Monday, November 28, 2011

Army in the village

Today I went to the boys' class without my phone or camera. It's a short class, I'm helping the English teacher, and the bell dismisses us. No need for any of that stuff, right? Wrong! Abu Saleh came into the classroom before we finished and said, "Haj!" Like, the Haj needs you....ok. That didn't sound that unusual.


Ok. The army is in the village, and Haj Sami wants me to be there! I left class and trotted along after Abu Saleh. I knew they weren't demolishing anything, it was already mid-day and they usually demolished at the crack of dawn. But this was new for me. I was waved up to the roof of the new office, and saw the jeeps parked by one of the houses. Camera, camera, I need my camera. I ran home and got it and snapped some photos from far away. Then I walked down the street towards the jeeps.

What am I doing? I don't know. They wouldn't expect me to be here. Yeah, wallahi, I live here....

I caught up with Haj Sami, who was by the jeeps, talking to some guys. Haj Sami told me to go take pictures from further away, so I distanced myself.

I realized he was talking to Israeli civilians. What were they doing out here in Al Aqaba? This is a military zone. Israeli civilians aren't allowed past the Area C checkpoint, or through Area A. 

They all headed down one of the village streets, and it looked like they were surveying the land. If they were taking pictures, it could mean another demolition. But no, if there were civilians there, they must be talking about the village's new building plans. I felt silly playing activist and snapping photos when I saw Palestinian government officials taking a group photo with Haj Sami. Maybe this was good news. But you can't be at ease when the military jeeps are driving down village roads and parking in people's private driveways. The Israeli High Court prohibits the soldiers from entering the village. It's mumnua, forbidden.

So why were they doing it? 

After they all left, I sat in front of Haj Sami's sister's house and ate breakfast with Sheikha, his sister and her daughters and their baby girls, Lara and Jena. Lara has blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Sheikha's daughter brought me bread and yoghurt and oil and thyme and cucumbers and fried eggs. And tea. There were kittens running around, begging for our food. 

After an hour or so, I went to go find Haj Sami. He was in the office with Osama and another man from an NGO called COOPI. They explained to me that the soldiers were just protecting the guys from the Israeli Civil...something, who had come about the Master Plan. They wanted to make some plan for the village, maybe allow for expansion. Osama suggested maybe they would make the village Area B. I said, anjad, really? He said, no, he doesn't know. It was all very vague. I asked Haj Sami if he'd told them about his own Master Plan, and he had. He told them he'd submitted it to the army three times, with no answer.

That's when I got really pissed off .

Why did they think Al Aqaba was too dangerous to send Israeli civilians into? For decades, Haj Sami and his advocates have been corresponding with the High Court and the military, asking them to visit, asking them to stop the demolitions, accept their master plan, and leave them in peace.

But today they roll in with jeeps full of armed soldiers, because the Israeli civilians need protection.....from who? They could never Haj Sami and walk around with him without being escorted by soldiers holding large guns. They even parked in Sheikha's driveway, and carried their guns around her and Lara and Jena. 

I get the clearest views of the occupation when the worst doesn't happen. Maybe the soldiers aren't raiding the village tonight, maybe they're not demolishing a house or even serving up a demolition order, but the fact that they can come in whenever they want and scare you and your an awful reality to live in.

Me oh my oh

A few nights ago, I was sitting in my friend's car in Ramallah, waiting for him to buy a bag of oranges so we could make a vat of orange juice for the impending winter snifflies, and the oldies station that was on started playing "Jambalaya (on the Bayou)..."

Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pull the pirogue down the bayou
My Yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and a fillet gumbo
Cause tonight I'm gonna see my cher amio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar, and be gay-o,
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou

There I was, in a car by a fruit shop in Ramallah, having my own private Zydeco dance party. I never paid much attention to the song in New Orleans, but it really brought me back.

When I got back to Al Aqaba, I looked for the song and found a video of a 4-year-old singing it and playing the accordian to a crowd of thousands. So cute! So...Amurrican. I tailgated Country Music Fest in Baton Rouge once. We drank beer and played Cornhole and saw a few Confederate tattoos. It was a cultural experience. At one point I felt compelled to run around the campground and take a poll on everyone's opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just for kicks. I guess I lost my nerve, or the Flip Cup tournament started...

Anyways...the jeish came today. I need to do a post about that.
Apple pie!

Catherine on the weird hump outside my door, aka the roof of the headmaster's office...

My students!

A late night snack in Al Quds

A sampling of my new book: Cats of Jerusalem. I'm sure this already exists. So many freakin cats.

Mosque outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

View from the Mount of Olives

Church of All Nations

Bil'in-Mustafa bought a new snake....

After saying goodbye to my mother, her friend Catherine (now my friend too) and my grandmother at the border crossing in Jericho, I returned to Al Aqaba with a renewed sense of purpose. I put down my backpack and looked around the Guest House where we had celebrated Thanksgiving with seventeen guests the week before, and started to clean. The floor needed to be swept, the sheets needed to be washed, and the old food needed to be thrown away. I unpacked my backpack while filling up five buckets of water for the washing machine.

To Find Item #1: a tube that will fill the washing machine automatically
Item #2: a clothes hamper

Stretch item: a machine with a spin cycle?

I thoroughly enjoyed running around with brooms and bedding. It reminded me of my grandparents’ art guild in Washington, where I cleaned rooms and washed dishes in exchange for an art class, but it also reminded of how little structure I have here. No one knew where I was at that moment, no one knew that I was cleaning the house or why, and still no one knows when the next guests will arrive. I wanted to sit down at the computer and correspond with the participants of the pilot visit, and send out grant proposals, and upload my new videos, and write about this weekend, but first, I needed to sweep up the dead moths, sweegee the bathroom that flooded when the washing machine drained (in the other bathroom…?) and throw away the hardened kanafe before I ate it all.

Yes, I’m channeling this nervous energy through compulsive snacking, but only because the mothers left me with a stocked fridge and a new pantry for non-perishables. The Swedish Fish are gone, the Seattle chocolates are gone, and once I popped (the Pringles), the fun didn’t stop. I’ll say it’s my self-control that kept the Nutella on the shelf.

My knee is bouncing at the desk like usual, partly because of the to-do list and partly because it’s so cold in here.

To Find Item #3: ten more fuzzy blankets
Item #4: a gas heater
Stretch items: three more gas heaters

I looked at KickStarter, I looked at JustGiving, I looked at GoFundMe. The first is for artsy projects, the second is for established charities, and for the last one I need to unfreeze my PayPal account, i.e. prove my address, which is…ya3ni…..difficult. Fortunately I still get bank statement at my parents’ house. Never mind, PayPal, I don’t’ live in Palestine, or Cyprus, as you like to call it….just send my money to the burbs!

My nervous energy has run out and now I’m just sleepy. Class is tomorrow at 10:30. I’m starting to support the school English teacher in his class instead of leading my own lesson, which seems to work best during the school year. The boys speak at around a 1st grade level, but their books are holding them to at least a 5th grade standard. That’s too much to be sending over their heads. I saw the 12th grade book, and it has them reading Chekhov. Anyways…

This house was so happy last Tuesday evening. We had twenty-one people in here, and Haj Sami looked so happy to see our guests enjoying themselves in the village. This space has so much potential.

Kathie Cathy Liz come to Palestine...

Wow. That was quite a visit. I'm going to try to re-cap.

My mom, her co-worker, and my grandmother came for 7 days. They spent the first three days in Al Aqaba, unloading and buying gifts for me and the kids. We have some books to put in the library, I have winter clothes, and the apartment now has a hot water heater, and it's CLEAN.

Now I have functioning laptop speakers (for blasting Fairouz in the morning) and down booties on my feet.

And so with their gifts and skills, the Three Wise Women brought Thanksgiving to Al Aqaba. We had twenty-one people in the apartment, eating chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, oranges, beans, carrots, and drinking hot apple cider, which some liked, some did not....the moment Haj Sami said the word "coffee" after dinner, I realized, some traditions you just can't mess with. We made Arabic coffee. Then sang Peter Gabriel.

The next day, we left the village with my friend Mohammad from the sewing co-op. He'd requested that we eat lunch in his village, and though I'd been apologizing left and right to people with similar offers, this one worked out. We spent two hours with Mohammad's family in the village of Jit, and sorry Catherine, I just have to share this story. We spent an hour talking to Mohammad and his wife, who had long brown hair and a very low-cut shirt. Then she left and put her long jacket and hijab on, and when she entered the room, Catherine reached out her hand and said, "hi, I'm Catherine." I was in the bathroom when this happened, so I could just hear them howling with laughter. I was sad to have missed it, because Mohammad brought it up for the rest of the visit.

They fed us makloubeh, beautiful makloubeh. It was topped with tomato-skin roses and cucumber-skin leaves and pine nuts, and there was color in the rice. Literally, it was rainbow makloubeh. And I didn't think it could get any better. So we feasted, and I was afraid my grandmother was going to pop because the mother kept handing her bananas and oranges and she didn't know what to do. It became a running joke, telling kids to go up to her and give her fruit. I did it again in Bil'in.

Fortunately, Mohammad's friend was able to drive us straight to Ramallah, so we got to travel a road I'd never been on before. Saw some villages, some settlements, and ended up in Ramallah on time to meet Sulaiman and some of his international friends. We met at a nice cafe and drank beer and whiskey and smoked hookah, and my mom was shocked that Ramallah prices are just like American prices. We'd been living so cheaply up north.

After an hour or so we headed out to Jerusalem with Micaela (sp?), Souli's friend from the Czech Republic, who lives in an Orthodox Jewish community. I'd met her at the GVS meeting in Beit Jala. She showed us the in's and out's of traveling from Ramallah to Jerusalem. We refused to ride with the Service driver who wanted to charge us 30 shekels. Maybe it was easier, sure, but she wouldn't humor him if he was raising the price just for us. "It was a matter of principle, you have to be firm with them." I respected that. Sometimes I go for principle, sometimes for convenience.

We rode the bus to Qalandia checkpoint, then had to get out, go through the "chicken run" and get back on the bus. As we approached the turnstiles and all that business (this was my first time walking through), some men standing in front told us the checkpoint was closed, and they would take us to the next checkpoint and to Jerusalem. My party and I were flummoxed. Ummm...what should we do? Michaela said, no, no, and marched right through to the chicken run. It looked abandoned. The drivers were sneering at her. But she was confident, and we followed. As it turns out, those guys were bullshitting us. Two of the windows were open. We had to stand in front of the revolving doors and wait for the light to turn green. Then explain to the soldiers through the glass that my grandmother has a pacemaker. It was tense. She was the third one to pass through, and they kept asking, "her?" no, her. "her?" no, her. yes, her. There was no way around the metal detector, so they had to turn it off manually. It was re-iterated that she would have three minutes to live if the pacemaker was magnetized. The soldiers were so young. I held my breath as she walked through. It was ok. We showed our passports and visas through the glass and continued on. Michaela told me they were being stricter about visas because activists were living in the West Bank illegally. There was one girl who managed for years without renewing her visa, but she was stupid about it, really provocative, throwing stones at demonstrations, then they found her and she was deported. It made me think about my own situation. I wasn't a stone-thrower. But I went to demonstrations, and did interviews, and I've been told it's stupid, but it is intentional. How badly do I want my message to be heard and how badly do I want to get let back in in January?

We bussed to the Old City of Jerusalem and bade farewell to Micaela. She invited me to Shabbat dinner in her community, which I'm going to take her up on very shortly.

Unfortunately, my Old-City navigating skills failed me and we walked around the alleys with our bags for way longer than we should have. That being said, the Old City is beautiful at night, all yellowy and cavernous. After some awkward direction-asking, we found the Citadel Youth Hostel, my go-to place. It was way cheaper than Christ Church Guest House, where my mother's family had stayed for two weeks in 1971. They had fond memories there. But it was also booked solid.

We four settled into our 3-person room, with me in the window nook, then went walking around for food. Almost everything was closed, so we settled for glasses of wine and warm bread at one of the Armenian restaurants near Jaffa gate. That glass of wine did us pretty well, and we ended up in a supermarket fawning over all the munchies. My grandmother must've slapped her forehead a few times, we were being so silly. I got a can of pringles and a Cornetto. We were in such high spirits as we traipsed through the Old City with our snacks. It was a good night.

The next day was dedicated to the Old City. I tried to use my previous knowledge and once again failed, but thanks to the Christian Information Center, it only took us eight hours to check off our four items. That's with a map, and asking for directions after every street. It's a miracle we found anything! My mom and I made it to the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque two minutes before closing, but we had to plead with the Israeli guard and sprint up the bridge to the square. I was glad to finally see it, after a few trips to Jerusalem, but the hurriedness and the privilege of it made me feel so disconnected....there were Muslims sitting all around the square, reading the Qur'an. Yet, none of my friends in the West Bank were allowed to visit this place. One of my students put on his paper, that his dream was to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque. I felt guilty, just dashing up there, snapping pictures, check, no big deal.

We got shooed out by guards, and rejoined Catherine and my grandma. They hadn't made it through on time. But we wandered around a bit more and finally found the Church of the Holy Sepulchure. I knew about the Via Dolorosa, but it hadn't sunk in that the site of the crucifixion and Jesus' tomb was said to be in this place. I hadn't imagined them so close together. It was strange, sitting near the tomb, which was a house-like structure dwarfed by the massive church, covered in candles and bulbs and gold, and thinking, this is the place we read about in the Bible. I can't see it. I've heard the story so many times. The women didn't have faith, they thought Jesus was the gardener. And I was looking at a line of visitors, winding around Israeli police barricades, waiting to go into the entrance, or get their candles blessed. Again, the disconnect. My grandmother was sitting on a bench, sketching the scene, and she told me about her experience in 1971, when they closed the doors for a few hours, on the people that were still inside. So they had to wait until the next opening. While my grandmother was inside the tomb, a group of Orthodox nuns came in and formed a circle around her and started singing. They sang for at least thirty minutes, then filed out again. Then one of my grandmother's friends looked at her and asked, "what happened to YOU in there?" My experience with this place wasn't holy, but in that way, hers was. I'd been too quick to judge.

We left the church and headed to another, St. Anne's. There was an excavation site where we could look over and see the old pools of Bethesda and columns that went down, down, down...right under a neighborhood.

Then we took a taxi to the Mount of Olives to catch the sunset, which was gorgeous. Our driver was very guide-like, a little intense, but very nice. He stopped on the way back down so we could see the Gardens of Gesthelmene. The olive trees in the garden were HUGE. We also popped into the Church of All Nations, and saw their service. It was beautiful.

After we got dropped off at Lion's Gate, we wandered for about an hour trying to find the hostel again. We asked for a recommendation for an Italian restaurant, because we were craving pasta and wine, and after wandering some more, we found the place and indulged in bread and spaghetti and vino. Then we went back to the hostel and passed out.

Friday we grabbed coffee and bagels and took the 18 Bus back to Ramallah. Then we sat at a nice cafe and got more coffee (at this point my stomach was like, efff) and caught a taxi to Bil'in. My friend Iyad met us there and showed us to his house so we could drop our stuff. Then we joined the demonstration, holding posters of Ashraf, who was the focus of this week's demo. It was a small one, and I found out later that many from Bil'in had gone to the Nabi Saleh demonstration to show their support, since they'd had night raids and three arrests in the last few days. My mother and grandmother joined me at the front of the demo by the wall, where a semi-circle was holding up the pictures of Ashraf and chanting. When they started chanting in Hebrew, I couldn't follow but I whipped out my camera. I felt like we were safe from the tear gas, but when the shebab, who'd been throwing stones off to the side, approached us, I recommended we go back just in case. They joined Catherine toward the back, and all was well, until the soldiers fired tear gas on the other side, upwind from us, and it went straight to the back, where my mother and grandmother and Catherine were retreating. I could see them holding their scarves to their faces, and thought, oh no, that wasn't supposed to happen. I walked back to them and decided, khalas, no more of this demonstration, and Iyad picked us up soon after. They were in good spirits though. That was something to be checked off the list, being teargassed! But I think it bothered my grandmother's eyes for a while. eeeesh.

We joined one of the families for masakhan, a bread dish with onions, and chicken, and rice, and salad, and it was so wonderful. Then we sat outside eating fruit (extra for grandma) and drinking tea and coffee and smoking hookah and playing hand games with the kids. Some in Arabic, some in English (cee cee my enemy...)

Then we went back to Iyad's, where we watched videos of the history of the demonstrations and Bassem, who died in 2009. The old demonstrations are pretty funny to watch, the activists put themselves in interesting positions and the soldiers had to figure out how to respond, hammering them out of their metal cans and chains and dragging them really it's only half funny. But the videos of Bassem are hard for me to watch. I never knew him, but he's everywhere in Bil'in. Every time I see a new video and hear a story about Bassem, I get to know him more and it's like grieving backwards. He becomes more and more real, but I'll never get to meet him. That's what makes it hard.

After the videos we went to Iyad's new house, which is almost finished, and had a barbeque. Rather, we sat around the fire while people cooked chicken and tomatoes and onions, then we feasted. And passed around baby Yaman, and gave some presents to Mayar and Yazid, a light-up bouncy ball and a Jacob's Ladder, which Mayar flipped like a pro. She's very smart, shatra. Second in her class.

After hours of fire and eating and baby passing, we got tired and passed out back at Iyad's. I slept like a rock until morning prayer. Catherine noted that this imam was especially good. I fell back asleep. We ate an amazing breakfast of poached egg in tomato sauce, avocado and zeit and zaatar and yoghurt, then bade farewell to the Burnat's and Service'd down to Ramallah. There we met Souli at his haunt, Zam'n coffee, and rode with him to Jericho. On the way we talked about the state of things in Palestine. One state or two states? We passed the largest settlement, Ma'ale Adumim, which sits between the North and South of the West Bank. The issue of contiguity is getting more and more urgent for the Palestinian government. I think two states is practical for now, as a detterent for the settlements, but we all agreed that Israel's status quo is threatened by the demographic reality, and it can't fight demographics for much longer. The questions is, how fast the revolution will come...?

Souli told us he walks from his village to Jericho every year or so, and it only takes a day. I want to try this.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to visit the mountain with the cable cars, because the Palestinian checkpoint soldiers told us the Allenby Bridge crossing was already closed for Shabbat, which meant I was a huge failure and the ladies couldn't get out of the West Bank that day. Fortunately, Souli found out that foreigners don't have to go through the Palestinian terminal (what Authority?), but could go straight through the Israeli bridge. So we dropped them off by the border, hugged goodbye, and that was the visit.

Wow. I didn't mean to write that much. Bedtime.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kaifek inta?

I heard this song at the apartment in Luban Sharqia, while I was hanging out with the Daragmeh sisters, and I asked them what it was called. They said, "Kaifek inta," "How are you?"

It's about a woman who meets a man she hasn't seen in a long time, and now he has children. You can guess how that goes. I was drawn to the style of the sounds like a lot of 70's songs I know :)

Anyways, I love it. And I love that I love it, because so many Arabic songs still sound the same to me and when I hear one that sticks out I feel like I'm making progress.


Do you remember the last time I saw you that year?
Do you remember the last word you said?
And I haven't seen you since
and now I see you,
How are you, only you?

Do you remember the last night you spent at our place?
Do you remember there was someone bothering you?
That was my mother
Who takes care of me
From you, only you!

How are you?
I hear them saying
You have children now,
I swear I thought you were
Out of the country
Forget the country,
God bless the children!
It crosses my mind that
We could be together again
Me and you, only you!
It crosses my mind
You and I together again
Me and you, only you!

Do you remember what you told me that last time?
"If you want, you can stay, and if you want, you can leave?"
I got upset then,
I didn't realize
That it was you, only you
You come back to me from above,
In spite of the kids and what people say,
You are still the prime,
And I love you since the beginning,
I love you, only you
In spite of the kids and what people say,
You are still the prime!
And I love you, only you
I love you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Free Ashraf Abu Rahma!

My friend Ashraf was arrested after the Bil'in demonstration last month, and he's still in prison :(

The last time I saw Ashraf, he was walking towards two Israeli army jeeps waving a Palestinian flag, and the next thing we knew he was in the back of one of the jeeps. A group of internationals went up to the soldiers to ask them why hw was taken. The soldiers told us they would release him, but then they drove off with Ashraf and he's been in administrative detention ever since.

They said he was throwing stones. Two soldiers lied and now they get to lock him up for as long as they want, and his lawyer has to defend him by saying, "no, he wasn't throwing stones." Really?

Here's the video his cousin Hamde made for him:

...and here are two of Ashraf's stories, from 2005 and 2009:

In 2005, the residents of Bilin built three houses next to an illegal Israeli settlement on Bilin's land, trying to prevent the colony from expanding. For three years, Ashraf spent every single night in one of these houses to safeguard it from destruction. However, the settlers were set on expansion, and they set fire to fields and trees in order to uproot Bilin’s agricultural land.

I woke up at nine in the morning, immediately catching sight of a colossal crane. It was clear to me that they were starting to build more houses to expand the colony. I immediately felt that I should take action, but the settlers prevented me from approaching the crane. Desperately I called out to the other villagers of Bilin. I stayed alone for a little while, not managing to get any closer to the construction site. I wondered what to do and felt hard-pressed. The villagers had alerted the press, which quickly came to the scene. Immediately, the colonizers shifted their attention towards Al Jazeera, because they wanted to fend off the cameras. They were no longer paying attention to my presence, and I immediately made the most of my opportunities. In less than ten minutes I managed to climb high onto the crane. The Israeli police interfered, commanding me to come down. Why would I obey them? They are the enemy, supporting the colonizers theft, instead of criminalizing them. I stayed up on the crane for six hours. When I finally came down, I got arrested. I spent two weeks in jail and had to pay 8000 NIS bail to be released. They tried to force me into stating that the land belongs to the government, if not they would detain me again. My jail time continued with one week of house arrest. To this day, there are ongoing legal proceedings from the company of the crane. They try to charge me 6000 dollars, 1000 per hour I prevented the construction. During the court hearing they dared ask me why I was there! Because this is my land, of course! After my release I returned to the house next to the colony and put a Palestinian flag on the roof. The army tried to force me to replace the flag with an Israeli one. And when I refused? They captured me in the middle of the night and left me laying out on the fields for three hours. However, during the court case, the army denies ever having taken me.

In July of 2009, the village of Nilin was under closure for four days. Ashraf tried to enter the village with another Palestinian, local press, and a group of Israeli's and internationals to join the people of Nilin for a protest march.

Even before we reached the village, the army threw teargas canisters at us. Immediately afterwards, the army arrested the entire group. When we reached Nilin's checkpoint, everybody was released except for me and the other Palestinian. They blindfolded and cuffed me. My friend was released, so I was the only person that remained arrested. The soldiers were numerous, about fifteen. While I was led on defenselessly by these soldiers, the captain ordered them to shoot me in the leg. I had no idea what was going on. I was terribly confused. I did not even know where I was. Why did they shoot me!? I did not do anything! Why did they release everybody from our group except for me? After one week I saw the video and realized what really had happened. A young girl living near the checkpoint had filmed the event. As soon as I saw the video, things were very plain to me: I was shot without any reason whatsoever, or just for the random pleasure of the army platoon.
I decided to take this incident up to the Israeli High Court. The footage of this event is very threatening for the Israeli army, especially since they media has taken it up and it has spread over the Internet. Because of this, they raided the girl’s house, last month, December 2009, in search of the original copy. The Israeli Occupation Forces left the house trashed and detained her father for two months. When he did not come up with the desired answer, they questioned and arrested her three brothers. As a final means, they tried offering her family money in return for the original copy of the film. It is entirely clear that they only care about the film, instead of the people that are hurt or killed. This is not enough for me, nor is it for any other Palestinian.

The court case is ongoing to this point.

For more information on administrative detentions in the West Bank, check out the Israeli human rights organization Btselem.

And here's a call to action from the Free Ashraf Abu Rahma Facebook page...

You can copy this letter and send to the following addresses...

Your Excellency,

I am compelled to write to you to express my strong concerns regarding the case of Ashraf Abu Rahmah, a Palestinian young man, who is once again in administrative detention in an Israeli prison. I am writing to urge you to immediately suspend the administrative detention order of ASHRAF ABU RAHMAH.
Israeli soldiers detained Ashraf Abu Rahmah on Oct. 21 at a weekly protest in Bilin. The demonstrations are held to protest Israel’s construction of a separation wall through Bilin which confiscates villagers’ land, on which a Jewish-only settlement has been built. Abu Rahmah is charged with participating in an unauthorized procession and throwing stones, based on testimonies by two soldiers who claimed to have seen him from 150 meters, the committee says. An employee of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and a lawyer, both present at Friday’s protest, testified in court that Abu Rahmah did not throw any stone. Israel’s Ofer military court indefinitely extended Abu Rahmah’s detention until the end of legal procedures, the committee said.
Bilin has been holding non-violent anti-wall demonstrations since 2005, and the village is known for its creative approach to protests.
Since his arrest in October 2011, no evidence has been brought forth against Abu Rahmah, because although Israeli administrative detention orders are the subject of review and further appeal by a military court, neither lawyers nor detainees are permitted to see the “secret information” used as a basis for the detention orders. This violates international human rights law, which permits some limited use of administrative detention in emergency situations, but requires that the authorities follow basic rules for detention, including a fair hearing at which the detainee can challenge the reasons for his or her detention.
1 These minimum rules of due process have been clearly violated in Abu Rahmah’s case, leaving him without any legitimate means to defend himself.

1 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 9.
2 Fourth Geneva Convention, Art. 78.

In addition to contradicting international human rights and humanitarian law, Abu Rahmah’s administration detention also violates article 5 (the right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The European Parliament itself has already called on Israel “to guarantee that minimum standards on detention be respected, to bring to trial all detainees, to put an end to the use of ‘administrative detention orders’” in its resolution of 4 September 2008.
Furthermore, I would like to recall the EU and Israel’s obligations under article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which calls for the EU-Israeli relationship to be guided by respect “for human rights and democratic principles”.
It is in this context that I call on you to act through the European Parliament to hold Israel accountable for its actions by demanding that Israel:

. Immediately and unconditionally release Ashraf Abu Rahmah;
. Immediately put an end to its practice of administrative detention and arbitrary arrests;

Please be assured that the international community is watching this case very closely.


Please FAX to EU Court of Human Rights (which does not accept emails):
+ 33 (0)3 88 41 27 30
Please EMAIL to the below:
A directory of members of the European Parliament can be found here:;jsessionid=45E7355AB5D96FFD0DA60BA4AE91E4F2.node2?language=EN,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


There is so much to be thankful for.

First off, having three mothers in the Guest House, cleaning and cooking and nesting for me...

My kindergarten students, who waited patiently and eagerly while we went around and traced their hands into turkeys and sharpened their colored pencils...

My friend Nancy, who escorted us around Nablus and helped us find shawarma, fruit, pants, cinnamon, forks, towels, and shoes in under an hour. Bravo aleik, ya Nancy!

All the people who have invited us to their homes to eat makloubeh, even though we "haven't the time."

Patience and flexibility...for the five people from Bethelehem who just showed up to stay in the apartment, even though we were occupying two of three rooms and all of the blankets. :)

The amazing work those five people do, driving a Play Bus around to kindergartens in the West Bank...

Swedish Fish, even though I didn't enjoy them until today...

The amazing dentist who is going to fix all of my cavities.

Nutella, which will sit on my shelf and make other guests happy :)

The tin box on wheels that cooked four perfect chickens.

My student, Abdul Nasr, who proudly announced, "I'm going to try some of everything" and encouraged others to do the same. The Japanese would call him genki, some kind of enthusiastic.

I just caught a mosquito in mid-air.

The mosquito net my aunt made. :)

Deviled eggs.

Our seventeen guests, from Bethelehem, Tubas, Tayasir and Al Aqaba.

Our now-stable wireless internet, through which I learned how to replace my E-string and play What a Wonderful World.

The fuzzy blankets that Haj Sami brought...I'm speaking for myself and all the winter guests to come...

My mother and Catherine are giving thanks for the sounds of the village, which they'll miss waking up to. Especially the bells of the goats and the call to prayer.

Haj Sami gave thanks for us being in the village, and hopes that we will bring this image of the Palestinians back to America, and tell everyone that Al Aqaba just wants peace.

The Italian guy gave thanks for his team on the Play Bus, and the hospitality (and random Thanksgiving party) they found in Al Aqaba...

Finally, I'm thankful for that feeling I get every day, that there's no where else I'd rather be...

Happy Thanksgiving from Al Aqaba!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wassail, wassail all over the town

Our bread it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With a wassailing bowl we'll drink to thee

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
And we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down will go Butler, bowl and all

This song crept into my head as I sat at the kitchen table with my grandma, my mom and her friend Catherine. They had just finished cleaning every inch of my kitchen (after I spent hours making it presentable for them, haha) and preparing for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast. We're expecting between 12 and 17 people. Haj Sami's nephew Sadiq dragged in a new oven for us, since mine is broken. It was like, a tin box on wheels. You should've seen the look on my mom's face. This is what we're cooking Thanksgiving dinner in! "This is Arabic oven...." he said, good-humoredly. But soon he had a roaring fire lit and we successfully cooked an apple pie. We were also grateful for the oven's warmth.

Then we made a birthday webcam video for my dad:

Today we went shopping for Thanksgiving food. The four of us were definitely a spectacle walking around Tubas with our bags of groceries. We found ourselves traveling downstream with all the girls walking home from school, and there were a lot of "how are you's" and "what's your name"'s....and giggling. We went to two supermarkets, a butcher and a Green grocer, as my grandmother calls it. We managed to pick up everything we needed but cinnamon sticks and brown sugar, so the apple crisp turned into a pie.

After we got back the apartment and reorganized the kitchen (I have a pantry!), Haj Sami's sister made us maklubeh. It was so good. We all ate a ton and the ladies got to lie down for a bit and digest their maklubabies while I taught my adult class...

My students made up the funniest story today. I'd like to share it:
Once upon a time, there was a very ugly man who lived in Switzerland...under the ground. He was very lonely. One day a beautiful princess knocked on his door. He was in bed when she knocked on the door, so he answered the door without his clothes. He said, don't look at my face, look at (what now?) my heart (oh...), because he has a white heart (a pure heart). Then he made her tea. She asked him "why are you living under the ground?" and he said, "it's suitable to me, and no one annoys me here." She decided to live under the ground too. They were engaged. Then, because there is so much money in Switzerland, the ugly man decided to steal from a he can have an operation to make himself beautiful. So he robbed a bank, and got the operation, then he left the princess. The princess ran away to Russia. The "ugly man" had so much money, but he decided that he wasn't happy, because he knew in his heart the feeling wasn't right, so he went back to his home underground. one day the police knocked on his door. they wanted to make an investigation for him, because of the bank robbery. but he did not confess his crime, and they did not find him guilty. seven days later, on a sunny day, he was walking down the street and he saw a man who had no money. so he employed the man. the employee worked for him for a long time, and he loved him because he had a good heart. They made a lot of money and the employee gave him his daughter to marry. The ugly man and his wife lived together in happiness, and had a girl and a boy. But their children were very ugly. The wife asked him, "why are our children ugly?" and he told her the truth, that he lived underground, and he robbed the bank, and he showed his old home to his wife and his children. and then his employee, because he loved him, helped him pay back all the money to the police, and they all lived happily. until an earthquake came, and because their house was underground, they all died. except the son, who made a restaurant on top of the old house called the "ugly man" restaurant.

That was a fun class.

It's so strangely wonderful having my mom and grandmother here. These two worlds had only been connected in my imagination, and suddenly they were standing outside in the rain with Haj Sami and their bags. They brought me a backpack full of things from home, scarves, fuzzy socks, snowflake decorations, chocolate, celery salt (for the stuffing...), guitar strings, books for the's all laid out in my room, perfectly organized. Now my apartment is clean and our schedule is documented on the whiteboard, and my mom is rearranging furniture and making shopping lists for lamps and curtain rods. These women will leave this apartment a far better place.

A few times I stopped and thought, "we're just four women cleaning a kitchen and making an apple Palestine...."

It's a trip.

While we were sitting around the kitchen table (which, yesterday, was a cluttered, oil-stained table by the stove), I smelled the apple pie and the vanilla-scented candle and heard my grandmother's voice and started thinking of Christmas. Wassail, Wassail by Mannheim Steamroller, then the words came trickling in from three years of high school choir...could we throw a Medieval Feaste....

And here's to the maid in the lily-white smock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Prisoner Release

My kitchen is clean. My phone is lost.

It's somewhere in Ramallah, and it's still ringing. adsfvjnd;fgjnwd;gjb.

What a day to lose your phone, while your mother and grandmother are venturing into the West Bank for the first time to meet you.

I'm trying to plan four days of English classes so I don't have to think about it while they're here. It's going to be an interesting few days. There's a big meeting full of important people on Monday, regarding building rights, so Al Aqaba will be going crazy then. Haj Sami told me the village doesn't have enough money to feed everyone lunch.

And then there's this weekend....I left the first part of this post on the desktop of a computer in the Popular Committee office in Bil'in, I intended to come back and finish it, but as usual I hopped in a Service to Ramallah on Saturday morning without much thought. I'll retrieve it next Friday.

I've been told my tone in this blog is nonchalant. I think it's that there's so much to talk about, and I don't find much space for emotion. Or I think emotion is best left behind in the high school livejournal. I don't really know. But looking back on this weekend I realized I need to say this...

There are so many instances where I stop and think, "holy crap, I'm in Palestine."

Then I think, "yeah, ok..." and I go about my day. Usually it happens when I'm walking out of my apartment, or getting into a Service those moments I want everyone I know to be with me, and see what I see. Those are moments when I feel so happy and blessed, and on the flip side, anxious about sharing this experience in the most beautiful, eloquent way, at least doing it justice.

Then there are moments when I feel like I've been dropped into history. Like when I went to Kobar with Mohib and the Turkish reporters to see three Palestinian prisoners welcomed home after the Shalit swap. These events were happening all over the West Bank and Gaza, but the media was paying special attention to Nael and Fakhri Barghouthi, who had served the two longest terms, 34 and 33.5 years. Nael had been in prison since 1978 for taking part in an operation that killed an Israeli settler/soldier near Halamish, a West Bank settlement.

This is Nael.
It was a fairly quiet reception, full of hugging and kissing, and knafeh. As soon as I entered the reception area, I recognized him from the news, and my first thought was "who's that movie star?" Among all the other thoughts swirling through my head, like, "why am I in Kobar surrounded by old men?" and "where is the bathroom?" and "would these Turkish reporters think me gluttonous if I took another plate of knafeh?"

That was a place where I felt uncomfortable whipping out my "activist" camera, but I wanted to take some kind of record, if I couldn't fulfill my momentary dream of being, presumably, the only American "reporter" to interview Nael. The moment passed, and we went back to Ramallah.

That was about a month ago, and last night made for an interesting sequel. I was sitting in the office in Bil'in, composing the first half of this post, and Kefah came in and told me "the wedding" was tonight. The wedding...Nael's wedding? I thought it was last week...? No, it was tonight. Did I want to come? Of course!
So I got in a car with Kefah and two other guys, who are related to the Barghouti's somehow, and we went barreling down to Ramallah. Kefah turned around and asked me if I knew anyone there. No, I'd just met a younger Barghouti (was was, incidentally, ridiculously attractive) at the reception. Ohhhhh. I realized why Kefah had asked. I would be the women's party. This could either be really awesome or really awkward. I considered taking my bag with me if I wanted to bail and stay with my friend in Ramallah. I took a leap of faith and left it in the car. Kefah and the guys went off to the men's party and I took up a post in the back of the massive party hall that accommodated all the women of Kobar and their friends. Everyone was dressed colorfully, sitting at tables draped in white table cloths. The invitation had been made public, so that made me feel less intrusive, but I realized, as I watched the only other two blondes being escorted around by little Kobar girls, that I probably looked a little suspicious. The groom was a famous ex-prisoner, and I was a lone Westerner with no connections here. Kefah dropped me the name of his aunt, but I'd forgotten it already. I made an effort to look pleasant and move a little to the music.
Nael and his bride processed in, and all the women ululated. (I just found that word, it's onomatopoetic!) I wished I had my camera, but it was in the car, and, again, I felt suspicious. If I were a spy, I'd be the worst-disguised spy in the world, but I couldn't shake it. I shifted from right food to left foot as the couple took their pictures and the dancing begun. They were so happy. The wife was from Nalin, and was about 40. She'd been in prison for at least a decade. It's amazing how unremarkable these prison sentences are starting to sound.

Here's a roughly-translated account and picture of the wedding I just found online. It's actually really sad, talking about Nael and Fakhri's parents, who both died while they were in prison. Naturally, it was their mother's dream to see her sons married.

After about a half hour, one of the families in front of me gestured for me to sit down. We made conversation for a little while, they were from Ramallah, not Kobar. The woman who had waved at me was actually from Colombia...? Afterwards I wondered why I didn't speak to her in Spanish. It would've been a much better conversation, though now if I try to think in Spanish it turns into some Spanish-Arabic hybrid.

Anyways, most of that family went off to dance, but I was joined by two girls, who were very sweet. They were Barghoutis. From Kobar. One wore a hijab, one didn't. They both studied at Birzeit, and invited me to visit the campus. I wanted to visit Kobar again, so I got their numbers, and I just realized that I lost their numbers with my phone. asgkvnadrgihbadflhbsdgf.

After about an hour, Kefah called me, saying the guys were ready to leave. I said goodbye to my new friends, and we ran out into the rain and piled into the car. They stopped at a shawarma place because I'd only eaten chocolate all day and was feeling a little queasy. Kefah wouldn't let me pay. It was a great shawarma, and I made a mess of it in the car. I asked Kefah what he did for work, and he said nothing, he used to fix tires but now he wants to study in the States. He's taking English courses from AMIDEAST, and recommended I work there for actual money. Aye. It doesn't sound very interesting though.
We got back to the Committee office in Bil'in, and I went back online. Then Haitham and Mustafa came in. I decided to go with them and make some visits. I took the office apartment key from Kefah so I could come back and crash in the visitor's room, but I took my bag because I suspected that I would be offered another place to stay. The visitor's room was fine, but kinda lonely.
Mustafa dropped off Haitham, then took me to Iyad's house. This wasn't the house I remembered from last year, it was the house they were in the process of building, and it was SO nice. Iyad was sitting with his family around a makeshift stove full of burning coals. We sat in a circle and chatted. I inquired about the new baby's name, and they replied, "Yaman." I thought, oh no, Yaman is that really spoiled kid in Al Aqaba. He taught me "biddesh! biddesh! I don't wanna!" But this Yaman was a baby-baby, and an adorable one at that. He kept getting passed around, to the little kids too. I notice here that everyone is good with babies, and there doesn't seem to be an age of childhood where babies get "uncool." Yaman wore a lavender and aqua snow suit, and he looked like a marshmallow peep. They gave him things to play with, flashlights, cell phones, then Mustafa gave him a cigarette, which he held between his fingers and flailed around, making everyone crack up. I remembered Iyad's daughter Mayar from last year, when I visited Palestine for the first time. She'd showed me her English book, and I remember she was so sharp.
Mustafa and I left, and went back to his family's house, the Abu Rahma's. I wasn't sure if they'd be like "heyy, welcome back" or "ohh, you again..." especially since Alham, like I mentioned a while back, is like Veronica Lodge, or I don't speak her language so I'm intimidated. Maybe both. But she and I and her brothers and their wives hung out around their coal stove, and it was established that I wouldn't sleep at the office, not good, I would sleep here. Mustafa got me to smoke a cigarette, which brought me up to four cigarettes in one week, which is...a record. All the men offer me cigarettes here. They're really surprised that I don't smoke. But I enjoy argheelah so I smoked more of that, and it made me light-headed and a little queasy after a while. Iyad came and joined us, joking that our friend, Abu Abed, was supposed to be home to his wife at ten and now it was twelve-thirty. She had probably locked the door on him, and this became a running joke through the night. Like Ikram's Jawwal phone card that was over-scratched. No one could read the activation numbers, so they tried everything, guessing the combinations, shining a flashlight through it, calling Jawwal, and in the end it was a wasted 20 shekels. But it was a community effort, an entertaining one at that.
At one point, after the argheelah hit me, and I'd agreed to sing a new Arabic song for everyone, Mustafa handed me one of his pet snakes and I freaked out. I'd seen them and held one of them before, but the combination of the nausea and the stage fright and surprise! have a snake...was just too much. Really, not a fan of snakes.
Anyways, once the animals were locked away, we went from the porch to the street to barbecue some chicken. We spent the next two hours just hanging out and cooking and eating around the fire. Mustafa tried to make me eat the chicken heart. I wonder what it was like growing up with him as a brother. We threw chicken pieces at all the cats around us, and I arranged a stay for myself, my mom, my mom's friend and my grandmother at Iyad's house after the demonstration next Friday. Abu Abed and Mustafa insisted on feeding us lunch, and hosting us. I glanced at Iyad to see if he disagreed, or was trying to pass us off, and he looked at them and said "andek 3sha," you get dinner," meaning, "we feed them makloubeh and they stay with us."
At one moment, probably around 3am, I paused and thought, "holy crap, I'm in Palestine." And it wasn't the same feeling as walking outside my apartment, or wanting all my friends to be there with me. I was already with friends. Even though I couldn't understand most of what they were saying, and they kept referring to me as Markojan, which is a leave/flower/vine thing. At one point Iyad felt compelled to translate a joke for me, and I didn't get it. He said it was Abu Abed's joke, and everyone caught onto my confusion, and started cracking up. There was nothing to get, it was a stupid joke about donkeys. I realized Abu Abed was the butt of many jokes, when someone brought up the time he sat under a drain pipe and said it was raining. They cracked up again. One thing led to another, and soon everyone was ROFLing uncontrollably.

I lost track of the reason, but the feeling was contagious. We laughed non-stop for a good twenty minutes.

After Helme and Douaa, then Iyad, then Abu Abed, then Mustafa had all left, Alham and Ikram and I got ready for bed. As we settled in, Ikram asked me out of the blue, "shoo ismi?" what's my name? and I swore in my head. I hated when this happened. I couldn't remember. She was more withdrawn than the others, certainly compared to Alham. "Ikram," she said, and I felt so bad.
Then Alham bequeathed to me a pair of red bellbottoms and a bracelet and two rings. I gave her my earrings from Jaffa. Then she pulled out her photo album of ger friends and pictures of her from her brother Helme's wedding. She is really, really gorgeous. Like, whoa.
We turned the lights off and the girls chatted for a while. It was another mental snapshot, hearing sisters pillow talking in Arabic in the dark. I wanted to contribute.
They kept talking.
"Shoo biddek Markojan?" she said impatiently.
"Arif ismich" I know your name.
The girls howled with laughter.
Their brother grumbled at us sleepily from his bed in the living room. Then we fell asleep.


I was at a nice bar in Ramallah last Thursday. I wish I could've captured this scene. The atmosphere was already jubilant, a mix of young foreigners and Palestinians, Sulaiman told me mostly NGO workers, some activists....then this Algerian song came on and everyone went NUTS.

I was a few deep at that point and thoroughly enjoyed watching everyone shout through the French-Arabic mishmash. I told Sulaiman to remember every song they played because I wanted to know Arabic party music. Though, when another popular song came on and he told me it meant "roll it, roll it, before the police come," I realized this genre had a very particular audience.

But this one, apparently, is a classic:

abdelkader ya bou3alem dak el 7al 3aliya
dawi 7ali ya bou3alem sidi rouf 3aliya

sidi abderrahman dir mejhoudek wi et7azem
enta rajel kayem khadeemek dir maziya

3abdelkader ya bou3alem dak el 7al 3aliya
dawi 7ali ya bou3alem sidi rouf 3aliya

ya sidi boumedienne wana fi ardek el amen
ya sidi boumedienne ana fi bardek el amen
ya sidi el howari soultan el ghali
washfeeny ya abdellah soultan el 3aliya

abdelkader ya bou3alem dak el 7al 3aliya ya ya
dawi 7ali ya bou3alem sidi rouf 3aliya

abdelkader ya bou3alem dak el 7al 3aliya
dawi 7ali ya bou3alem sidi rouf 3aliya

da3wati el gilli ya yana dik el mibliya
khalatinny 7eera yana el ashraq taweela

abdelkader ya bou3alem dak el 7al 3aliya
dawi 7ali ya bou3alem sidi rouf 3aliya

abdelkader ya bou3alem dak el 7al 3aliya
dawi 7ali ya bou3alem sidi rouf 3aliya

la la la la la..........

ya dak el wali aaah allah dawi li 7ali
sidi abderahman dawi dawi dawi dawi

shoukran merci

Abdel Kader, my master, my guide
Ease my pain, make me strong
Help me through the dark night of my soul
O sweet girl of my homeland
Why is my heart so troubled
While yours is at peace?
In spite of love's many pleasures
She's turned away and left me
After a night of bliss
Abdel Kader, keeper of the keys
Keeper of my soul
I have left heaven and come back to earth
Away from her arms
I pray life is long enough to let me start over
Heal me and turn me away from my pain

Friday, November 18, 2011

More words of wisdom from Pastor Shawn

Beautiful People,

My wife and I kiss a lot. I love it.
We’ve been married long enough now that not only is kissing something I love, for me kissing is also a measure of where we are that day, week or even that month. Sometimes she will be driving off with a car load of children to school, and if we have not kissed good bye, I know something is up. It could be that we got up late. It could be our minds are “occupied” with the frenzy of the day ahead. It could be we are occupied with the frustrations of yesterday. It could be that we have not seen each other all week and the work of life has taken over and occupied the imperative and proclamation of the kissing life and the physical, emotional and spiritual act that celebrates that, “hey, we are in this sometimes crazy life together—til death do we part; ain’t it great! Now give me a kiss.” Kissing is something I pay attention to.

This Sunday is Friendship Sunday. Bring a friend. It is also our congregational celebration of thanksgiving celebrated with a HUGE Thanksgiving meal after worship. With each passing year, more and more elements of this world try to occupy one of the few days in our national life when we stop to give thanks. Such efforts of occupation will never end, because God is committed to our freedom. Our freedom is sacred. God will not make us give thanks, like God will not make me kiss my wife. But, without giving thanks and praise and kisses, we become aware that something ain’t right between us and God. We might even forget about God. We might forget we have a life together with God. We might build a tower of our own Babel, or a temple full of statues of ourself. Psalm 100 was written to remind the congregation that God needs praise, a joyful noise, and thanksgiving. God needs kisses. God wants lots of kisses and God wants lots of kissing going on. Tell me, what could be more important than that?

Can’t wait to give thanks with you and to kiss your friend on Sunday,
Be good to yourself and kiss somebody today.
Pastor Shawn

First Grace United Methodist
Corner of Jefferson Davis Pkwy and Canal St.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Real Cost of Israel's Occupation of the Palestinians

Palestinians Embark on Civil Disobedience Protests Against Demographic Segregation

About half of the comments on these articles are overtly racist. I gave up on pointing them out a while ago, I haven't even checked them for a while. But for the first time, I feel like I'm able to have an impact.

I've been running around all day taking pictures of the village for my project proposal, the one I cooked up at the GVS meeting. All I need is one more picture and it's finished.

But first I really have to do the dishes.
Here's the Halloween video again, I shortened it a tad...

Demolitions in Al Qasab

This happened yesterday, on a Palestinian national holiday.

Al Qasab Demolished as Hundreds of Israeli Soldiers Watch

15 November 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

This morning, on Tuesday 15th November, national day of Palestine, three houses in Al Qasab near Jericho were destroyed by the Israeli military.

During the early morning, between two and three hundred Israeli soldiers entered Al Qasab with bulldozers and destroyed the houses. The village is in Area C; under full Israeli administrative and military control.

The Fakhori family had some time to move some furniture and belongings outside before their house was destroyed as they were present when the Israeli military arrived. The two other families were absent and didn’t have the chance to salvage any possessions. They returned to find their homes reduced to rubble, with all their belongings inside.

No one in the village was informed of the reason for the demolition and no prior warning or legal order was delivered. One of houses was built just two years ago and the family had a permit to build from the Israeli administration.

The three families must now find a roof to cover their heads tonight. One family is able to move in to his father’s house, but it is not known what the others will do. Naturally, the victims are distraught. They asked us ‘Who will pay for this?’ but they are under no illusions; they know that neither the Israelis or the Palestinian authorities will provide them with any help.

The activists who reported the demolition are from the International Solidarity Movement. Their volunteers get the call and are usually the first to arrive on the scene, to document what's happening and provide an international presence. Zionists like to smear them as terrorist shields, while they're witnessing home demolitions and protecting farmers and fisherman from being shot. (????) It's sickening. If I were to join the ISM, my name, birthday and passport number would be published on this site:

From Stop the ISM:
The following names and passport numbers are members of the ISM who have interfered with anti-terrorism activities of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank and Gaza. If you want to make a real effort for peace in the world, note these names and individuals. In the US or UK, if you recognize them as from your area or neighborhood, contact your local law enforcement, local police, FBI and Homeland Security and advise them that these people have functioned as human shields for Hamas in Judea and Samaria or in Gaza and should be regarded as national security risks at home. If they are foreign nationals from Germany or Sweden, notify your local FBI. Write your local newspapers and tell them about these people. These are not "peace activists", not "human rights" workers. These are people who want terrorist organizations to succeed in their efforts to destroy the democracies of Israel, the UK and the Untied States. Today they operate in the shadows, but let their families, their associates and local law enforcement know who they are and where they can be found. Alert the TSA if they attempt to fly. Contact the US Diplomatic Security Service in your US city to void their passports for assisting as human shields the terrorists in Hamas and Fatah. If they attend your college, alert the administration. The deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Vittorio Arrigoni show how evil will eventually be conquered by good people. Both Hamas and Fatah have expressed grief at the demise of Bin Laden and the ISM also has said nothing about the killing of the murderer of thousands of Americans and Israelis because they support the terrorists who supported and worshipped Bin Laden. Arrigoni will not be the only ISM idiot taken out by Hamas or Fatah. These people below function as a fifth column within our democracies to help the allies of Bin Laden and Hamas. Together, we can all STOP THE ISM!!!

Over the last year Stop the ISM has enlisted people in the U.S. and Canada as well as the U.K. to infiltrate the ISM and report to the Israeli authorities. We have managed to deport over 75 ISM "volunteers" from Israel as a result during the War On Terror.

There are so many reasons to pray for the end of the Occupation. I pray that someday Israel will lose the authority to deport me.

oh piffle

First this?!

Dear Pandora Visitor,

We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

And I thought I was living on Pandora...

Now how am I supposed to have my 80's kitchen clean-up party? The motivation of my mother and grandmother visiting is supposed to be enough?!

Sunday, the Caemmerer women come to Palestine....:)

The Freedom Rides

+972 Blog-Israeli Reactions to Freedom Riders

One of the Israeli passengers on the bus:
"If we go into Ramallah, they’ll kill us."

My first thought wasn't "what a racist." It was..."how sad that she's so afraid."

It reminded me of the GVS meeting when some of the Israelis expressed their dismay at seeing all the concrete walls surrounding Bethlehem: "It didn't used to be like this fifteen years ago. We would travel back and forth and there would be so much interaction. Now the wall is more than physical, it's inside of us."

When I heard about the rides, I contacted The Jewish Fast for Gaza to see if I could contact the organizers and participate in some way, but I didn't hear back. I wondered where the action was going to be. I saw from the pictures that Mazin Qumsiyeh was there, and my friend Haitham was filming. The checkpoint the riders were arrested at was Hizma Checkpoint, outside the village of Hizma, where I went last weekend and ate mansaf with Sulaimon and hung out with his cousins. They showed me their English books, the new ones, and little Mohammad (Mido) danced dabke for us.

It was also the checkpoint my bus was re-routed to a few weeks ago when I was on my way to Jaffa. For some reason, Qalandia checkpoint was a no-go...

ANYWAYS, here's Haitham's footage!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

my first qaws kuzah

I was looking for the English spelling of the Arabic word for Rainbow, Qaws Quzah, and found two things: 1) Qaws Quzah means bow of Quzah, a pre-Islamic rain god, and 2) there's a website called Al Qaws for Palestinian Queer activists...

Al Qaws-for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society

Monday, November 14, 2011

My student Orwa brought me a wikipedia page on the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, because tomorrow is Independence Day. No work, no school...
"fish istaqlal?"
"No independence...but we hope...istaqlal..."

The PLO Declaration of Independence from 1988:

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,

Palestine, the land of the three monotheistic faiths, is where the Palestinian Arab people was born, on which it grew, developed and excelled. Thus the Palestinian Arab people ensured for itself an everlasting union between itself, its land, and its history.

(*Palestinian Arabs=Palestinian Jews, Christians and Muslims)

Full text

Palestine Independence Day by Francis Boyle, UIllinois Law professor and former Legal Adviser to the PLO

Partition Plan of 1947:
Blue=Jewish State
Pink=Palestinian State
Green=Palestinian State based on 1967 borders

....and a "Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem" administered by the United Nations.

Jerusalem kinda looks like a pearl in an oyster.

This morning I stayed up until 6:30 writing, researching and browsing Youtube videos of Ron Paul, and I slept in until noon. My phone was on silent, and I was dead to the world. Haj Sami had visitors for the building project and they wanted to meet me, and I missed the boys' lesson.

I was so embarrassed. My relationship with Haj Sami and the village is so important to me, but I can be awkward, shy, avoidant, self-conscious that I'm an alien and can't speak Arabic, and I'm afraid it makes me a bit of a flake. I have four more weeks of teaching, so I need to step it up.

The adult class went really well, though. We practiced the words too, so, much, many and enough. The ever-useful Arabic word "ktir" covers a lot of these words, so you have people saying "I was so much tired..."

here's a short video of Magdad and Noor and their dad, Abu Abed, torching olives to make oil, and a rainbow, and the Israeli training camp letting off some weird yellow smoke....

Wow, I was writing my project summary and stumbled across this video of the Al Aqaba kindergarten being built, it's outstanding.

And Haj Sami is speaking Hebrew :)

Really, I feel sorry for the soldiers. They're so young.

You can't dehumanize others without first being dehumanized.

I'm pretty sure this is a Nabi Saleh demonstration from this summer. I've been meaning to go one Friday, but I usually just go to Bil'in because it's easier and I have friends there. The Israeli activists I met in Bil'in told me if I want to go to Nabi Saleh, to designate the whole day-it can take hours, and it's more intense. But still "just a game of cat-and-mouse." There, the soldiers don't hide behind a wall, like in Bil'in, they usually come face-to-face with the activists. That happened in Qalandia and Beitin last Christmas. They really do pull your hair and charge at you and throw you around. This isn't an anomaly. I'm ashamed for them, I really am.

And they're doing it to prevent the villagers from accessing their natural springs that were taken over by settlers. Someday reality is going to sink in for these soldiers, and it's not going to be pretty.

Restiamo humani.
Stay human.

What are you saying?

This weekend was awesome!

There's an American organization called the Center for Emerging Futures that holds bi-annual meetings between Israelis and Palestinians called GVS, Global Village Square. My friend Sammy told me about it, and after confirming that the registration was sliding scale, I decided to head to Beit Jala. This could be a great opportunity to network and get some new ideas...

I left Al Aqaba at 6:30...

The trip consisted of:
Service from Al Aqaba to Tubas
Waiting for the Ramallah Service to fill up on (on Friday morning)(no dice)
Service to Nablus
Service to Ramallah
Service to Bethlehem
Taxi to Beit Jala

I arrived at the Everest Hotel at 10:30, and it looked abandoned. Whattt the heck. Then I found the registration desk, and after trying to explain to the manager that I was a volunteer he just tsked and said, "no problem, you are here helping Palestine, we can make the arrangements later, here is the meeting room..."
I got there just as everyone was starting their introductions in a large circle. There were about an equal number of Palestinians and Israelis, and maybe 10 Americans/1 Brit, about 70 people in total. Many were first-timers and expressed their hesitation at coming to the West Bank, or talking to the other side...this guy from Cornwall had been working in Palestine for seven years and started his intro with "I'm from Cornwall and we've been occupied for thousands of years...." which prompted some laughter.

I teared up when the woman next to me introduced herself and said, "I came to overcome a tragedy in my life, the tragedy is that my father was murdered by an Israeli settler and I came....not to forget, but to make the feeling.....lighter."


Our first activity was to find someone new and talk about what inspired us to start taking action. I was with an Israeli girl named Ilil, who turns out is also 24. She talked about taking a trip to South America after her army service, and how she's hoping to find a job, I think in graphic design. I didn't know how to incorporate that into our theme, but we talked about music and movies and that was fun and meaningful in itself. I had a lot of moments to choose from, but I told her about the time I was having a house party in New Orleans, and I was talking to my friend Nick in my kitchen whilst pumping the keg, and something in the conversation led me to say, "you know, I just want to go to the West Bank. Makes some contacts, and around." I surprised myself. Nick responded, "...that's ambitious." And that's when I decided to come here.

We joined another group afterward, an Israeli names Boav and a Palestinian named Alla. They both spoke Hebrew, but I had to translate our English conversations into Arabic for Alla, which was choppy but I realized I have a bigger arsenal than I thought. Ilil doesn't speak a word of Arabic, but she told me I sounded good, and that was a high point in my day.

We all ate lunches and dinners together, and I was always sitting between an Arabic conversation and a Hebrew conversation. At one point a guy joked, "what, you come to our country and you don't learn Hebrew?" and I said something like, "what country are we in? I thought we were in Beit Jala..." and I realized how easy it was, since the hotel was next to the wall and annexed East Jerusalem, and we were pointed there by Hebrew signs, for them to believe this was Israel. I also realized that we were holding back. Many of the groups had had much deeper conversations than my group had had, but there was a still a hesitancy at the dinner table, an instinct telling you to keep it light, keep it friendly.
Before dinner we were entertained and "treated" by a playback improv troupe from Israel. I say treated because the purpose of the performance was to take our personal stories and blend them together and "play them back" to us. One guy from a village near Hebron was called on to tell his story about seeing the sea for the first time. He'd been on a trip to Tel Aviv that was put together at the last GVS meeting. It was the first time he'd ever felt a sea breeze, and the word breeze had a special connection with the word breathe, so it was the first time he'd felt the sea breathe. It was a beautiful and sad story. Everyone laughed together when the boy confessed they'd all jumped into the water with all their clothes on.

The troupe was talented, and adorable. There were three men and two woman, one a petite and very pretty woman with a black ponytail. They were being wacky and hilarious and intense and serious and therapeutic and I knew they were here in the same spirit as everyone else. I wish I'd gotten footage, really. But there was a feeling I got from the performance that makes me feel guilty, but I knew it would probably never go away. It was the same feeling I got when two girls in hijabs recounted their experience going to West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and marveling at how everyone was outside and laughing and smiling, and it was "really cool," and they felt that there was life there, but it was like they were in a movie. I felt the same way listening to them talking about their trip as I did when I looked at the boy from Hebron cracking up as the actors pretended they were fish swimming around his character. How could I look at something beautiful, or see a smiling face, or a new relationship, and have this sinking feeling inside?

After dinner there was a concert put on by a group from Jaffa, but I didn't end up going in. I was hailed by a guy outside the entrance to the meeting room, "hey are you in Haj Sami's Al Aqaba?" I was surprised that someone knew about it. This guy, Sulaimon, had worked on a sports project in Al Aqaba and knew Haj Sami and Sadiq, and he gave me his business card. We were talking to a girl from the Czech Republic, who was studying at Hebrew University ("but I'm not much of a Zionist....") and living in an Orthodox Jewish community. I told them about Al Aqaba and what my plans were. Insh'allah, someday, I'll be able to go straight from Jordan to Palestine, without the Israeli border. Such a pain in the ass. From there our conversation morphed, and grew, and attracted more people, until there were a dozen or so, Israelis and Palestinians standing in a circle while Suleimon and Yovav negotiated their own peace deal. It was more like Yovav asking Suleimon questions, then telling him "how it was." I was really impressed with Suleimon's ability to carry on this conversation for an hour, but he managed to be informative, unabrasive, and crack jokes to ease the tension at the same time. All the while, I found myself interjecting with my own questions that Yovav had no interest in acknowledging. Then I realized how important it was for Yovav to keep going with Sulaimon, even though I had a feeling that Sulaimon was just speaking on the surface and there was a depth that wasn't going to get reached in this debate.

This was the gist of Yovav's argument:
The two state solution is the only way. Israel is the Jewish state with an Arab minority, and Palestine is an Arab state with a Jewish majority (he didn't seem to care for the settlers, they could stay in Palestine, or leave). We can end the occupation and support a Palestinian state, but the Israeli people need reassurance from the Palestinian leadership that the end goal is not to get 100%, and make all of historic Palestine an Arab state. You can have your state, I'll have mine, I just need to know that when we're finished negotiating, it's finished. No more demands, no more right of return. This is why the occupation is still going on, because Netanyahu doesn't trust that if he gives back the land, that the Arabs will be satisfied, that they won't want all of it back. We need to hear Abbas say that it's not just their methods that have changed, but the mentality as well.

(Why should the Palestinian leadership be responsible for giving Israelis reassurance? The Israeli leadership has been colonizing the West Bank since 1967...where's reassurance for the Palestinians?)

We want to give back the land, but if the violence keeps going, that would be a reason to bring the borders further in, and shrink the state, wouldn't it?

What violence?
There is violence.
No, no.
Yes, there is.
It's still in Itamar....

I kinda lost it...
"Itamar?! That's a settlement. An illegal settlement. Do you know how much violence they've inflicted on neighboring villages? The Fogels weren't civilians! They were part of an occupying force! I wouldn't never excuse the violence against them, never, but..."

And I stopped. My voice felt out of place. What I didn't say but wanted to say, was that using the death of the Fogels to sound the alarm for Israel and Jews everywhere was inciting, counterproductive, and offensive to Jews who are actually working for peace, unlike the Fogels. But I backed off, and the conversation continued.

Yovav pointed out an instance where he and a group went to Gaza, and somewhere in the process two Gazans learned that Jews had a connection to Jerusalem, and they were like, huh, I had no idea. And Yovav took that to mean that Arab ignorance about the Jewish connection to the land was one of the major barriers to peace. And yet, he was denying, along with the right of return, the idea that this denial was a cause of suffering, that refugees felt anything akin to how he felt about Jerusalem, which he was free to visit at any time.

It was unbearably patronizing. At one point I was prompted to say, "well, a lot of people didn't think it was right for Israel to expel three quarters of a million people and not let them come back!"
"Yes, there was a war!"
"Who cares, if there was a war or not, they should be allowed to return!"
Another Israeli, who had countered Yovav on a few points, chimed in about the Balkans, and Greece, and refugees that had been given compensation but not the right of return, and I responded, "so the States ethnically cleansed the Native Americans, does one wrong justify another?"
It went on a little bit longer, and at one point the other Israeli asked me,
"What are you saying?"
I laughed, and told him that I'd asked myself that a thousands times before.

What am I saying? I don't recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State?

I'm saying if you're arguing about how many refugees are allowed to come back, you're saying that you're giving a certain number of people the right to return to their homes, up to the point when it interferes with the Jewishness of the state. You're drawing a line through someone else's rights, because you believe that preserving an ethnic majority, which was forced upon a region that was ethnically and religiously diverse for thousands of the key to Jewish security.

I went and got a drink of water. This isn't peace. That deal they're trying to make out there, that isn't peace. The secure Jewish State is a fantasy, I thought in my head. Could I say that outloud? What were the Palestinians standing quietly in the circle thinking? What was Sulaimon really thinking? Was it too important that we preserve the atmosphere?

What am I saying? I'm saying this is what I think, but it doesn't matter what I think. There won't be peace if the conversation continues this way, and if there's no peace, then 100 times more Palestinian will continue to die, and their deaths will be reported x number of Israeli cases of stress.

It's all good to come to a place and say, "I'm tired of the violence, I just want peace," but the conversation will go nowhere if you don't recognize how imbalanced the power structure is.

So I wanted to be confrontational, but then you have Sulaimon, who served ten years in prison for attacking a soldier with a knife when he was 14, and traveled with Combatants for Peace and obviously had this conversation a thousand times...and he wasn't reacting emotionally, just calmly explaining his side, like a friend, "no, no, habibi, when you get kicked out of your home, it's very difficult, yanni..." and giving criticism where it's due..."Abbas, we don't find him charming, or charismatic, but he says what he thinks, and he doesn't play games...Arafat, he played games with people, everyone knows that..."

The whole experience left me wondering where my place was, and if I could have any voice in this conversation.

I formally introduced myself to Yovav and his friend, and we talked about the second trip they were planning for Israelis and Palestinians-this time in the West Bank. Yovav was wary about letting this one girl into the last trip, because she was "such an activist" and he didn't want the atmosphere to get political-"like you, when we were talking, and I kept thinking, "this international is always chiming in, when I just want to hear from the Palestinian, and she's asking questions that we're not even talking about..."

I could've asked him what he considered the role of internationals to be in this conversation, but at that point I just wanted to end on a good note. Me and Sulaimon and two Israelis ended up walking down to a restaurant called Barbara, which was open til midnight and looked out over Bethlehem. We drank local (Taybeh Golden Ale) and talked about traveling in South America and the ridiculousness of theft in la Boca and Rio, and the image of Israeli travelers abroad. One of the guys met a group of Israelis in Chile, and they were saying, "and this is so-and-so, she's a pilot, and he's our intelligence officer, and that's is our commander there..." and he joked that he found it scary that in any given country, there must be a full Israeli battalion, ready to assemble...

We headed back and passed out in our hotel rooms. Breakfast was at 7:30.

The next day I realized the real purpose of the conference. There were four projects that had been funded and supported after the last meeting (marketing crafts from the refugee camps, a cookbook for peace...)and they reported on their progress, but the floor was also open for new projects. Anyone who had a project could sign up as a project host, and present their ideas at revolving tables. Whoever was interested in participating could sign up with them, and the coordinators of the GVS meeting would pledge their support, whether financial or logistical.

I presented my project for Al Aqaba, and sat at an outside table for an hour, explaining it to people who came in waves. It was a first for me, and it was humbling, getting all of this great advice from the older folks, both Israeli and Palestinian (and British)(and American), but I felt like I had a solid idea. After I'd drawn a plan on my big sheet of paper and we'd discussed it for a while, one of the men put his hand on mine and said something like, "know that we're here and we're supporting you because of your clarity on this project..." and it was the nicest thing he could've said. When everyone got together again, I got to present my big paper, and people clapped when I was finished, and the organizer said, "send us a summary, and we'll be sure to support you as best we can." I passed my notebook around and got 50 e-mail addresses.

We all said goodbye and started trickling out. Sulaimon and I walked most of the way to Bethlehem to get a Service taxi, and on the way he told me about the sports project he did in Al Aqaba, and offered to connect me with the same people. Most of the time I was confused (wait, what do you do?) but I felt like it was going to become clearer with time. Accepting someone's help here means you're in it for the long haul, and I could tell that Sulaimon was going to be a great ally.

I'm trying to imagine being 24 and just getting out of a 10-year prison sentence. Think about that for a minute.

Ten years ago I was in 9th grade, carpooling to swim practice and listening to Ashanti.

I'm back in Al Aqaba now, thinking about the possibility of being able to stay here a little longer. I'm going to write my project summary tomorrow. :)