The West Bank

November 12, 2007 at 10:45 am | Posted in moraiman | Leave a comment
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12 November 2007

  In the name of God, the One God, the God of the Jews, the God of the Christians, the God of the Muslims,the God of the Hindus, the God of the atheists. The God of Adam, of Eve, of Noah, of Moses, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Ismail, the God of Jesus and the God of Muhammad. The One God. The Most  Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Salaam/Shalom/Peace to everybody from the west bank of the river Jordan, what is otherwise known as the Occupied Palestinian Territories
You may have noticed from my previous emails and now that I have greeted in both arabic and hebrew -read a quote from a soldier – “arabic and hebrew are the only two languages in which the greeting is Peace yet peace remains as elusive as ever.”

I have been living in the West Bank for more than a month now. Based in Ramallah, I have traveled to most of the cities of the West Bank and some of the smaller towns as well. My time here has been divided between working with the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRCS – www.palestinercs.org), and meeting various other organizations and people – from activists to ambassadors, artists to anarchists, atheists to devout believers and teenagers to geriatrics even 🙂 Olive picking, non violent protests, mural painting with kids and just meeting and speaking with people have kept me busy when I was not propofol pushing. Also, was interviewd on a local Radio station here – the only one in english to be broadcast to both Israelis and Palestinians in the hope of building bridges rather than walls. ( www.ramfm.net) Then met with the South African   ambassador to Palestine (not really and embassy cos Palestine is not a sovereign state)     I wana becum a diplomat when i grow up! 😛

Ramallah is a mere 12km from Jerusalem yet it seems so distant. As you are ride in a bus through the huge checkpoint that is Qalandia between the annexed East jerusalem   and Ramallah with the 8m high seperation wall spanning out, off into the horizon on both sides of it, one feels as though one is entering another country. Ramallah is probably the most vibey of the Cities of the West Bank, its also (apart for the nearby Wall) is probably where you feel the Occupation the least. As one of the local activists, and now a friend, commented “Ramallah is the 5 star occupation.” Do not let this fool you though…. The people here still live under discrimination and Oppression – Many of the Palestinians living here have never been to Jerusalem or Al Aqsa, a mere 12km away! Not allowed to simply because they are Palestinian – its just less marked than elsewhere and easier to hide and get on with a “normal” existence here.

 I have used the words Occupation, Discrimination, Oppression already and for those reading this who may think its biased and a one sided view, I invite you to look at the facts, I invite you to learn more, I invite you to lunch when I’m back in SA (my treat :)), I invite you to Palestine.. to witness it for yourself.                                              
All the time the frustration that, every day, the world chooses to buy the propaganda, the misinformation, the lies, the crude racism, the blatant stereotypes. Everyday, the world watches in horror here that it so readily challenged and disputed back home. Why? Because? Oh Really! Is that so? Well then, why don’t you come here for a day? Just one day and tell me again

Life under Occupation
Palestinians are forced to live like lesser human beings under the occupation. Checkpoints, random raids and searches, army invasions, the apartheid wall stealing land and hampering movement, settlements in the west bank and settler violence, israeli only roads are just a few of the daily hardships they have to endure. We have heard it all before, we have even become desensitized to it, reading it again and again in the newspaper – recently not even making the news anymore. Its only when one comes here and experiences it does one truly realise!l

“We live in fantasy, they live in denial. And one day we shall both come to reality”

Identity Crises
Many people are surprised when I say I am from South Africa. “South Africa? But your? *quizzical look* Then I start explaining how slaves from India landed on the east coast of Durban in 1820 and how Durban is full of us brown people and how SA is the Rainbow nation, only some are forever chasing after the elusive pot of Gold at the end of it whilst others take it by force. Okay, i don’t go into so much detail, often tiring at the Question and sometimes even offended by it – my own little xenophobia I’m struggling to suppress? or patriotism to the land of my birth? Probably bits of both. I have been called Paki, Indian, some spoke to me in Hebrew when I first landed in Tel aviv sporting a cleanly shaven face, some mistaken me for a local Palestinian – one old lady had a whole conversation with me in Arabic on the bus – was awesome! We failed to communicate but connected sumhow 🙂 but what really took the cake was when sum1 once asked if I was from Sri Lanka!! Sri Lanka! I couldn’t have gotten that  much of a tan whilst here! 
Palesinians suffer different identity issues. Palestinians with Jordanian passports and Palestinian Ids, with Israeli passports and Ids, with Palestinian passports Ids, with refugee Ids, with no passport and ID! Blue Ids, allowing you access to Jerusalem, Green Ids that dont. Orange ones meaning something else! Much like the Dompass system here in SA. Discrimination, limited movement, control and humiliation a part of every day life here.
The past in the present. The present in the future? Most probably. The sinking feeling that today will be like yesterday, and tomorrow will be like today

Refugee Camps
I have had the opportunity to visit many of the Camps on the west bank : I regularly walked to the mosque in Amariy Camp in Ramallah which was immediately next to . the Red Crescent building where I stayed during my time in Ramallah. From the entrance to the camp one can see the pristine, suburban, ILLEGAL settlement perched on the hill above. h
Visited the New Ashqariya camp in Nablus where on the hill across from it gunshots    
rang out in the Baladna camp as PA forces battled with “insurgents.”
 The Dheisha camp outside Bethlehem from where BBC world interviewed my Palestinian friend live as she was showing me around.
currently living in one – Al Fara’a in the north between nablus and jenin
By far the most moving, was my walk, yesterday, through the Jenin Camp – the site of the Jenin Massacre in 2002. Bullet Riddled walls, demolished homes half reconstructed and posters of those martyred greet one as one walks through the camp. The camps are all similar – initially starting off as tents to provide refuge for those evacuated in 1948 from what is now Israel the camps have become contained little built up villages – Set up and run by the UN, on land rented by the UN for 99 years, with two UN schools in each camp, one for boys and one for girls, one UN basic health clinic and usually a couple of mosques. The population grows rapidly yet the resources cannot match.   
There is a refugee camp, four stories high
Its not allowed to expand outward, so it rises into the sky
Four stories
Four generations
Four decades.

Kids
The Kids of Palestine are adorable and endearing. There are loads of them! They are gorjis!  Families here are large with 7 children being the average. Its awesome! Children running around playing in Al aqsa mosque, playing football in the courtyard outside the Dome of the Rock,  running around and playing in the narrow alleyways in the camps. In fact the kids in the Camps reign supreme! 🙂
but spirits lift like the mist and throughout the day is the infectious joy of the children and in everybody a warm smile and a willingness to laugh. Remember the irony of the townships? How they were the happiest places you could visit

Experiencing the occupation first hand has taken an effect on my psyche a bit. Concern, frustration,anger, helplessness, infuriation, resilience … all in a days emotions  
My heart has broke … many times in fact. Many times when I see old women standing for hours at a check point whilst insolent young israeli soldiers chat on their cell fones. My heart has broke when i walk thru the narrow alleyways of jenin refugee camp seeing the half built half destroyed homes, the bullet riddled walls, the pictures of those martyred. My heart has broke when I see young settler boys being abusive to old palestinian men.

The Spirit of activism
The resilience from the Palestinians that i have witnessed has been refreshing, they remain defiant against all the odds. The support from internationals has also been heart warming. Whilst the majority of people in the world get on with their lives, either oblivious or apathetic or perhaps thinking .. “ahhh thats sad… I wonder whats gona happen on the next episode of Heroes, or Greys Anatomy” the people i have met here helping the Palestinian cause have been inspiring. Students, hippies, businessmen, punks, grannies .. many from the US and Canada and other 1st world states all  sacrificing their time (and money) for a cause they believe in.                                
 “When you see a wrong, put it right with your hands; if you cannot do that speak out about it: if you cannot do that even then atleast feel bad about it, and that is
the weakest of Faith” Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W )

Sat at one organisational meeting in fact with an 18 year old that has the maturity of a 30 year old, bravery, insight and understanding all way beyond his years. Across the table from him was a 80 year old lady with the spirit of a teenager, the vigour of youth and the hearing of a 80 year old! 🙂 both were American. I was inspired

Theres so much more I can speak about; the illegality of the occupation, the wall, the settlements, the human rights abuses, internal Palestinian politics (tho in the words Ash our benoni Braveheart “Its complex”) , regional politics, the upcoming failure of Annapolis (you cannot negotiate with somebody when they on the ground with ur boot on their neck suffocating their oxygen supply) All in the name  of security? Bollox! “Peace and trust is not created by building barriers,  . stealing land and treating people badly.”
Humiliation breeds contempt, which grows into hatred, which manifests as anger and that anger is sometimes acted upon.
One thing I must comment on though is the excellence of Palestinian hospitality. The phenomenal hospitality. The humility that comes with being made guest of honour at a meal where the family can barely afford to feed themselves. Poor here (tap your pocket) Rich here (tap your heart) How often the converse is true in many of the western countries, many muslim countries too, and definitely back home as well.

It has been 5 weeks since I left South Africa. Left the land of my birth. Left my family, my home, my friends, my job. Left stability and security. Left freedom of speech, of movement… Left freedom. Many of the simple things we fail to appreciate until they are gone. The people of Palestine still hope for these liberties, they still strive for these necessities and will continue to struggle, and die, for their freedom.  

Most have wondered why I chose to come here, many have asked, I too on the odd occasion, asked myself… Why? Through these writings I hope to have answered some of those Questions. More than that, I hope to have encouraged others to also leave their comfort zones and search, struggle, strive, seek and ultimately Serve. To  always strive for self improvement, strive for excellence, strive to encourage good and forbid evil  

“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain success” Quran 3:104

When the stones of Jerusalem become more holy than its people, doesn’t it lose its holiness? Jerusalem – East side story (2007)  A film by Mohammed Alatar

I leave Palestine this week, inshaAllah, to continue with the rest of my journey.
Shukran, ilal liqaai (till we meet again)

Mohamed

P.S
For the medics
Some anecdotes from some of my experiences at the hospitals here
The risk of contracting HIV here is as likely as the Israelis pulling out entirely from Palestinian occupied territory – syringes are re-used, gloves are almost never used by the anaesthetist -not even during spinals! I saw it! Paramedian approach, a quick webcol wipe and IN. This guy was really experienced and hasnt had any major complications btw.  Gas anaesthesia maintenance is as rare as Israel obeying international law – occasional propofol top ups is the order of the day. sometimes its TIVA without a syringe driver.. some white muti added to the drip and titrated. Ive seen it and it works, and seems perfectly safe! I must admit that the medical service here tho is excellent considering the resources available, and the conditions which prevail.  Oh and one other thing.. in most theatres, its the anaesthetist whos the boss not the surgeon. the surgeon is a mere technician 😉 hehe

For the Boys
Yessss, Palestinian women ARE attractive! Fair skin have all, good features have most, and light eyes have many! along with the modesty, they very attractiv 🙂 I must admit tho that I am yet to see an attractiv older palestinian woman. Which begs the Question… do they all just leave, or just fade quickly?  x

the excerpts in italics are from the Silent Minaret) by Ishtiyaq Shukri)    

 

Stop merely existing, LIVE, or you will cease to exist

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