Saturday, September 15, 2012

Biggest Part of Me

I remember coming out of the Israeli Police Station outside the Old City of Jerusalem. This was the edge of East Jerusalem, which is home to most of the city's Palestinian Arab population.

It was almost Christmastime, I was coming down with the flu, I was having some boy troubles back in Ramallah, and I'd just gotten my camera stolen from my purse by a postcard salesman. The day wasn't going well.

All the guys I talked to on the street tried to be helpful, but in the end, I was referred to the Israeli Police Station. They might put it in the record and the man might be found. I at least wanted to get the theft reported, even though I knew I probably wouldn't see my camera again. All my photos from Sebastia were in there, beautiful children from Jenin frolicking in the meadows...that was good stuff!

I went to the police station, got my bags checked by the soldiers outside, and once inside I couldn't find anyone to talk to. I left the station and walked down the street again, looking for help, like I could find the underground stolen camera ring, but I was referred again to the Police Station. Again, I couldn't find anyone to talk to. I threw in the towel, and decided to head back to Ramallah and sleep off the encroaching body aches. It was cold. I was probably wearing my AmeriCorps sweatshirt, over three layers.

"Free Sheikh Jerrah!" I turned around, knowing the soldier was calling out to me. He and three other soldiers, who guarded the station, were laughing amongst themselves.

I got that he was mocking me. Sheikh Jerrah, the Arab neighborhood where Israeli activists and Palestinians demonstrate together against the army-protected Jewish settlements, was just a mile down the road. I'd never actually been there, but a blonde girl walking around in an Arab neighborhood must be a sympathizer, right?

Truth be told, I was an activist, I just stuck to the other side of the wall.

I squinted my eyes and said, "what?" The soldiers kept chuckling, but didn't respond, so I turned around and headed back to the bus station.

I've already told this story, but today I was reminded because I saw this trailer for My Neighborhood, a new Just Vision Film. This one is about Sheikh Jerrah, and the joint struggle there. It was months later that I finally found myself in that neighborhood, in the middle of an Orthodox Jewish festival. Hanging out with the Arab residents and their Israeli supporters, while the settlers were having this loud, raging party with bonfires was...well, there were a lot of emotions felt. Hopefully this film will inspire, and get the attention it deserves.

This song popped into my head at the Rebuilding Alliance office yesterday. I thought it must be Billy Joel? Apparently was stuck in my head all day and all through swim practice today!

It made me miss my neighbor from New Orleans. We used to listen to his records and watch Burt Sugarman DVD's...