09 August, 2008

Death of a Poet

I awoke just now to the terrible news of the death of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish at the age of 67 following open heart surgery two days ago. If you don't know his work, you should. Listen to him read his own works in Arabic here. Listen to Marcel Khalife sing (and NPR translate) one of his best known poems, Umi (My Mother) here. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared three days of official mourning. Remember him the best way; read his work. You can start here:

I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland.....


Newsline Neopolis

Since local news from here rarely shows up on the evening news in other countries, I wanted to share a few news stories out of my town and the West Bank in the last few days, courtesy of Ma'an News Service and others.

The very troubling, but not unusual, news in the West Bank these days seems to concern the escalating aggressive actions of some Israeli settlers. Settlers attacked a caravan with two British diplomats in Hebron this week. An armed group of about 50 tried to storm the Ibrahimi mosque (the site of the Goldstein massacre of 29 Muslims in 1994), also in Hebron. In our own city, Israeli forces arrested a small group of settlers who entered the city illegally in an attempt to visit the shrine of Joseph. These follow the horrible incident of August 2, in which settlers stormed a home and threw a 14-year-old boy from the roof of the home. He survived the 60 foot/20m fall, but suffered serious injuries. The same group later attacked a nearby wedding party. Living in a city surrounded by settlements, this escalation in the violence concerns everyone.

However, in the midst of all the bad news, sometimes good things do happen here:

Turkey to donate 15 Ambulances, PA asks for support for An Najah University hospital

International spinal surgeon trains Palestinian doctors in Nablus

Israeli authorities release Nablus mayor and businessman

Early Friday morning I went for a run up my mountain and ended up, after running up to one of the checkpoints, at a bend in the road overlooking a hilltop settlement in the west, likely illegal even under Israeli law. The morning light was just breaking red and gold and the white trailers, lined up in a tight formation that seemed to mock the original tract homes in the U.S., appeared only a shade lighter than the reddish brown earth they occupied, but still marred the landscape, even in sleep.


08 August, 2008

Welcome to Israel

An interesting blog post from Stolen Words Stolen Days (via Sabbah's blog) about what some travelers face trying to enter Israel. I got lucky upon arrival and dealt with a witty young woman in passport control who was actually very helpful. She asked a bare minimum of questions and obviously recognized me as the wildly nonthreatening soul I am. Sadly, that's not always the case:

"The woman accused me of lying, saying I wanted to volunteer instead of sight see or visit friends. She wanted me to log into my email so she could go through it because she didn’t believe me and said since I received the papers through an email that she needed to see my emails. I refused, saying I couldn’t, “as an American,” and this was a violation of my privacy. She stated that I was not cooperating in an angry and aggressive tone...

"I asked her how could I have time to volunteer in three weeks, and she replied that I could extend my ticket. She continuously asked if I was going to volunteer or attend Arabic classes. I told her repeatedly no and she replied that I was lying. She also threatened to call the university that was in Nablus that put together the papers to ask if they knew about me, and I told her to go ahead as they would not know whom I was, yet she did nothing but continued to call me a liar. Even though I was going to sightsee and visit friends, I do not see how a possibility of volunteering at a university in Nablus to teach English would be a possible reason to deny me entry. She appeared to refuse to listen to my plans but was just assaulting me with “questions” that were really more like statements or assumptions of what she thought I would be doing, regardless of what I said."

In the end, this person, a tourist, as with so many others, was fingerprinted, photographed, and detained overnight before being placed on a plane and deported. Read the full description and see the photos of the detention center. Welcome to Israel, indeed.


07 August, 2008

Tell Everyone, Everyday

I saw my friend, the tiny, elderly man who lives up the hill near the Quranic school last night. My roommate and I had gone for a walk up to the top of the hill, near the checkpoint, for exercise. He asked how we were doing and if we'd had any trouble at the checkpoint then laughed when I said there was no way I would walk all the way up to an Israeli checkpoint along a dark stretch of road dressed entirely in black. He turned and explained to the two men with him, who had continued up the road several steps, who are and they nodded in greeting.
"Are you telling everyone you know about what is happening here in Palestine?" he asked warmly, flashing me his grandfatherly smile. I told him I was trying. "You must tell them, all of them. Everyday." He smiled and wished me goodnight before turning to join his companions.

I agree with him. I do have a sense of responsibility. Especially living in Neopolis, a place not visited by many foreigners. I've been slowly coming to know my town and slow to begin documenting it, especially with my camera. I don't like dropping into a place and immediately firing away at the people through a lens. Sometimes I feel it makes people feel like animals in a zoo. And Neopolis isn't always a city where you walk about casually taking photos of people on the streets. Instead I've walked the streets, talked with people and just given them a chance to begin getting to know me and even get bored with me.

As to telling the news, I believe that unless I can tell you about it first hand, you can read it for yourself. I've added a link for Ma'an news service, which covers Palestine, in the sidebar. There are other links there as well. No matter who tells you, it doesn't mean a thing if you're not listening. And most of you aren't listening. Otherwise there wouldn't be an apartheid wall, extending like an ugly scar across the landscape. Otherwise my friends could return to their villages, could move about their country freely. Turn off the t.v. news, do your homework, listen, ask questions and make up your own mind.

Here's some of the latest from the past week in the West Bank:
Settlers push 15-year-old from roof
Israeli forces release Nablus mayor