Wednesday, December 14, 2011


 Hi, I met you in Bil'in....
You're the American, right?
Yes, from Al Aqaba.
Yes, I remember you. Great what can we do for you?
I wanted to know if you can come to Al Aqaba and perform....
Yes, yes, of course. We're performing everyday now. Today in Nablus, tomorrow in Bethelehem...
The end of the month would be best. The 30th? Before then is not good.
Wow. Interesting, we actually have a group of Israelis coming on the 30th.
Like for solidarity?
Well, not exactly, they're a peace group, kind of...
But like the Israelis in Bil'in?
Well, they're not activists, no...
See, I must say that I'm against any kind of normalization, you know...
Ahhh, I see. I know what you're saying. It's not like that, they're not....

And then we discussed the details. This man and his wife have a new shadow puppet show and he wanted to know the dimensions of our room. This show was about a princess, not about Jerusalem, like the show I saw in Bil'in. So probably no call-and-response (Israel, Israel...Filisteen! Filisteen!) I saw no problem with having the performance and the pilot visit on the same day. The kids would love it, our guests would love it, why not? leish la? lama no?

December 30th is the pilot visit day for the Guest House project I presented at the GVS conference in Beit Jala. Two Israeli women I met there are coming to Al Aqaba and bringing some friends and family. Palden Jenkins from Bethlehem is also coming. They'll stay in the Guest House for one night, and meet with Haj Sami, and we'll talk about the program and what it needs, and I don't know what it will yield, if anything, but the visit itself is important and I'm really looking forward to it. As Israelis, they need permits to cross the checkpoint from the North of the West Bank. They could technically use public transportation from East Jerusalem, like I do, but if the Beit Jala conference was their first time in the West Bank (the hotel was about ten meters from the wall), I think we'll have to play by the rules for now. If only I knew what the rules were...

But that was the second time I've been called out for normalizing. It's true, I'm not living under occupation...I can leave anytime I want, and go to Jerusalem, or Jordan, or the States. So I can't know how it feels to be under someone else's heel. But I know what normalization is. When the Israeli theater troupe gave Playback therapy to the conference of Palestinians and Israelis alike, I couldn't enjoy it. The actors weren't the enemy. They were talented, and sweet, and funny, and I respected their work and the fact that they were doing it in the West Bank. But this was how I felt:

My culture is civilized, we colonized and oppressed you, and because we're civilized, we can heal your pain. Let us help you.

That's what made me squirm. These nice, wonderful people going up and introducing themselves with funny anecdotes-"When I moved to New York, I was like, why is everyone so nice? You don't genuinely care about my day. Then I moved back to Israel, and was like, why is everyone so rude?" Hahahaha.

How dare you show your complexities to me! Why are you trying to be funny and lighthearted? Don't you know what your country is doing? Why aren't you more cynical? I want you to be cynical. I can't talk to you or laugh with you until you show me're cynical.

Why aren't you disenchanted like the Israeli activists in Bil'in, who choke on your army's gas to show that their friends' lives aren't worth less? Why aren't you anxious like the foreigners in Palestine who cling to their three-month visas while they try to undo the damage that your government has done? Why aren't you royally pissed off? Why aren't you TRYING HARDER??

There's no in-between. Either you're warring against your state, or you're naive to the situation and you'll never understand me. Give me a sign. Give me a gesture.

Maybe that's what the man was asking me...are they cynical Israelis? Are they angry, and self-hating, and full of confessions? No, I doubt that they are. But if we're talking about normalization....Israelis who want to come to Al Aqaba aren't normal in the first place. That's a fact. They aren't normal for wanting to come here, so their experience in this Palestinian village, any Palestinian village, will be anything but normalizing.

Maybe someday these ventures will be mainstream. Maybe Al Aqaba will be a weekend get-away, a retreat center, or a hotspot. Maybe someday the world will know how this little village was once under demolition order, and how we showed 'em.

Insh'allah. All I know is, we can't do it alone.