Friday, October 21, 2011


Going to Kobar (Kobra? Karbo? Korba?) with Moheeb and the Turkish reporters was amazing and....tiring. But I learned that Turkish is a beauuuutiful language and Kanan, the cameraman, likes to sing and recite poetry, and his voice is like BUTTAH.

We got to Kobar, which is only 15 minutes outside of Ramallah, next to Birzeit. We all got out of the cab and walked up towards the mosque, where the kids were all walking around with plates of knafeh. This voice inside said, "I want, I want!" We approached a large outside sitting area, where a line of men was waiting to kiss and shake hands with the released men. There were three, and I immediately recognized one of them. I'd seen him on TV at the Mubarak's the night before. It might have been Al Jazeera, or Palestine TV, or Hamas TV (Ahmad was showing me all the channels), but I was told, "this prisoner is the oldest prisoner that was released." I was surprised, because I'd heard that many of the hundreds of prisoners were elderly. I was also surprised that the man on the screen was the released Palestinian. I mistook him for a foreigner. He was tall, light-skinned, and kind of resembled a movie star. Like a gentler Clint Eastwood.
This was the man we encountered in Kobar, and it turns out he wasn't the oldest man released, but he had served the longest sentence...34 years. His brother next to him had served about six months less than him, and I'm not sure how much time the third man had served. We waited for the line to die down, and in the meantime we were served knafeh (yesss) and coffee and water. Noorsal, our older lady reporter with shocking white hair, and I were the only two women there. She was more used to it than I was. She'd been reporting for the Turkish news from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for seven years. She told me she'd spent the last three New Years' in Gaza.
"You were there during Operation Cast Lead?"
She nodded.
When things quieted down, Noorsal got her interview with the first brother. I wanted so badly to squeeze in after her, because I doubted he'd gotten any interviews from American reporters. Not that I was a reporter. Just a blogger. But it still would've been great footage, even with my little "activist camera," as Haitham calls it. Moheeb poked fun too, pretending to shave his face with it.
Twice during Noorsal's interview the line of men reappeared, so she had to stand aside and wait while they all kissed on the cheek three times and hugged. In the meantime, Moheeb took me to visit his sister. The village was pretty quiet, but it looked bigger than Bil'in, and a little more affluent. A group of young women stopped to chat with Moheeb, it wasn't surprising because it was his village, but he was a member of the Barghouti family, so everyone knew him. His cousin is Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned leader who's on a lot of the banners during the demonstrations. He didn't make the cut on this prisoner swap. The Barghoutis are a prominent family in Palestine, but Moheeb is a bit of an odd duck. He lives by himself in Ramallah, and he's quite a character. Very loud, very in-your-face, a compulsive jokester and and brutally honest. Every time in our squished taxi he yelled, "yalla, listen to me, listen to me...," we all cracked up because his constant hijacking of the conversation had ceased to be annoying and now was just funny.
Moheeb was trying to explain to Noorsal that it was a problem that she only interviewed one brother. She defended herself, "did you see that situation?" She had to keep stopping the interview and it was really awkward. Then he said straight-up, "one brother is Hamas, one brother is Fatah. I tell them both you will do the interview, and you only interview one. There are many problems right now for Hamas and Fateh, so this is a problem for Erdogan and Turkey."

We all sat in silence for a while.

Then I told Kanan to sing a song, and he performed for my camera. I asked him if he liked American music, and he said, "Yes, Rihanna. And Justin Timberlake." I sang some of Umbrella. Noorsal said, "I only like 50." I asked, "the 50's?" She said "No, 50 Cent."
"...and Timbaland!" said Kanan.
Then we sang The Way I Are.

We parted ways at the shawarma stand, and I'm the only girl in the cafe in Ramallah now. There are three men performing on the couches, singing and playing the violin, drums, and oud. It's beautiful.