13 August, 2008

Pioneer Spirit

Just finished: White Noise by DeLillo
Next up: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palesine by Pappe
Listening to: The Calling by Mary Chapin Carpenter & Mahler's 9th Symphony
Eating: Far too many figs from my Fig Guy in the souq. I think even he's getting concerned.

Darwish was buried today. I haven't seen news of the burial yet. Some of us listened to radio coverage between meetings. I thought about going, being a part of it, but decided I would better honor him by continuing to work on getting our school up and running. I think he would have agreed with me. We are very busy at the moment with seemingly everything as the first day of classes rushes up on us. Busy is a bit of an understatement.

I was so happy today to see one of my students from the summer program, a tiny, adorable and wildly bright boy who will enter second grade this year. He was in the office with his sister and parents and his parents, who I'd not met, looked a bit amazed when he walked right into my open arms for a big hug. My group this summer were new students who didn't have much English at all, so I focused on getting them ready to handle school. But hug was one of the first words I taught them and I hugged each of them, and most of the rest of our kids, every day. It sort of became an automatic response with a few of the: they would see me, throw their arms open wide and walk right over to hug me.

School opens on the 24th and there is just a skeleton crew on hand at the moment. The Palestinian teachers are enjoying a much needed break. In the midst of trying to get the two first grade classes arranged and outfitted, planning my lessons, and remembering little things like food and water, we are still working to arrange the library and make it all it can and should be. Then there's organizing the joint staff meeting with its full agenda of discussion and break-away groups, helping develop the new Web site, coordinating with my two Palestinian co-teachers, welcoming the newest members of our international staff as they arrive, my mural projects, sorting out where to plant a student garden, designing my after-school programs, trying to arrange meetings with community groups for joint projects....

I am getting more of a sense of settling in. I exchange far more greetings as I walk through the old city and the neighborhood around our school each morning. A few of the people I see regularly have begun addressing me as "mualeema", or teacher, when greeting me. I feel a part of things and it is wonderful. Sadly, I've no time at the moment to sit and chat, but everybody is very understanding.


Beautiful Things, Terrible Things

Palestine is a surreal mixture of beauty, horrors, pain, joy, warmth, frustrations, sadness...The elements swirl about your wherever you go here.

A few articles from the news today reminded me of this.

Raja Shehadeh's book, Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape, is in my on-deck circle. People need to know there is beauty here worth saving, in the land and people. This is a nice article from today's NYTimes about the West Bank and Shehadeh's attempts to just go for a walk there. If I every have a child, I may name it Sarha...

However, the pain continues and wounds are opened anew. The Israeli tank crew that fired on and killed Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, 24, and eight young bystanders in Gaza in April will not face legal action. Shana was in a car bearing clear markings identifying it as a press vehicle. From the story in The Guardian: "Reuters said x-rays showed several of the inch-long flechette darts were embedded in Shana's chest and legs as well as his flak jacket. Shana's flak jacket was marked with a fluorescent "Press" sign and his car, which was not armoured and was set on fire in the incident, was marked Press and TV."


Guest Post - The Loss of Darwish

My friend, Areej Ja'fari, a phenomenal community organizer at the Ibdaa Cultural Center in the Deheisha refugee camp, sent me this today, her thoughts on the loss of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish this week. Darwish is to be buried in Ramallah today. She agreed to let me share her words here:
As Palestinian I am living the shock of losing Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian Poet, he was our spokesperson for decades. I am sharing these feelings with you about this tragedy we are living now:

Mahmoud Darwish is not a passing traveler in Palestine

Singing for freedom has always been a part of national struggles throughout the world; but when you sang for freedom, you sang with words of love with your entire mind and with every drop of your blood ---and for your whole professional life.

You took the responsibility of documenting the moments of our lives and made them unforgettable, like a mural painted across the surface of the moon to be seen and remembered by all who love nature, and especially those who love the moon.

You spoke honestly about Palestinian history and what was happening to us on the ground as if we were watching a movie---informing our minds with beautifully and ingeniously written Arabic poems.

We read your words once, twice and maybe three times to understand the ideas that gave life to your words. We wanted to read your words again and again because we wanted to live the moments of your words, especially when you described our beautiful mother Palestine.

"So leave our land. Our shore, our sea. Our wheat, our salt, our wound. Take your portion of our blood and go away."

We love life as you loved it; we want to live in dignity---not under oppression. You did everything to oppose oppression and to show the world we are not human bombs walking in the streets killing Israelis, We are birds of love, peaceful farmers, lovers of Palestine and life-makers in the midst of domination.

When you wrote the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, your words placed us within the sphere of diplomacy. You led the nations of the world to their first recognition of Palestinian rights, and you made us proud of who we are as refugees and Arabs. You have sown the seeds of the Palestinian Dream since you were uprooted from Al Berouah, and you spoke loudly of who we are when you wrote...

I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?
I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged . . .

Your death is not our end, nor will it ever be. Though it might be the end of your love story with your beloved "Falasten", you didn't take your words with you when you left; they remain with us forever to read again and again.

"My homeland is not a traveling bag,
Nor am I a passing traveler.
It is I who am the lover and the land is my beloved"

Your politics never mattered because you were always more than this; you were Palestinian. Your greatest disappointment was the oppression and bloodshed among brothers; and your final wish was to visit Gaza---the added wound to our already divided homeland.

You have seen us lose everything, but you kept hope in your words and in your heart, and you brought this same hope back into our hearts and lives. You made us, the Palestinian refugees, visible at the time when everybody had forgotten us. You remain the voice of the promised return of Palestinian refugees to their homelands. We will return, but we will return without you. Al Berouah and Al Jadeedah will always remember that you tried everything to be able to go back to them.

Mahmoud Darwish always called for peace, but never experienced this peace, even when he lived in France or in other countries outside of Palestine. He lived like a stranger even in his own country. I share this with him and with more than three million other Palestinians. Now he is at peace, but not in Palestine or on the Earth he loved so much. It is only we who will continue this call for peace and justice---the same as he did.

Palestine . . .

You spread onto my body like sweat
You spread into my body like desire
You take over my memory like an invader
And occupy my brain like light.
Die, that I may mourn you
Or be my wife that I may know betrayal
Once and for all."