palestinian equal rights, and everyone in the room was strengthened by the courage of the HLF 5, who are sleeping in prison cells because they raised millions of dollars to feed starving children in Gaza.

Non-Muslims were in the minority, and I was most certainly the blondest person there. I think about that a fair bit. That maybe I was passed the megaphone because I represent a target audience. I use it all the time, I actually get a kick out of it. But tonight I started dwelling on Rachel Corrie, another 23-year-old blonde American from Washington. I always feel like my profile is unique, then I'm reminded of her.

I need to start packing.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hands Off Iberville

I got this e-mail today...

Dear Iberville Supporters,

The campaign grows to demand the Obama administration not approve a grant to demolish New Orleans Iberville Public Housing development.

Enclosed is the flier for the Saturday, December 18 press conference, march and rally to defend Iberville and demand a new massive direct government employment public words program to address the jobs, housing, health care and general social crisis confronting New Orleans’ and the US working class.

No Demolition!
Hands Off Iberville!

David Gilmore, the federally-imposed-administrator of the Housing Authority of New Orleans, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, want to make life even more miserable for working class New Orleanians by demolishing the Iberville Public Housing development. To add insult to injury they have given the contract to greedy developer Pres Kabacoff, who drove hundreds of poor families from St. Thomas and still, a decade later, has not built the 100 off site apartment he promised. But, to carry out their crime, HANO, Landrieu, and Kabacoff need a multi-million dollar grant from the Department of Housing Urban Development. Join us Saturday, December 18 as we demand:
· No to a HUD Choice Neighborhood grant to demolish Iberville
· Yes to a massive public works program to rebuild Public Housing, Schools, Hospitals and Infrastructure

Press Conference, Rally and March
Saturday, December 18
12 Noon
Meet on neutral ground, corner of St Louis and Basin St.

Sponsor: Hands Off Iberville. For more information call 504-520-9521

The trip

My itinerary is starting to take shape!

15th-leave New Orleans
16th-arrive in Tel Aviv, explore the city
17th-meet up with brother, travel to Haifa, climb Mt. Carmel, explore
18th-Jerusalem-visit schools, organizations, shop at the shouk, hopefully get onto the Temple Mount, explore
19th-Cross border to Ramallah, meet my friend's son and learn about his work as a contractor for international building efforts in the West Bank
20th-(tentative) meet with leader of Al-Aqaba, drive to Area C
21st-Al-Aqaba-see the new kindergarten, co-op, teacher housing facility, learn about building projects

22nd-return to Ramallah
24th-Bethlehem, Jerusalem
30th-Tel Aviv, depart 11pm
31st-arrive in New Orleans 9:20am. Take a nap.

In those empty spaces I'll be visiting Nablus, Jenin, Jericho, Hebron, Beit Sahour, Bethany, to learn about schools, NGO's, grassroots movements, protests, settlements, etc. A few stops will be:

Tomorrow's Youth Organization, Nablus
Project Hope, Nablus
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land
Dar al Kalima College, Bethlehem
The Freedom Theatre, Jenin
The Friends School, Ramallah
Birzeit University, Birzeit
All Nations Cafe, Ein Heniya

Monday, December 6, 2010

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe gave a talk in Stuttgart, Germany last week. He asserts that while Israeli pro-peace leaders are doing valuable work in challenging the occupation and recognizing the Nakba and using words like "ethnic cleansing" and "apartheid," they aren't doing enough because they often stop short of challenging Zionism as an ideology. This mindset, says Pappe, which has changed little since 1882, is all about ending up with as much of Palestine as possible, with as few Arabs as possible. In short, Zionism is antithetical to peace because it is inherently racist.

If you agree, if you disagree, if you don't even know where to begin, check out Professor Pappe's lecture. I like his style. He's good at bringing out the absurdity of it all. Like, it would be funny....if it weren't so horrendous...?

"Once you liberate yourself from a ideology that was sacred in your eyes, and made you do things that you regret, once you are on the other side of the mirror, you feel.…you almost feel fortunate to be able to experience such a journey."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brazil Recognizes Palestine

Israel has expressed disappointment at Brazil's decision to recognise a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, saying it flew in the face of efforts to negotiate a peace deal.

In a public letter addressed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on Friday, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, recognised Palestine as an independent state within the 1967 borders.

The decision came in response to a personal request made by Abbas on November 24, according to the letter published on the foreign ministry's website on Friday.

"Considering that the demand presented by his excellency [Abbas] is just and consistent with the principles upheld by Brazil with regard to the Palestinian issue, Brazil, through this letter, recognises a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders," it said.

The letter refers to the "legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people for a secure, united, democratic and economically viable state coexisting peacefully with Israel."

Israel anger

Israel has expressed disappointment at Brazil's decision to recognise a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, saying it flew in the face of efforts to negotiate a peace deal.

In a public letter addressed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on Friday, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, recognised Palestine as an independent state within the 1967 borders.

The decision came in response to a personal request made by Abbas on November 24, according to the letter published on the foreign ministry's website on Friday.

"Considering that the demand presented by his excellency [Abbas] is just and consistent with the principles upheld by Brazil with regard to the Palestinian issue, Brazil, through this letter, recognises a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders," it said.

The letter refers to the "legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people for a secure, united, democratic and economically viable state coexisting peacefully with Israel."

Al Jazeera Article

Addition: From JTA article:

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the incoming chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee, also expressed her objections, as did Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the outgoing chairman of the Latin America subcommittee.

“Brazil’s decision to recognize a Palestinian state is regrettable and will only serve to undermine peace and security in the Middle East," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

Engel blamed the decision on the leftward tilt of Brazil's outgoing government.

"Brazil's decision to recognize Palestine is severely misguided and represents a last gasp by a Lula-led foreign policy which was already substantially off track," Engel said in a statement. "One can only hope that the new leadership coming into Brazil will change course and understand that this is not the way to gain favor as an emerging power or to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gaza City, Skip Schiel

When I was in Jordan I bought a lot of pirated DVD's. After dinner I would avoid the awkwardness of trying to converse with my host family by jumping in bed with Across the Universe or No Country For Old Men or whatever had looked appealing at one of the myriad movie stores downtown. This was a pretty lame trend, as my Arabic will reflect, but moving day I saw a movie called Imagining Argentina. It starred Antonio Banderas and my favorite actress, Emma Thompson. So I bought it for a dinar. Emma's Argentine accent wasn't the greatest, but I got it because it was about the dirty war in Argentina. Backtrack: When I was in Buenos Aires I went to see the "Madres de los Desaparecidos," the Mothers of the Disappeared who still march with photographs in La Plaza de Mayo every week. They're still looking for news of their children who were among the roughly 30,000 people who were "disappeared" by the government between 1976 and 1984. I researched the war out of morbid curiosity and found out that to this day the witnesses in these disappearance trials are disappearing themselves. So it was an interesting movie, but the only reason I'm grateful for having purchased it is the song at the end. It was a Portugese song, translated into Spanish by Mercedes Sosa, and covered by Antonio himself. It was gorgeous. I downloaded a fuzzy version off some obscure website and it took a few years of unproductive appreciation to sit down and translate it.

Maria, María
Es un don, es el sueño, el dolor
Y una fuerza que nos alerta
Una mujer que merece
Vivir y amar como otra mujer del planeta

Maria, María
Es el sol, es color, es sudor
Y una lagrima que corre lenta
De una gente que ríe
Cuando debe llorar
Y no vive, apenas aguanta.

Pero hace falta la fuerza
Hace falta la raza
Hacen falta las ganas, siempre
Dentro del cuerpo y las marcas
Maria, María
Confunde dolor y alegría.

Pero hace falta la maña
Hace falta la gracia
Hacen falta los sueños, siempre
Dentro la piel y esas marcas
Posee la extraña manía
De creer en la vida


Maria, Maria,
She's a gift, she's the dream, the pain
A force that speaks to us
A woman who deserves to live and love
Just like any other

Maria, Maria,
She's the sun, she is heat, she is sweat,
And a tear that runs...slowly
Down a people who laugh when they should cry
And they don't live
They barely endure

But we are lacking in strength
Missing our people
Missing our dreams, always
Under the scars of the body,
Maria, Maria
Confuses her joy with her pain.

When our desires have gone,
With all our grace,
With all our ways of giving,
Under the scars of the body,
You carry the notion inside you,
That life is worth living.

This is what I think of when I read journal entries from delegations to Palestine. Everyone seems taken aback by the peacefulness of the people they meet, and how the most horrendous of circumstances can be explained with no trace of anger or hatred. It's a shame this side of Palestine isn't considered news-worthy, but it shows a vitality that I think would resonate with a lot of New Orleanians. As well as news of all the constructive responses taking place, since all we seem to hear about are the destructive ones.

The last bit is literally,
Under the skin and these scars,
You possess the strange notion
To believe in life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Finally, a travel blog.

The flight is booked. I leave New Orleans for Tel Aviv on the 15th, get back on the 31st.


A message from Americans for Peace Now

Peace is a Jewish Value
by Rabbi Michael Melchior
Former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister and 10-year Knesset Member

On one of my visits on Capitol Hill, I was invited to a debate with US legislators regarding the future of the Middle East. After having presented my case, one of the senators expressed his utter surprise that somebody who is an Orthodox rabbi, a staunch Zionist, and one who even looks like I look, could express views which he had always been told were a betrayal of "Judaism."

The truth is I should not have been shocked by his reaction. Over the past 40 years, the Torah, Judaism, Zionism, and at times even God Himself have been hijacked both in Israel and around the world, both by friends and foes, by religious Jews and evangelical Christians. They have been hijacked by an extreme messianic ideology, in order to advance a specific political agenda, which, if successful, I fear will mark the end of the Zionist dream and the Jewish State. My deep disagreement with these people is not about Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), the love of the land and the concern for its future (although I do not always understand why this love only concerns borders and not the environment inside these borders, or the dignity of the human beings living in this environment). Like them, I have a deep affiliation with, and affection for, all parts of the land. And like them, part of me will feel grief and sorrow the day we will have to give up Judea and Samaria.

My fundamental disagreement with them is about their interpretation of "Judaism." Judaism, like all religions, embodies a very delicate balance between the particular and the universal. When being faithful to this balance, we can contribute to a better world. But when distorting this balance, we will contribute to endangering the future and the hopes of humankind.

I believe that those who have created priorities where love of the land supersedes love of man and of peace are distorting the Torah. I believe that those who censor the Torah of such concepts as the natural morality of man, as the belief that God has created every human being in His image, and as the basic human right to respect and dignity which stems from this belief, are desecrating the Holy name of God. I believe in a Judaism which is great, broad, and inclusive. I am committed to the ruling of our great teacher the Rambam (Maimonides) who states, when it comes down to a conflict of priorities where saving human life is at stake, "and you shall observe my laws and my statutes, which when a man performs, he shall live by them (Leviticus 18, 4) - live and not die by them, because the statutes of the Torah are not vengeance in the world but mercy, loving kindness and peace." This is not an abstract principle meant for festive speeches at inter-religious gatherings but a binding legal and moral guideline, which has dominated Jewish thinking since we received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

I have often challenged my rabbinical colleagues to show me one single source from the "Jewish Bookshelf," the Bible, the Talmud, the Rambam, the Shulchan Aruch, or the immense traditional rabbinical literature, which rules that you cannot give up land in order to obtain peace. They have never been able to do so.

On the contrary, the Bible tells us that the builder of the first temple, King Solomon himself, gave up 20 cities in northern Israel to King Chiram of Zor. He did this as an act of appreciation for the cedar trees that Chiram contributed to the Temple. During the building of the second temple the immigrants from Babylon in the period of the great leaders Ezra and Nehemiah decided not to include many cities in the new sovereignty of the land. This was done so that the holiness of this sovereignty would not create an obstacle in facilitating charity extended to the needy receiving social gifts of crops in the sabbatical year. We see that the possession of the land was put aside not only to save lives but even for legitimate socioeconomic considerations. And there were no "orange" demonstrations against this "betrayal" of the land.

The prophets of Israel did not rally much support in their day, but still today inspire and enrich humankind, Jew and non-Jew alike. They knew how to stand up and talk truth to power and to kings. And what did they talk about? Did they talk about the borders of the land? Or did they talk about justice and compassion? They were very clear about Jewish priorities.

The right of the Jewish people to self determination in its ancient homeland, to live with recognized, secure borders, is one of the most just and moral causes in our time. However, to occupy and control the lives of millions of Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria, and to negate their right to create their own state and future in peace, side by side with the State of Israel, is not just, is not moral, and is not Judaism. There can be a legitimate disagreement about how peace is to be obtained and who is to be blamed for having missed opportunities in the past for reaching this peace. However, these disagreements have nothing to do with "Judaism" or the betrayal of "Judaism." Those on both sides of the debate, who are turning the conflict into an existential conflict of religion and theology, are doing so because they know that in doing this, they can prevent necessary compromise, or any solution at all for that matter. Because who is going to be willing to compromise on the totality of God?

We have reached a tragic situation where the dream of the great messianic peace has become the main threat to pragmatic and necessary agreements, which at least have the potential of providing a measure of peace and a future, which both sides deserve and which can certainly save many precious human lives.

I believe that if religion has a redeeming force for humankind, then religious teachers and leaders must be on the frontlines of the struggle to transform our conflicts and to work together for the greater good of our communities. The good news is that there actually are a growing number of impressive and courageous people, including Jewish, Christian, and Moslem leaders, who believe likewise - although their voices may still not be heard as loudly or as distinctly as the voices of the totalitarian extremists. These are leaders who, like me, will feel a profound measure of grief at having to give up and compromise on land that they believe is theirs. And yet this grief will be overridden by the joy of hope: The hope of building a future together, dominated not by fear and hatred but by optimism and commitment to the peace of Jerusalem.

All Jewish prayers ends with the beautiful prayer to God, that He who makes peace in His heavens, may assist us in making peace on earth. When we express this prayer, we withdraw three steps, symbolically saying to the Almighty that we cannot expect Him to intervene on our behalf if we are not willing to withdraw and leave room for the "other." Yes, this might be a naïve and romantic message but I know no better alternative than an uncompromising commitment to making this prayer our reality.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I've gotten a lot of e-mails this week, two of them inspired by the recent WikiLeaks....leaks...

Email from CODEPINK:

Dear Jessica,
The recently released Wikileaks diplomatic cables reveal that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu posited the Goldstone Report and a nuclear Iran as the main existential threats to his country, but that the real existential threat to Israel is its own policies.
On November 8, when I stood up in New Orleans at a large gathering of Jewish leaders to tell Netanyahu that illegal West Bank settlements betray Jewish values, I could not have predicted that these words would not only reverberate through the room, but would also shatter the "Israel barrier," the culture of silencing dissent towards Israel’s flagrant violations of international law that is so pervasive in my community. Supported by our allies at Jewish Voice for Peace, the five of us who disrupted Netanyahu's speech gave a name to the real cause of Israel’s delegitimization: Israeli policies such as the occupation, the siege of Gaza, the Loyalty Oath, and the silencing of dissent. The immediate response in the room was violent—I was actually put in a chokehold and pushed to the ground. But it was too late to silence us, and our message was soon circling the globe. The response to our actions was overwhelmingly positive.
Our young, Jewish, and proud voices join the chorus rising from the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and around the world clamoring for justice.

Tonight Jews begin the ritual lighting of the Chanukah candles. We light eight candles to celebrate the miracle of fuel that lasted beyond all expectations, and a victory in the face of impossible odds. Today, we'd like to invite you to join us in illuminating a path forward towards true equality for all in Israel and Palestine by taking part in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.
Season’s greetings to you and yours and onwards for a brighter future in the Middle East,
Rae Abileah

The second e-mail was from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, linking an article from HuffPo:
...Cantor [House Majority Leader] would do well to read some of the 19 cables released so far by WikiLeaks from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, which shed important light on behind-the-scene tensions between Israel's quest for complete military dominance and U.S. attempts to militarize the Middle East, as evidenced by Gilad's admission. These documents display an incomplete, yet consistent, pattern of the United States saturating its allies with weapons while deflecting Israeli pressure not to do so....

As President Jimmy Carter once said, "We cannot be both the world's leading champion of peace and the world's leading supplier of the weapons of war."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Middle East Film Fest!!!

Suheir Hammad rapping her poem "Of Refuge and Language," on dislocation from Palestine to New Orleans.

I went to two screenings this week. The first was a "Palestinian Lord of the Flies" (honestly, I was on the fence) called Secret World, where Ramallah children wake up one morning to find all the adults have disappeared. So they run around their school (an Evangelical school in Ramallah) and make their own little societies. The occupation isn't a major topic, but one girl wanders over to Jerusalem and back along the apartheid wall....I wouldn't call it an uplifting film, but it was fun for me to watch because the kids were around the ages of the kids I teach; I really have a soft spot for middle schoolers now. It was fun to imagine how they would all get along, and what they would find in common.

The second screening was footage from a Suheir Hammad poetry reading and interview. Audience member: how do you reach diverse audiences?
Suheir: When you can talk to a grandmother, and talk to a grandchild, and know that they understand your message, you're on the right track...

When she performs for incarcerated youths she encorporates modern hip hop into her routine. I've been thinking the same thought today, after our history teacher asked the class what a "boo purse" was. Everyone erupted, because they knew that Lil Wayne raps about hiding a gun in his "boo purse," his girlfriend's purse. I need to do a little homework and start turning on the radio, if anything to understand why they have trouble with the possessive.

This common ground thing also applies to the Palestine project. New Orleans is so diverse, my own community so diverse, that I can't approach this issue in the same way when I talk to my church, my school, my co-workers, my co-volunteers, my Kappa sisters, my relatives, fellow activists...I'd say the most enjoyable would be strangers on the streetcar or at a's so easy to pretend that the Pro-Palestine movement is mainstream and see how they react. One time the groom at a bachelor party argued with me over Israel's security needs for an hour then confessed to having played the "devil's advocate," he actually thought it was all bullshit. It was exhausting, but I appreciated the practice.

Anyways, I made a great contact at the second screening, a rep from LifeSource, which works for Palestinian water rights in Ramallah. Hoping to pay a visit while I'm over there....