Saturday, June 30, 2012

I'm still posting on my other blog about what's happening in Al Aqaba, check it out here!

I got the horse right here....

I've been home for a few weeks now, and I've been compiling a list in my head of all the things that remind me of Palestine.

-Going to the grocery store (which is massive) and seeing large, perfect produce.
-Driving on bumpy streets in New Orleans and thinking we're going over the little speed bumps before a checkpoint.
-Seeing earth-tone jeeps and assuming they're full of armed soldiers
-Giving in to all the Arabic words that still falling off my tongue....tayeb, ok, bas...insh'allah, wallahi, yalla!
-That's all I can think of right now.

This song-posting thing has been good. The quality of my posts have gone down (can I blame the change in location?) but I'm taking pride in being consistant.

Today's song was going to be Keane-This is the Last Time, which I listened to on the way to have coffee with Ed. We talked about the soccer team film I'm going to start tomorrow, and the website I'm starting. He advised me not to get sucked into two tendancies, 1) to normalize the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis, i.e. portray them on equal footing, and 2) to throw too much praise on the international or Israeli activists and ignore the Palestinians. He likened that to Avatar. I likened it to The Help, because a lot of people criticized it for fawning over a white heroine during the Civil Rights era. Then I asked if there's enough value to that, to portraying a member of the priviliged society changing sides. Is that more inspiring to the privileged and humanizing to the Other than a story told purely about the Other?

There is value in both. There is also value in recycling formulas because that's where the money and the attention is.....

Anyway, he recommend Dances with Wolves, which my dad has always been telling me to see. It's in our cabinet.

Today I saw two new movies, Moonrise Kingdom and Brave. Moonrise Kingdom was great. What was the gist? Questioning who is sane and who is insane? The second half was pretty surreal (as Wed Ansderson is known to make it) so the answer would be.....who cares?

Brave was cute. Not very memorable, though. And I love Emma Thompson to death, but a British voice as the Scottish mother? I do respect the hell out of whoever animated that red hair....

At 10 I came home and grouted the bathroom floor. Rather, I tested the new grout color and my mom encouraged me to finish it all tonight. It took about three hours. It would've taken way longer if my mom and dad hadn't helped me rotate clean sponges. Toward the end we got to singing show tunes.

It was quarter to two when we finished. I went outside to help my dad rinse the buckets and tools. It was raining.

My hands feel like clay. I'm so excited to seal that grout and be done! And start the soccer film tomorrow. Which I'll be waking up for in four hours. Hopefully that'll kickstart me out of this nocturnal life...

Friday, June 29, 2012

We Are Here

Wednesday and Thursday go together. I went to trivia in Wallingford yesterday and we got 8th place but it was still fun. I didn't get this song, but I named the Bill Murray movie it was in. Although I don't remember that part...

From Groundhog Day....

Afterwards I found myself on the roof of my friend's house talking about politics and music and drinking mead.

On my way home at sunrise I browsed through my brother's iPod and found this gem that I downloaded in high school.


Then I found on Haj Sami's facebook that the IDF has been doing live-fire training exercises in the village. A British activist took a video of the soldiers firing within sight of the guest house. I found that out just before I started babysitting. So I gave up my angst for a little while and dressed up dolls. It actually helped a lot, I think because picking out outfits takes a lot of effort for me. It was very distracting. We came up with some good combos.

We also watched Horton Hears a Who. I was especially fascinated by this part:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Today I babysat the two most wonderful, adorable, intelligent children ever. The brother is hooked on a game called MineCraft, and he took me on a tour of the light-house he designed. This is how it went:

" and this is the second level, called the distribution center, and this is where the pistons pump so that the shutters can move like that, mmk?" then we climb up to the next level.

"Hey...where did you get the idea to, uhhh....obscure the glowstone?"

"It's obscured....because that's just the design..."

Yeah, he's 9. .....

After the nanny switch-off, I made my way to the Mosaic Coffeehouse in Wallingford to meet up with my friend Ed and his friend Hanna, who is organizing the Palestinian soccer team for the All Nations tournament in a few weeks. Ed thought it would make a great subject for a short film. I have to say this, I thought Hanna was a woman. But no, Hanna is a man, from a village near Nazareth in Northern Israel. After Ed took off, I made some conversation with Hanna to know more about his work, and we ended up talking for hours. Somewhere along the way this song started playing and it put a huge smile on my face.

He told me about his experience in Bosnia, and writing a play about Bosnian refugees coming through Seatac Airport, and how after he was done he had to seek help for a few months. Going up to families, seeing wives pull back clothing on their husband's scars. They didn't want to show that they'd be tortured. It's hard to see men like that.

I told him about all my project ideas. He asked me if I sleep at night. It's 4 in the morning, so....not really.

Hanna gave me a lot of ideas and a lot of encouragement. I want to set up a new fundraising campaign, geared toward the community and people that have more of a direct stake in this project. It should take a few days to draft, and it could be the reason these summer films get made.

Though I just sent in an application to be a comment moderator at HuffPo.

URGENT: Appeal for international presence in Al Aqaba

Two days ago, Israeli officials delivered five demolition orders to structures in Al Aqaba. One of the structures targeted is the home of the Jaber family, with ten children. Since the army has been demolishing homes in the nearby bedouin community of Al Maleh, and the village's latest master plan was recently rejected, there is reason to believe Al Aqaba may be targeted in the next few days. There are three internationals in the village now, and a few more are on their way. If you want to visit Al Aqaba this weekend and lend your presence, please contact Haj Sami at 059-906-8808 or Gila at 054-747-4783. For those in the States who would be willing to contact their representatives, e-mail me at and I can help you with that. Jaber's home Demolition order, saying that in 1/1/2000 they sent a building freeze order and to return the land to the way it was, and now the person in charge of the land has 3 days to re-apply for a permit from Bet El, if circumstances have changed. Our volunteer Gila and Haj Sami and residents holding up posters of Al Aqaba children, to be used as part of a non-violent demonstration if the army comes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Today was tile-cutting day. I spent five hours with my dad walking between the bathroom and the garage, ignoring the "measure twice, cut once" rule and musing on what that means as a life metaphor. I'm more of a "measure once, then spend fifteen minutes shaving off sixteenths of an inch until I get tired of walking back and forth and go crazy with an eighth of an inch which turns out to be wayyyy too much." Toward the end I got really accurate though.

This was playing on the radio on the way to Home Depot....


I say heyyy
I'll be gone today
But I'll be back all around the way
It seems like everywhere I go
The more I see, the less I know
But I know
One thing
I love you

Monday, June 25, 2012

Human faces

Saturday and Sunday go together.

Yesterday I tiled most of my parents' bathroom. The last day of laying tile will be tomorrow, because my dad has to rent a wet saw so I can cut the edge pieces. Then the grouting, then the sealing. Then, khalas...

While I was laying tile I heard this song playing on my mom's Pandora station...

I was obsessed with Bittersweet Symphony one weekend in seventh grade, when my drama club got to travel to Paris. I played it over and over and over on my Disc-man. The song gets good at 0:44.

And I'd heard it just the night before, when I came and watched Cruel Intentions with my dad. It used to be one of my favorite movies in middle school, maybe because my dad voiced his disapproval with me watching it. Last night he said he doesn't remember that....
When I was finished tiling I showered up because I was sweaty and and smeared with cement, then I got dressed and my friend Larry picked me up to take me to a presentation at St. Marks Cathedral. I'm if I decided to go to this presentation because of the Israel/Palestine-related meetings I attended the day before, or in spite of them. I was excited to be getting involved and meeting new people, but maybe I was over-doing it a little?

I was supposed to meet a friend at his place on Capital Hill and make dinner anyway, so I decided to squeeze this into my schedule.

The presentation took place at a beautiful house next to St. Mark's. Larry and I arrived and found Huda and Judith, whom I'd just met the day before, and about fifteen other people, loading up on potluck desserts and coffee. I hovered over the coffee machine and told my story to people coming in, including Amy, who's still in college but wants to volunteer in Palestine this fall. We all got seated in front of the projector screen.
The presenter was Heather Spears. I knew that she had done drawing in Gaza, because of the event description. Her name made me think she was close to my age. Spears. Must be young.

She wasn't. I think she was my grandparents' age. She spoke like an artist, and I could imagine her giving a presentation at my grandparents' art guild, like one of their visiting artists or my grandfather explaining his slides. She spoke slowly and clearly and explained every one of her pictures matter-of-factly, with the right amount of detachment to break your heart and keep you paying attention. Is this something I need to practice? Can I learn to talk about horrible things this way? After every poem and every picture I found myself taking deep breaths to un-tighten my chest. In one poem she named the village "Tayasir." Tayasir is next to Al Aqaba, but I didn't get to ask her what she found there. She went to a lot of villages and she told me she probably won't go back.
She drew pictures of children in Gaza hospitals, and got their siblings or parents to write in Arabic an explanation of what happened to them. We looked at the faces of the children while Heather translated the Arabic, and I had trouble. I recognized those eyebrows, that gaze. This should never happen to anyone. And I heard the voice in my head, "but we have to do this to protect the children of Israel from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and they use the children of Gaza as human shields."

And is it so easy as that?

Human Acts
Twelve men and boys
taken in a raid
driven to an olive grove away from the village
the orders were to break their arms and legs.
Soldiers who didn't want to do it
could go and sit in the jeep.
As for the last man,
They broke only his arms.
That was / so he could walk back
and tell what happened.

Was it nearly dawn when he got there?
These paths, the twisted road are known to him
like his own hands, like the faces of his children.
He cradles the split arm
with the one he can still move
high against his chest, it has become
outside himself, he could be carrying a lamb
or a child. He whispers.
There is enough light, anyway,
and over this ridge
the village in terrible silence.

This woman showed human faces, and I loved her for it.

When my friend picked me up for dinner, I mentioned the woman with the drawings from the first Palestinian uprising...then I tucked it away. The streets of Capital Hill were filled with costumed people celebrating Pride Weekend.

We made vegetable skewers and chicken and quinoa and salad, and ate on the roof, which has a stunning view of Seattle.
When we got back to the apartment my friend realized he'd locked his keys inside, so after knocking on neighbor's doors and calling all the building board members (it was 10pm) we finally got an answer from the lady in the apartment above and one over. From her balcony my friend climbed onto his. If you know me you understand why we get along.
I've already posted this song, but I'm posting it again. Maybe you've heard it before, now imagine making out to it.


Sometimes Pandora does a good job. Now imagine that the next thing that plays is a commercial for O'Reilly Auto Parts.

I walked from Capital Hill to downtown Seattle at 11.:30. I needed coffee but all I had were Tully's cards. No Starbucks, no fair-trade local organic coffeeshop, just Tully's. And I never found one. wa waaaa. That's how I felt.

Until I caught up with a group of people dressed to the nines in pink. They were part of the flock headed down to the pride parade, and I didn't feel quite as spirited in my black and teal get-up, but I was excited to see the parade!!!

Families marching
Little girl perched and waving a rainbow flag
Lots of churches

I didn't expect there to be so many families and kids there, and that was really cool to see. If I have kids I'll take them to pride parades.
I didn't take a picture of the PFLAG group, Parents and Family/Friends of Gays and Lesbians. One old man was holding up a sign that said, "We love our gay children." I teared up when I saw that. He was showing a human face, and I loved him for it.
It was a wonderful scene. I met up with my friend Rachel from high school, and we watched another hour of floats and crews. Churches, goths, Pacific Islanders, gardeners, leather companies, political campaigners, naked bikers, a trannie with an umbrella that said, "Ask a Trannie Anything!"

whoa, p.s., I met Maria Cantwell. She just went up to us and shook our hands. What's up, Senator! Jay Inslee didn't go up to us but I saw him...
I ended up walking from Seattle Center back up Capital Hill with my friend Ned, and we met up with his sister and her friends for drinks and a BLT.

My night ended at St. Marks, full-circle. My dad came and met me and we went into Sunday night compline. We used to go all the time, not so much anymore. We found an empty spot on the ground near the pulpit and laid down. People were crowding in quietly and taking up spots in pews and on benches and on the floor. The thirteen men started singing, and for the next half hour, I tried to drown out all the thoughts floating in my head and focus on the purity of that unison, or the richness of that harmony. Sometimes I stare at the ceiling, five stories up, and wonder if any of the lights could ever fall on you. This time I found it hard to stay awake, and I had to struggle to get up and stand for the Apostle's Creed. This week's anthem was short and sweet, and I was a little disappointed. I remember their "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" one Christmas. It was like buttah.
When the thirteen men filed out and the door clicked behind them, everyone rose and shuffled out of the cathedral. I picked up a brochure in the foyer that said Mideast Focus Group, and read about the activities they sponsor related to peace in the Holy Land. One of the resources on the back page was Electronic Intifada. Right on.
When my dad and I got home, I watched The Help with my cousin, who was in town for the night. When Medger Evers was shot, and Minny told Abileen, "They shot him, in front of his children.....we are in hell." I got choked up for the third time, and started to think about how my days were weaving together.
I really enjoyed reading the Help, mostly because I identified with Skeeter. She had to rat out her own culture in order to show real human faces, and I loved her for it. :)
It doesn't hurt that the antagonist is a despicable racist and it's fun to watch her get it.

When The Help was over I checked the channels and Avatar was on. Combating imperialism is such an easy sell, like combating racism is such an easy sell. How slowly is the occupation moving into those boxes....

To my Arabic Book

Dear stupid Teach-Yourself-Arabic book,
I have completed Lesson Five
and you have yet to tell me
the word for arm, or leg, or salt,
but I can write perfectly
The delegates are at the Ministry.
I can even write
The busy, diligent, famous, honest, clean, clever, important
thin, fat, lazy
delegates are at the Ministry

and I know the gender agreements and all the duals and plurals
and the words for war zone, and council, and factory, and government
but not the word for sand, and wind, and star.
-Heather Spears

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Seattle Solidarity meetings

It's the end of the school year. For a post-grad wanderer, that doesn't mean much. For a teacher kid, that means lots of cookies on the kitchen table. So...still a good thing.

 Tonight I went to two meetings. One was for Northwest BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli Occupation) and the other was a film screening at a church in Wallingford, followed by discussion. On Israel/Palestine. There's a reason this post might be kinda long. I'm not as stoked about pouring over the details of my Seattle. But I'm starting to get acquainted with the social justice/palestine solidarity/equal rights/awareness/what have you movement in Seattle and I'm still coming across this really interesting people and conversations. And I have to record them because they are not recorded enough. I feel very strongly about this.

So here goes. The first event I was horrendously late for, but it turns out Seattle time sometimes resembles Arab time, so I was fine. It was a potluck. Everyone was really friendly. One couple had come all the way from Vancouver, WA, and were looking to move to Palestine together. Another girl my age was just about to leave for a two-month tour. Making salmon-cream cheese dip was Kit Kittredge, whose name I already knew; she was on two flotillas to Gaza. Ed took me around and introduced me to people. The first person we met was Judith.

We did all the hey's, how are ya's, and she said she just got back from a trip to Eastern Europe. There was a moment's pause, and me being the awkward person I am, I had to tell myself to keep the conversation going (some people just naturally do that, you know)

"So! What were you doing in Eastern Europe?"
She explained that she was on a trip with her daughters. Her family was Polish, so she wanted to go and see the Jewish culture there, or what remains of the old Jewish culture, because Poland used to be the heart of it. I asked her what she found, and she said most of it is gone. There used to be three million Jews there, and now there were something like 70,000. I told her I'd just heard of an art project that created a campaign to reach out to Jews who had left Poland and re-create a Jewish Renaissance...(the link is here), thought she might find that interesting. She told me about one of her friends who moved from Poland to Israel, then decided to move back. Not because he hated Israel, he just missed Poland. Judith and her daughters went to Germany and Auschwitz and she said everytime she saw pictures of children she thought of Palestinian children, and her mind kept going to the wall, and Gaza....and she didn't want to bring her politics on her family so she mostly kept it to herself.

I stayed for about an hour of the meeting, then had to run to the film screening/discussion in Wallingford. Suffice to say, I met some wonderful and courageous folks at both events, and felt like I really had something to contribute, though I'm not sure what that is yet...

I arrived 40 minutes late to the second event, but luckily Arab time still held, and the film screening of Encounter Point was just ending. I caught the last 5 minutes, and paid attention to the camera angles and how the filmmaker was presenting her conclusion. Could I really be a professional filmmaker?

The credits rolled and I saw that Julia Bacha made the film. She made Budrus! She also did the Ted Talk on paying attention to non-violence...

I loaded up on coffee and bread, and perused the tables. There was Amin at the solidarity table, and another table for JStreet. I thought about asking them about their 2-State platform, but I just sat and sipped my coffee until the discussion started.

Right off the bat I could tell there were some solidarity folks there. The guy next to me started off talking about how Jews and Christians and Muslims lived together peacefully before Zionism, and how the solution shouldn't be in dividing the people up. The woman next to me responded that that is a nice idea in theory, but we have segregated populations over the world, and the other guy responded, yes, but not segregated by law, and the moderator had to put her foot down. There was a no talk-back policy.

The rest of the discussion flowed pretty smoothly. It seemed that the 1-state/2-state bit was the only real controversy, because there were a lot of Amen's on the idea of co-existance and democracy and equal rights, but that didn't fully conform to the J-Street 2-Staet platform. Jewish state next to Palestinian State. Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace. I have a lot of respect for the work they do politically. They support candidates who are willing to advocate openly for peace with the Palestinians, not pretend they don't exist or follow the Israel Lobby blindly, like Republicans and most Democrats. I like keeping track of their work, though I don't think 2 States is the only solution. When one guy in the discussion asked, "Don't we all agree that the idea of states and borders should disappear someday?" and people hoorah'd, I got the impression from one of the women from J-Street that 2 States may be the best short-term solution...

But one of them shared, "I went to Israel and the West Bank, and I came out more sympathetic towards the Palestinians..." and "as an American Jew, I have no problem communicating with Muslims, or Christians, or the interfaith community. What's hard for me is communicating with someone from a pro-Israel group like StandWithUs, someone in my own community with different views..." At the end of the discussion I realized I hadn't said anything and thrust my hand up desperately and finally got called on. I told everyone that I'd just gotten back from the West Bank, where I was running a guest house where people could come and see the situation, and what I found was that the definitions in this conflict are too rigid. It's not about being on the Israeli "side" or the Palestinian "side." Instead I saw a conflict between forces of unity and forces of separation. An Israeli who breaks Israeli law to visit friends in Ramallah...what do we call them? What side do we put them on? There's not enough light being shined on these "in-between" scenarios, and that's why people are so disillusioned about the prospect of coexistance.

Anyway, I got a really good response, and several people went up to my afterward and wanted to know more about the work I did. The woman from J-Street next to me seemed really enthusiastic about it, and we exchanged numbers before I left. She said the last time she was in Israel was in the 70's, and she's still unsure of a lot of things.
"Some of those guys in the discussion seemed alright with there being no Jewish state, but I'm not sure I am!"
I responded that it was really valuable for me to travel in Israel and meet Israelis and visit Yad Vashem, not just stay in Palestine. I don't say this stuff to shmooze, but it's coming more naturally now because I recognize that even in circles like this, where everyone is mostly on the same page with love and peace and justice, there's still that tendancy to see other opinions as a tragic result of miseducation....I won't fall into that. I can be educated, and positive, and listen, and tell people what I've seen, why I'm hopeful, and remove the threat from the conversation...I still have a long ways to go, but I have a lot of other people to thank for making me comfortable with talking about the implications of a one-state solution. The idea is equal rights, but you have to be able to respond to "what are you saying?!" To think how many people are thinking it but don't say it outloud...

So it was a very good evening. Tomorrow there is an art presentation about Gaza at St. Marks. Coinkidink, I'll be on Cap Hill tomorrow night....and Sunday is Pride. I'll need a fabulous umbrella for all that...rain. wah wah. or are Pride parades better wet?


This song was playing on the radio as I drove down I-5 in the rain. It reminded me of Phoebe from Friends. "Isn't it...hold me closer Tony Danzaaaa...?"

Before He Cheats

New rule: I can post retro-actively.

This is for yesterday. The song was going to be Steve Perry's "Oh Sherrie" because my dad and I were sitting in 520 traffic blasting that song and it reminded me of the Tribute to the Female mix I made with only women's names...that was a cool mix.

Anyway, this is my song of yesterday, because I sang it for karaoke at Finn McCool's on the Ave. I was teetering between this one and "Can't Fight the Moonlight," and decided Carrie Underwood would be easier, thus more stage fright-proof.


Nick busted out "Twist and Shout" and I think the whole place fell in love with him.


TIAA-CREF just dropped Caterpillar. I'll be writing more about this later.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bubble Toes

Song of the day: Bubble Toes.


This was playing on the radio as I drove home tonight. It was 2 in the morning, but it still counts as "yesterday" because I haven't gone to sleep yet.

At one point in time this was my older brother's favorite song. I never really got into it, because it's kind of about feet.

But! I officially fell in love with the song a few weeks ago, when I was chaperoning a class trip to Chicago (the kids were from the school I worked at in New Orleans last year) and me and my five girls were running amuck in the Shedd Aquarium. When we went up to the bouncer at the Jellyfish exhibit, we were informed that our passes didn't qualify us for the Jellies section. But our bouncer was sooo nice that he let us in anyway. So we were the only six that got to see the Jellyfish.

I was eatin lunch at the DLG
When this little girl came and she sat next to me
Never seen nobody move the way she did
Well she did, and she does, and she'll do it again
When you move like a jellyfish, rhythm don't mean nothin
You go with the flow, you don't stop
Move like a jellyfish
Rhythm is nothin
You go with the flow, you don't stop

So I had Bubble Toes stuck in my head for the rest of the trip. I managed to drown out the Nick Manaj sing-a-longs with "Lat dat da dat dat da...."

The full trip album is here:

New Orleans-related news

I know a few people who were fired from their teaching jobs are Hurricane Katrina, this is big news....

Post-Katrina firings were wrong, judge finds

And this one isn't totally about New Orleans, but it delves into the issue of government contracts post-Katrina that declined foreign aid just to make the rich richer....

The Har Homa Heat? Meet the settement-building family that owns the Miami Heat

Speaking of disaster capitalism, have you read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine? Amazing book.

I've been laying Wonderboard in the bathroom all day, and somehow I didn't come away with a song in my head. I'll be back with that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Invisible Touch

From this day on, I am going to post a song every day.

This one is in honor of my new favorite activity, which is running on the indoor track at Gold Creek Tennis Club while listening to Genesis.....on Pandora....on my phone.

I'm getting in shape and discovering new Genesis songs all the time!

You might ask, but Morgan, how could you play that cheese, what about the prog years? To that I say Pandora only seems to recognize Phil Collins as Genesis, since the only Peter Gabriel songs they play are Shock the Monkey and Solsbury Hill...

That's fine by me.

On another brother and I have been binging on "How I Met Your Mother." I've seriously underestimated this show. Whenever anyone asked me if I'd seen it, I'd say, "ehh, a few episodes. It seems kind of hit or miss." Now I know that NPH is annoying and Jason Segal is lame because they're such good actors!!

Aha, please. (that's NPH, when someone asks him what he actually does for a living)

Tomorrow my dad and I are starting to tile the bathroom floor. I got to show off all my tiling knowledge at Home Depot, and the guy seemed kind of amused, he kept quizzing me on what I should do. Half the time I just answered, "I was in non-profit, we didn't have so many choices" and feigned amazement at their selection of Wonderboard. Honestly, I wish I had the skills of a contractor, but I was still proud that I remembered all my tools...whilst wearing pink shorts. I learned in AmeriCorps that there's nothing quite so satisfying as showing up guys who try to make you their "screw girl."

My brother is typing real fast. Chik chak, as my friends in Al Aqaba would say. They told me it was Hebrew. I don't really know. I need to order that Hebrew-Ten Minutes a Day off Amazon.

I told my friend (Amin from Bethlehem) over Phad See Lew today, that both Hebrew and Arabic are a litte tainted now. I can't believe I told him the whole story, though the fact that he cracked jokes about it did make me feel better.

Souli always gave me shit for typing loud. Like I was attacking my keyboard. After the first few times I would catch myself before he started laughing. Then I would say "I type with purpose." My favorite line from one of his favorite movies, which is about being on-the-go and restless all the time.

It might be a fuzzier memory if my ex didn't give me the same shit last week...about the typing. That was before I looked up at the Hebrew blessing plate I bought him four years ago and said, "your blessing is upside-down!" "Really? I thought it looked nice like that"....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I'm at Tully's again. Some guy in a cardigan took my window seat from yesterday, so I had to make an insto-feng shui assessment. I'm in a corner now.

These spinach stratas are amazing. I had to go up and order a second one. The guy at the counter asked me, "was that 5K really over there?" and I looked down. The Palestine 5K shirt. "Yeah."

"Cool. One of my best friends is Palestinian."
"No shit!"
"Yeah, he's always talking about some cousin or other that he doesn't even know who's back in the Holy Land..."
The good thing about a 5K shirt is that it shows people that life is happening "over there." And no one will ask you "but...what are you SAYING?" That's why I don't like the idea of walking around in a Free Palestine shirt. I have one that says "Equal Rights for Palestinians" with some people walking by the Wall flying Palestinian flag kites, and I wore it for an awareness walk in New Orleans, but I haven't worn it since.

And...running is just cool. I'd like to run all future Palestine 5K's. I could judge my fitness on my Palestine 5K time. Right now I'd just be really proud if I could run the whole thing...that course is damn hilly.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hide your smile!

It was my first time in Qalqiliya. My friend Hamdi from Bil’in and his friend Simon, a Swiss photographer, met me in Manara Circle in Ramallah, and from there we caught a yellow Service. The drive took about an hour, and we all tried to sleep. The boys were more successful because they were next to the windows and had something to lean on. I just leaned back let my head bob up and down and hoped I didn’t snort or drool.

I woke up 20 minutes from Qalqiliya, and felt like I was still dreaming. The land looked so lush and green, and there were white houses with red roofs perched neatly on the hilltops. Everywhere I looked there was another Israeli settlement, and Hebrew signs everywhere. I felt a mix of wonder and despair. I had only seen maps of the Qalqiliya governorate, and now that I was finally on the ground, I had to remember the map in my head, an absurd picture of the wall and settlements surrounding the city on all sides, allowing for a thin corridor of access from the East. Nestled in our little yellow van, in Palestinian public transportation, we were moving from Palestinian city to Palestinian city, with no choice but to cross unofficially annexed ("disputed") territory. It wasn’t a pleasant reality, so I shut my eyes and tried to fall asleep from it.

Then we departed from the highway and down a road with the familiar red Hebrew sign: You are now entering Area A-Entry illegal for Israelis. By order of the Israeli military, any Israeli citizen found coming in or out of Area A without a pre-approved permit will be arrested and detained.

"I'm living under Zionist occupation too," one of my Israeli friends told me. "I don't have freedom of movement, if I want to visit Palestinian areas..."

The driver leaned out his window and shouted a greeting to the police officer guarding the Qalqiliya municipality. They seemed to be good friends. Hamdi was awake at that point and mentioned that there was a zoo around here. I knew that, and wondered if we’d be able to see it today. Once I mentioned to a my friend in Ramallah that I’d probably not like the zoo in Qalqiliya if it was anything like the one in Amman (small cages, not a nice facility), and to that he laughed a little sardonically and said, “we live like animals in a zoo, what about the animals?”

As we drove down the main street, Hamdi asked the other passengers where would be the best place to see the wall. They directed us as we got out of the Service and we made our way through the city. The main street was big and bustling, full of clothing stores and small restaurants….we were a strange sight, one Palestinian with two fair-haired ajaneb (foreigners), and were greeted with stares and smiles and "how are you"s. We wandered onto a quiet neighborhood street, past a kindergarten with broken playground equipment, and a secondary school, and then I could see the wall. It looked bigger than the one in Bil’in, but from our spot we couldn’t see over it at all. I wondered what it would be like to live next to the thing.

The neighborhood ended, and we found an auto repair depot, with six men sitting on a bench underneath a shelter at its entrance. They immediately yelled, “tishrabkom shai?” “will you drink tea?” We had no objections, so we sat down with them while someone was sent to make the tea. They were men ranging in age at least twenty years, including the director of the depot and some guy that just liked to hang out there. One of them directed a question in Arabic to Simon and I, “so you’re here to see the wall…what good does that do us?” I didn’t know how to respond, I often wondered what good I’m doing anyone here.  I told them I was just “mahom,” with the guys, seeing the situation, and I was a volunteer in Tubas. This seemed to satisfy them, and they were surprised to learn I was American. But from there the conversation continued in German, since the director was fairly fluent and wanted to practice with Simon and Hamdi. I wanted to throw in that my parents speak German, but I was tired, and just sat back and drank my tea.

As we departed, one of the men went up to me and asked me a question. I didn’t understand all the words, but I gathered he was asking for advice on how to get into the States. I told him he needed a job. “Ahh, an invitation,” he said. Then he started talking about how he was in Kuwait, and Amman, and the life is better there, because there’s independence, but he lives in Palestine because it’s his home, he was born here, but with independence it’s always better, and I nodded and told him I understood, and wished I could help everyone who asked. I turned to join Simon, who was taking a picture of three kids, one of whom was holding a toy rifle. My friend from Canada had told me she was alarmed by how many kids play with toy guns here. I felt useful stepping in and saying that as an American, I didn’t find this alarming in the slightest.

We continued on to join Hamdi and two of the depot workers who were explaining the “wad3a,” the situation. The closer we got to the wall, the more it smelled like shit. There was an old canal along the wall and a basin for sewage water that ran under the wall. From what I gathered, the wall had made it impossible for a viable sewage system to be developed, so the fields often overflowed with waste. It was the sight of the gargantuan concrete wall, the smell of shit, and the sound of cars whooshing on the side we couldn’t see, it was a rather unpleasant place to just walk around. But we walked around, reading the graffiti that read, “this wall must fall,” and “this wall is so 1989” and “history hates walls.” Most of the wall was covered in slogans, and the art was pretty shabby compared to the sections of wall in Bethlehem and Qalandia that are sprayed by professionals. There is no one here to appreciate a Banksy.

I asked Hamdi to take a picture of me looking up at the wall....I had no space on my memory card and it seemed like an artsy shot. As I stood there looking at the concrete-sky line, I saw three soldiers looking down on us. The two watchtowers we could see seemed to be unmanned, but these guys appeared to just be patrolling along the top of the wall. “Hamdi, soldiers,” I said. He said, “where?” Oh, there. He let the usual Arabic curse words fly and continued on his way.

We found a donkey carcass between the wall and canal, and I went eughhh and walked right by. But Hamdi knelt down and started photographing it, and Simon followed suit. So I said something like, “boys,” so maybe the soldiers would hear me and regard me as normal, as I shuffled around and tried to act like a tourist (?) while the boys were snapping away. I looked up and the oldest of the three soldiers nodded at me, and I nodded back him, somewhat tersely. I’m not opposed to interacting with soldiers and bridging that gap in misunderstanding, but it’s a nasty feeling when you play along purely out of fear.

Hamdi and Simon caught up with me, and the soldiers were gone. We took more photos, and the boys picked different sections of the wall to sit down on and look over their pictures and smoke a cigarette. After fifteen minutes I asked them why we were still sitting next to a canal full of shit water, and then we saw a fat military jeep rambling towards us from a few hundred meters away. This couldn’t be an ordinary excursion… they were coming to check us out. The boys took a few pictures while I gathered up my stuff and got out of the way of the jeep. It stopped, and I noticed the driver was a pretty young woman soldier wearing a trendy wool winter hat. The three soldiers who had just been on top of the wall climbed out and approached us.

“What are you doing here?” one of them asked.

“Taking pictures.”
“Do you have credentials?”
They boys nodded, yes. I said, “huh?” I wasn’t press.
“Identification,” the oldest one said, “you know what that means?”

Yeahhh, I have ID. Hamdi took out his huwiya, West Bank ID, Simon took out his passport, and I took out my driver’s license.

The soldier looked at Simon’s passport and said, “wow, Swiss.” He mumbled something like, he’d never seen one of those before. They looked at my license for a second, and handed it back. Ok, it looked like we were clear.

“Wait, give me your ID again,” they asked Hamdi. He handed back his huwiya, and they took it to the jeep. So we sat against the wall. For about an hour.

“You know,” Simon told me, “you probably paid for that jeep.”
I scoffed, then conceded that he had the right to tease the American.
“I wonder if they’d let me drive it.”

Here’s something I can say about Hamdi and Simon: they are one of the funniest pairs I’ve ever known. They’re like brothers, always giving each other shit, and howling over something. Hamdi laughs so much sometimes I worry that he doesn't breathe enough. You could say they were partners in crime, but that didn't seem so appropriate in this situation. We spent the next half hour laughing over a video that Simon had taken the day before, of Hamdi dancing and lip-synching to an Arabic song with a banana microphone. At the end of his performance, he leans into the camera and says, “thanks!” and then Simon and I laughed hysterically and the soldiers looked back at us. It’s obvious they’re not checking Hamdi’s ID anymore. They’re standing outside the jeep and smoking. At one point, I yelled, “are you bored?!” and one young soldiers with nice, curly locks nods yes. Twenty minutes later Simon went up to them and asked what was up. He was getting hungry, and I was tired of smelling the shit water. What are they waiting for? Are they just trying to humiliate the Arab among us? As if that doesn’t affect me and Simon? Wallahi, the things they do to break the spirit of resistance…they have to know by now that it has the opposite effect. No one was breaking out spirit. We’d busted out Simon’s laptop and Hamdi’s internet stick and were taking turns updating our Facebook statuses on Hamdi’s situation. At one point I yelled at them to stop being so dramatic and grabbed the computer to erase something about Hamdi being in Israeli custody. Hamdi grabbed the internet stick, I closed the laptop, and we continued to laugh at the fact that we just Facebooked on the wall.  

They finally called Hamdi over, and the oldest soldier handed him an iPhone. For the next fifteen minutes, Hamdi was pacing around, chatting with someone in Arabic. It sounded like he was just talking to some Arabic-speaker at a desk somewhere, and having an ok time with it. He kept laughing, and I translated a few phrases for Simon (like “I’m just taking pictures!”). It sounded like a formality, and it put me and Simon at ease. We joked that Hamdi was prolonging the conversation to get back the soldiers for making us wait. Finally, he handed the phone back to the soldier, who finished the conversation, handed Hamdi back his huwiya, and told him to have a nice day. Sometimes that’s the most annoying thing a soldier can do.

They drove off in their jeep, and Hamdi walked up to us and said, “that was the leader of the Shabbak!” That didn’t fully register until we walked briskly away from that forsaken hang-out spot and Hamdi started recalling pieces of his conversation. It wasn’t some guy at a desk, it was the head of the Israeli secret police for the region of Qalqiliya, and some of the things he said had obviously shaken Hamdi. That explained why the soldiers had to wait so long to get this phone call. Hamdi impersonated his angry words, “Hamdi, listen to me! You don’t talk this way to me, do you know who I am?” and his responses were all bullshitting, as Simon and I had witnessed. He sounded like he was talking to an old friend, and I knew that could only have been a hilarious combination.

I already knew a bit about Hamdi’s experience talking to the Shabbak. They’d tried to get information about the Bil'in demonstrations from him on several occasions, offering him money and permits and the opportunity to see the pretty girls in Tel Aviv, to which he laughed and said, “I don’t need money, I have travel permits, and all the pretty girls come to Bil’in anyway.” His laughter was disarming and quite often infuriating.

We walked from the wall, past the depot, down a quiet street and onto the main market street. Every few minutes Hamdi would remember something new, and the phrase that stuck with me was, “Hide your smile!” We laughed because the man could tell Hamdi was smiling the whole time, and we laughed because Hamdi would never stop smiling.

We reached the main street. Hamdi picked up a coffee, Simon and I picked up a shawarma, and we found the Service back to Ramallah.

I picked a window seat this time, which was a mixed blessing, because my face was glued to the window as we drove by all the settlements on the hills around Qalqiliya.

"This is what he mean by 'the people here just want to live and work,'" said Hamdi, "just let them work in the settlements. Don't make a problem for them." We laughed, a little sadly this time, and settled in our seats and fell asleep.

After a few hours of grilling, this is what I managed to piece together:

S: Hello, Hamdi, how are you? I think you are happy and had so much fun as the army told me now.
H: Yes, of course, I’m always happy, alhamdullilah.
S: Hamdi, actually, what are you doing there?
H: I’m a photographer, I’m taking pictures…
S: Who do you work for?
H: Whoever I want, I’m a freelancer…
S: Ahh, freelancer? Ahh, so you’re making pictures, and showing Israel as a bad state?
H: I’m just doing my work!
S: Why are you not making pictures in Bil’in? I think Qalqiliya is far away from you.
H: Well, because I want to make pictures here!
S: Do you know who you’re talking to you? This is the shabbak.
H: How could I know you are shabbak? I don’t think you are. 
S: I am shabbak because I am shabbak.
H: No, you have to introduce yourself, tell me who you are. I want to know who I am speaking to!
S: (says his name) You shouldn’t be coming to Qalqiliya, this is not your place. When you come to photograph and bring your fucking internationals the people will see you and come around and make a demonstration. Then they bring the terrorists to come and attack Israel. 
H: What? what? (laughter)
S: That’s enough! Hide your smile! The people in Qalqiliya don’t have these problems, they just want to work and live, they don’t need you to come and make problems. I don’t want you to be here making problems, you know Friday is coming. (Friday is “Land Day”)
Stay in Bil’in and Ramallah and take pictures there, don’t come around to my area, or I will make problems for you in Qalqiliya.
H: Will you arrest me?
S: No, I won’t arrest you. I’ll send people to tell the people in Qalqiliya that you’re there to make problems. I’ll tell them what they don’t know about you.
H: What? What are you talking about? What don’t they know about me? Tell me, or go ahead and tell them.
S: What, you think I’m stupid Hamdi? Hide your smile! I went to University, and I got very high marks-
H: -I know, they don’t put someone stupid as the head of the shabbak. I’m sure you worked very hard....
S: Hamdi, listen to me! You don’t talk to me like that. When I talk, you listen! I’m going to end this conversation! You understand me? I don’t want to see you back in Qalqiliya.
H: Ok…

When Hamdi handed the phone back, the soldier asked his commander if Hamdi should be arrested. The verdict was no.

It’s 10 hours later in the village of Bil’in, we are barbecuing chicken and smoking argheelah, and Hamdi is still laughing about it.

I'm sitting at a Tully's in Woodinville, across from the old Hollywood Schoolhouse, watching the cars go around the roundabout. There's a couple outside looking around and pointing at a brochure map. Probably on a winery tour.

They've redone this place completely in the last four years. New roundabouts, flowers everywhere, signs and maps to help the tourists get from one winery to the next. A lot of people aren't pleased with what the developers are doing to the valley, which is still a very green place, knock on wood. Sometimes it looks like Tuscany, at least that's how I feel. I'm proud to be from wine country, close enough to Chateau St. Michelle winery that you can hear James Taylor and Chicago playing shows on summer weekends, close to the river trail that leads into Seattle, close to Redhook Brewery....

My friends and I used to come to this Tully's in high school when they had their free coffee ice cream deals. The Hollywood Schoolhouse is where my friends Nick and Jennifer got married. Our gym, Goldcreek, is just down the street. There's a winery across the roundabout where my mom and Catherine and I went tasting and I thought about asking for a pouring job. Some of my sorority sisters picked up winery jobs in Walla Walla. That's not why I didn't ask, though.

I'll be coming here a lot this week. I have so much to do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Verse 1:
Am            G
You with the sad eyes
C            F
Don't be discouraged
Am           G
Oh I realize
        C               F
It's hard to take courage
C                   G
In a world full of people
C                 F
You can lose sight of it all
        Am        G
And the darkness inside you
             F          C
Can make you feel so small

                           F    C           G
But i see your true colors shining through
                    F     C              F               G
i see your true colors and that's why i love you
    F       C         F         Am
so dont be afraid to let them show
      F    C      F     C          G
your true colors, true colors are beautiful
        AmG -C  -F
like a rainbow

Am G C F
           Am     G
Show me a smile then,
C          F            Am           G
Don't be unhappy, can't remember when
C                 F
I last saw you laughing
C                         F
If this world makes you crazy
     C                F
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
   G            F            C
Because you know I'll be there

                          F    C      G
But i see your true colors shining through
                    F     C           F            G
i see your true colors and that's why i love you
         F       C         F         Am
so dont be afraid to let them show
            F    C      F     C          G
your true colors, true colors are beautiful
        AmG -C  -F
like a rainbow

Monday, June 11, 2012

Water in Farsiya

Tubas Governorate is getting raped. First the demolitions in the Maleh, now confiscated water in Khirbet Farsiya.

  IOF Confiscates Water Tank, Causes Water Crisis in Village.

Apparently this has been happening to Farsiya for years now: Brighton Jordan Valley Solidarity Report

I made a proposal to bring ten English teachers to Palestine and place them in communities around the Tubas governorate, to help protect the vulnerable areas. The mayor of Tubas told me there used to be a Palestinian-American school in the city, and they were interested in re-opening it. This may be a good match for my program idea, if I can get it together by this winter. Question is, will there be communities left to protect?

The arm pump

Yesterday I was at the gym, just me and my mom in there, on the ellipticals.....I was playing the Vampire Weekend Pandora station, and a song by Pheonix came on and it was so catchy I started pumping my arms up and to the side and in front...

I saw myself in the mirror and thought, "oh my God, I'm turning into my dad!"

Today my mom and our friend Catherine and I went for a long walk down the Sammamish River Trail. We hit two wine tastings in the middle, and Red Hook Brewery near the end. Walking and boozing on a nice, sunny day. Not a bad Sunday. :)

Now I have to go finish Season 1 of The Killing. It's a Seattle murder mystery that's kind of like Twin Peaks, minus the creepiness....

Kickin it at the crawfish berl....

Whlie I was in New Orleans I had the good fortune of being invited to a Crawfish Boil. A lot of New Orleanians call it a "berl," like they say oil as "erl" and orange as "ernge."

Anyway, the crawfish was delicious, albeit a little too spicy for my European taste buds, but it was great to be partaking in that great Louisiana tradition. For a while some of us beat the heat inside and I learned how to play some songs and we all had a sing-a-long to Call Me Maybe and All Star.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Introducing....Seattle Solidarity

Tonight I saw Richard Falk speak at one of the Methodist churches at the University of Washington. Here's the description for the event.

  Richard Falk is a Princeton professor of international law and the UN Rapporteur for Palestine. He talked about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel and global security. The audience seemed to really like him, when he said, "then there's the myth of Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East" there was actual laughter. I was wondering if there were any people there who ardently opposed what he said, but I didn't hear any reproachful questions at the end...some weren't even questions, just comments like "don't worry, the BDS movement is alive and well, and you can check out a local chapter at _______ (I forget what the link is, this is the closest I could find, and I did learn that BDS can also mean British Deer Society)

Another questioner went up and said, "as an old Jew, I can tell you that it's not just the younger generation that is losing touch with Zionism..." and people chuckled at that. It was surreal. I've never mixed Seattle life with Palestine life, aside from chatting up the employees at Aladdin's Falafels. I've never really had an opportunity to, since my post-college life was all in New Orleans and I worked through the summers. I didn't get into activism until the School of Americas protest in November 2009. So there was Fort Benning, Georgia, New Orleans, and Palestine/Israel for activism. Seattle wasn't mixed up in any of that.

  But after the talk I found myself in the foyer going around to tables and signing up for e-mail lists for the UW Palestinian Rights group and Voices of Palestine. As I was collecting brochures and stickers and DVD's I mentioned that I knew a StandWithUs guy who's been in Seattle for the last six months or so...the kid at the table smiled and nodded, "yyup." He knew him. I wasn't surprised.

My friend Larry introduced me to a girl named Emma, who's involved in the local Jewish Voice for Peace chapter. She was volunteering as security for the event, since JVP was one of the sponsors. Aside from speaking events they also do retreats, demonstrations, and flash mobs. I got her number.

The folks at the Voice of Palestine table told me they did a Saturday night vigil in Westlake every two weeks. Sometimes they get some angry reactions but mostly the response has been positive, people asking questions, showing their support. I told them I knew a StandWithUs guy who'd been in Seattle, and the man said, "yeah, Ran, we've been talking to him," and he referred me to a Palestinian man standing nearby. I went over and introduced myself. His name was Amin. He asked me who I went to the West Bank with, and I said I went alone, and he said lightheartedly, "something's wrong with you. I have a number of someone you can call, the first two sessions are free.." and we laughed.

We ended up talking to Amin for about an hour. He's from Bethlehem, from Aida camp. He moved to Seattle 21 years ago.
"I was doing a talk at a high school in Kenmore..."
"-you mean Inglemoor?"
"yeah, Inglemoor!"
"That's my school..."
I tried to imagine myself as an Inglemoor student listening to someone talk to me about Palestine. I didn't even know about the conflict until college.

Amin does speaking engagements with high schools, universities, etc. I didn't know there was anyone doing work like StandWithUs, on the Palestinian side.
"There was this guy from StandWithUs-"
"-yeah, I met him."
I had to explain that Ran had found a blog post that I'd written about his request to speak at my dad's school, and we'd been corresponding/Facebook arguing for months. Amin said that Ran's been reaching out pretty far, even made it to Alaska and California. He was impressed with Ran’s approach, but said he thought kids might see through it, the buddy-buddy bonding, “hey, I’m just like you, I listen to the same music and know about this….”
I’m just like you, and we are not like them….that seems to sum up my understanding of StandWithUs. But I left with a burning curiosity. Amin said that StandWithUs was going to be upping their number of “ambassadors.” Apparently Seattle was seen as tough ground for Zionism, so the advocacy was going to be amped up. I want to capture the dialogue that’s happening in Seattle, the different directions these voices are coming from, and what the effects have been.

We’ll see where this goes…

The Maleh

Sometime around February I went on a walk around Al Aqaba with a woman named Naima. I did a post about it, and talked about how, after wandering around the Roman ruins for a bit, we descended on the Maleh, which is a Bedouin community. One of the women in Al Aqaba, Hagar, is actually from the Maleh, and she married a villager and lives with him and their kids, and his other wife, Sarah. Anyways, a few days ago one of the links on Mondoweiss read "Palestinian familes forced to demolish their own homes." It happens all the time, but this time it happened in the Maleh. I'm just wondering if those women who served me bread and goat cheese and yoghurt and tea and talked and laughed with me and Naima had to take down their homes on Monday.

It's a bedouin community, made up of tents mostly, and animal pens. I remember there being a lot of baby goats, and I was trying to get as much footage of them as I could before my battery died. But I just got a little baby goat on the ground not even kicking or acting cute, so I think I deleted that video. Most women I encountered in rural Palestine didn't want themselves to be filmed, so I didn't film any of my visit. But I wished I could've shared that experience. The women were so lovely. They had a beauty about them I couldn't quite explain. Huge smiles.

Here's the story:


My dad is really into this song. I heard it the first time in Zamn Cafe in Ramallah, while I was sitting with Jehad and Bader. I remember thinking, "wow, this song is intense."
I just woke up on my couch with no recollection of coming home. I just know I have a slight aversion to Fireball now.

One of my good friends from high school came over last night. We watched 50/50 with Joseph Gordon Levitt (starring him, not WITH him, though that would've been cool) and talked about nutrition and how most of the studies are crap. Tofu actually isn't good for you. If it's unfermented, which it usually isn't. Anyways, I've been digging around the kitchen for lots of protein things. Landed on some nice leftover cheeses.
Nick and I also hit up a karaoke bar in Ballard. We sang "Any Way You Want It" and I think I sang another song. I requested two, but it was getting late. Definitely didn't get to sing "Born This Way," maybe next time.
I've been home for five days now. In that time I've gone to the gym three times, acquired my first Smart Phone, worked on my guitar calluses, warmed up the vocal chords. I'm happy about the exercising, especially now that I can listen to Pandora on my new Smart Phone!! (which I named Lucy because it's an LG Lucid). That solves the lack of iPod and general boredom problem. Though now I can check Facebook at all times of the day and that gives me mixed feelings.
But I do understand Twitter now, with this thing in my pocket.

It's weird to be back. I expected it to be weird, but I didn't know I would feel this powerless. I've put it upon myself to start a big media project about my experience (and the experience of foreigners) in Palestine, and I feel unprepared to tackle it. And my head is still swimming. I like talking to people about it, I just can't make myself sit down and and do it. I think I need to find a coffeeshop to perch in, that always did the trick in Ramallah. Tonight Richard Falk is speaking near UW. He's a Princeton professor and used to be the UN-something for Palestine, so that'll be interesting. Three things I saw today:
The website for 5 Broken Cameras, which is about the resistance in Bil'in. You can read about it and watch videos here:

A video I found on an Israeli blog about an incident in Gaza in 2009:

And an article about Jerusalem Day, when Israeli right-wingers go marching around the Arab parts of Jerusalem waving Israeli flags and shouting "Death to the Arabs" and such.