11 November 2001
intended to begin writing this a couple of hours ago but I just had too
much on my mind like any other young person living in Palestine. Why?
if life is so easy, as if young people haven’t got enough to think about
in normal places with normal conditions, if you add to that the anxiety
and pressure of being part of the so called “Third World “ and that of
being a Palestinian living in Palestine, I’d say you’ve got yourself a
sure recipe for a full blown nervous breakdown, but, thank God, the
nervous breakdown never comes, you just keep going on, although you feel
like you’re in a maze, and you’re frustrated, and you’re broke, and
life is tough, and, and, and…
have to cling to that tiny, battered twig, barely floating on the white
waters of life. You can’t let go of it, of hope, because the only
alternative is getting yourself a catapult and a nice, round stone and
look for your Goliath, probably ending up as a corpse, with a dozen or so
bullets in you, and a soul in heaven.
like to point out that this was supposed to be fun, something light to
read, but it’s not going in that direction, is it?
case you’re wondering, yes, we do think about girls (in fact that, girls,
and related stuff - if you know what
I mean - take a good percentage in what we think about), all other
stuff youth all around the world think about, you know, like cars, clothes,
money, a cool job, social acceptance, just like you, or your son, the guy
next door. But, enough about the normal and on to the abnormal. Imagine
you’re a student who goes to school every day, what would you think
about? How to keep your
grades up – maybe, or how to suck up for x, y, z teachers, or how to
start a conversation with the gorgeous babe in English class. None of
these apply in the Palestinian case. A Palestinian student would probably
be thinking of a way to go around the checkpoint without getting a bullet
in the head, or how his best friend is lying in some hospital or how he
could graduate quickly, or even leave school to help his family out (and
there is no gorgeous babe in my English class).
I depressing you? Sorry, I didn’t mean it – and, contrary to what you
may think, I am not depressed. You see I have so many things I want to do,
but can’t. I’d like to scuba dive, sky dive and any other sort of dive
– I want to do everything. You see, we have such a passion for life, we
are a people who want to embrace life, but we’re trapped, we want to
swim in the vast ocean, but we have only a 2-liter Coca Cola bottle, made
in Israel (it’s a family-size bottle, how very kind of them).
you’ve reached this point in reading then I really like you (and if
you’re a beautiful brunette and you got to this point then I AM IN LOVE).
any of you spends a lot of time on the road, traveling, and happen to hate
it, well, you should try spending some time on the roads and foot trails
of Palestine - an experience, I assure you, you won’t forget. You see,
traveling from point A to point B down here is not that simple. The fact
is that to get from point A to B in a short and straightforward manner you
should follow a few simple steps. First you get from A to D (not for the
fun of it, but to go around checkpoint at C) from D you go left to G there,
as any little kid would know. You get off the car and go by foot in the
muddy trail leading to Q and from here on all the way to X, a nice point
from which you can go to L. Only here (hey people, stay with me,will ya!?).
Now where were we? Aah .. at L. L is special , because from L you can get
to any letter in the alphabet (but never and I mean never go to H, the
checkpoint there comes straight from good old Hell).
is not easy for the hundreds of people who depend on, and make a living by
going from all the As to the Bs all around this place, or their families.
We (if you noticed me using “we”, it is not for literary purposes, I
am one of these people) - we have to deal with so much to get to wherever
it is we have to go to. The worst is the suffocating presence of swarms of
Israeli soldiers, mostly bored kids, in their early twenties, drafted,
trained, and covered from head to toe with an array of state-of –the-art
military equipment (and given the coolest jeeps I have ever laid my eyes
on). Being the emotionally and mentally immature young men they are (not
that I am so mature), and in the light of the fact that they are given so
much power over people (don’t forget these are soldiers who were raised
to despise Palestinians and view them as their enemies), it doesn’t take
Einstein to figure out what ugly genie is gonna come out of that bottle.
back and forth on the roads from Bethlehem to Birzeit (where I study)
I’ve heard, seen and experienced many things. One taxi driver from Al
Khader (a small town near Bethlehem) had an exceptionally bad day a few
weeks ago. He was taking some people to a road block when the soldiers
caught him red handed with the intolerable crime of giving people a lift
so they could go to Bethlehem. The driver argued with the soldiers, trying
to persuade them to let the passengers pass, which proved to be a complete
waste of breath, and as a well-deserved punishment for his unforgivable
deed one of the soldiers came towards the unlucky fellow and said, with a
loud laugh, man, you’re so keen on getting them through, do it – but
not in the car, carry them on your back, one by one. The man refused to do
it but the soldier gently persuaded him with his M-16. So there he was, a
man in his forties carrying people on his back over the border.
week I had a first-hand experience with Israeli military intelligence.
Lately, so it seems, they’ve run short on “birdies” (as we refer to
them), so all too often young men are taken by the “border patrols” to
meet intelligence officers who fish for new recruits to work for them, so,
as I was going to university one morning (I had an exam that day), I
wasn’t worried since I had covered all the test material (quite unusual
for me) and I heard from some guys that the roads where unusually calm on
that morning, so I sat in the taxi and leaned on the window and started
slipping into the dream world, when suddenly I was awakened by a soldier
asking me for my ID, so I gave it to him of course, and sat in my seat
waiting, but I waited on and on for a couple of hours. Then instead of
letting us go they rounded us up and took us to a nearby camp. Our load
was about 8 or 9 guys and there were a few others from an earlier hunt.
there we were waiting for our turns. First I sat with a few guys I knew;
then I sat alone in a corner and started thinking about humiliation and
life and politics and relativity and quarks, quasars, and… well anything
you could think about when sitting alone for six hours, when, finally they
came to take me (at that point I didn’t care what they did to me as long
as I got rid of that place). So they searched me, and then double-searched
me, and took me to meet this fat guy in a pink shirt, he came to me,
started talking to me and being nauseatingly nice (if you don’t know
what I mean, try watching the teletubbies), he raised his hand to shake
mine, I looked at his hand like it was covered with tar, gazed for a
moment but eventually decided to give him my hand to shake, having done
that, I sat down, and keeping in mind the words of a friend who told me
these guys think of nice guys (like me) as easy prey, so I pushed the
button for obnoxious, and started acting like a genuine asshole, and to my
astonishment it worked like a charm (lucky me), and instead of meeting me
for an hour or so like the others it took him only ten minutes to realize
I was of no use to him. Then we went into a philosophical debate for a few
minutes. On my way out of the camp, and there I was free at last.
I can go on and on with these stories, but I’m tired of typing, enough is enough, but I’d like you to know I‘m one of the superbly lucky, and continuously diminishing percentage of the Palestinian population that suffers only slightly from Israel’s actions. Others have been shot, killed, orphaned, beaten till they swelled like balloons or rendered homeless. I only missed a couple of exams.
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