Dispatch Two from the Youth Theater Festival in Ramallah on Howl Round. A short video below about the final performances.
If you want to stay unmoved about this occupation, don't go to the Jordan valley, don't hear stories of Palestinian herders struggling to live in the desert amid a million restrictions - thanks to the Oslo accords - they can't build, they can't dig more than a 100 meters, don't see huge expanses of land, their land, cordoned off, so it can be used for military practice, rifle practice, god know what practice, don't see see huge patches of dried yellow landscape on one side and lush green date palms of settlements on the other side, don't listen to stories of water being siphoned straight into settlements past homes of herders who hear the water flowing but are not allowed to get to it; don't hear about grass being poisoned so cattle die, or fields being burned so cattle can't graze. don't hear about bull dozers razing villages to the ground. don't hear stories of their own administrative authority not supporting them, don't look into their eyes, don't feel the heat descending like war onto the land and don't wonder how anyone can deny anyone else water in the desert. Just don't.
A Palestinian Mother's Fear in East Jerusalem
In the NY Times, an op-ed by RULA SALAMEH
from The Guardian
from Maan News
from Maan News
..in Ramallah as the news is full of rocket strikes between Gaza and Israel. The evening went like this:
Someone is watching the World Cup on TV, cringing because Brasil is losing.
Someone else is on Facebook, scrolling through photos of a peaceful demonstration for Gaza hours ago in Ramallah's main square, saying "oh we missed it, we should have gone."
Someone from overseas calls to say, "is it like it's being reported? did a rocket land in Jerusalem? did sirens go off?"
We check the news. It mentions a rocket. We call family in Jerusalem. They didn't hear the sirens going off but neighbors did.
The news updates to say a rocket did explode. No injuries.
In Gaza, there are over 15 dead. In other parts of the West Bank, reports of small clashes, Israel settlers vs Palestinian villages, Palestinian villages vs Israel military camps.
Earlier, we sat in an office, 9 of us, and wrote stories and plays and poetry and talked of doing a group project, inner self as landscape.
Before that, I got lost, for a good half hour, in Ramallah's main square and the woman who helped me find my way turned out to be from the Ministry of Culture. She helped me into a group cab that made a special stop to drop me in front of the theater.
Before that, I took Arabic lessons and learned that if it's a noun, the possessive ending goes at the end of the word like "Essmi" - "my name." The "i" makes it mine.
We walked down Shaufat street in East Jerusalem today to pay our condolences to the family of Mohammed Abu-Khdeir the 16-year old Palestinian who was kidnapped and burned to death, in retaliation - says pretty much every news outlet and person - for the kidnapping and death of 3 Israeli teenagers.
Iman doesn't know his parents personally but the Khdeir family is a big family on Shaufat - everyone knows them.
Shaufat was sunny and calm this evening, but only 2 days ago, it was full of angry crowds at Mohammed's funeral, crowds chanting intifada, stones, tear gas, rubber bullets.
We saw remnants of everything that had been burnt - metal parts and waiting areas for the tram line built by Israel, bits of stones and rubble along the sidewalks.
Down one street and left on another one to a white house with a front yard covered in blue tarp and lined with grey and white chairs. Women - most of them in black hijab with white head scarves. They invited us to sit.
His mother sat in small circle surrounded by other women. She was being interviewed by 2 men - a cameraman and photographer. The camera people left. The women around Mohammed's mother patted her arm. She wiped her face with a towel.
A few yards away, on the same side of the street, in an open space, under a larger tarp, groups of men standing and sitting. Directly across the street, a mosque, and no more than a few yards away, the corner where Muhammed was sitting at around 3:45 am Wednesday when a car approached him and took him away. His body would be found a few hours later.
We sat down next to women who had been sitting for a while, someone quiet, some talking in groups.
The women were stolid, calm, the feeling was stolid, calm. For now.
There were grape vines under the tarp, over our heads, and bunches of grapes.
It didn't seem appropriate to cry somehow, no one else was crying. But I teared up anyway.
When the time was right, that is, when Iman's friend, Nariman,
who knows the family, stood up and said "come," we stood up and went towards his mother. I bent and kissed her on both cheeks and said what you say on such occasions, Allah yerhama.
Then we sat some more. A truck pulled up and men went to it and came back carrying large metal pots, some full of ice, some covered in plastic wrap. Food for iftar, breaking the fast of Ramadan later this evening.
Two young women in tight jeans and flowing blouses came by. The mother brightened to see them. They stayed and talked with her a few minutes and left her smiling.
Nariman looked around at the gathering. She said, "This time together is precious, all of us together. It is sad that what brings us together is such a thing. But do you know that yesterday, all of us, without asking each other, we turned off the lights that we normally keep on for Ramadan. All of us, we were of one mind."
We sat for a while longer and then we walked back on the narrow rubble strewn streets, past posters with Mohammed's photo. A father and son passed us carrying food in plastic bags. A middle aged man in jeans said, bye habibi, bye friend, to an older white bearded man. A car stopped. It turned out to be Nariman's sister. We said Marhaba, hello, passed, came back to the house
On the news, there are reports that Mohammed was burnt alive. And also that 6 have been arrested as suspects in his murder.
In response, his mother, Suha Khdair said: "Even if they captured who they say killed my son... they're only going to ask them questions and then release them. What's the point?
"They need to treat them the way they treat us. They need to demolish their homes and round them up, the way they do it to our children"
According to Human Rights Watch in a recent article, "Israel’s military operations in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers have amounted to collective punishment. The military operations included unlawful use of force, arbitrary arrests, and illegal home demolitions." More here. And here.
When everyone leaves, much much later, said Iman, then, the reality of Mohammed's loss will register with his mother and it will be terrible.
A short video below that I put together very quickly on the last day of the festival - an overview of the experience minus the last performances which were amazing.
It's been only a few days since the festival ended but so much has happened since then it feels like another lifetime away.
Yesterday we watched on TV the funeral of Mohammad Abu Khdair, all of 16 years old, abducted and killed in retaliation - allegedly - for the death of the 3 Israeli teenagers. It was the first Friday of Ramadan, after noon prayers, crowds followed the body wrapped in a Palestinian flag, fighting broke out, tear gas, burning of street signs, the anger and frustration boiling over, a sense of helplessness, just watching.
In Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, Gideon Levy wrote an op-ed
about the death of peace.