Saturday, December 27, 2008

la lucha bonita

I went to a dance performance last night put on by AlRowwad. They performed a traditional dance, the dabka. It was so beautiful to watch. It was performed for a delegation from Spain of a dance troupe. It is beautiful to see the young children so proud of their culture. I got to ride with them on the bus to the performance and they were so excited. The delegation was also doing interviews that they had done with both israeli and palestinian children. the interviewer asked the same questions most ask - "how do you feel about the jews?", "do you think you will ever be able to play with them", etc. One young girl responded that she would like one day to be able to play with israeli childeren but she doesn't think she will be accepted by them. I had a conversation with Dr. Abdelfattah - the director of Alrowwad - he said it's always the same questions. And what people need to understand is it is not about being jewish and muslim. i told him i hope maybe one day the questions will change - when we have a better understanding of what is needed to be asked.

At the center i have met amazing people. A man named osama is working on a play right now that he hopes to perform in february. it is based off the ideas presented by a political cartoonist named naji - whose image handala is used widely as a symbol of the palestinian struggle. the play is focused on the ideas of political divisions not serving the interest of the people. he realizes that writing and performing this play may cause some repercussions for those involved, but he feels like it is needed to be talked about. the feeling is the need for unity to overcome the forces of the occupation. they hope to explore what is needed for the future they hope to see - a future free from occupation. he told me that he got to visit his family's village for the first time last year. he had heard many stories from his grandparents about their daily lives there - until they were forced out during the nakba. he asks why? just because they are arab, why are they not allowed to stay. just last week one of the higher ups in the israeli government made comments that if you are arab you need to be under the palestinian authority on the other side, not in israel. the racism is very blatant here. again and again i come across palestinians who just want to live and be able to travel freely and be a self-determined people, while the israelis i've met want a purely jewish state - it seems at any costs. we talked to about the perception of the palestinians - he said increduosly "most think we are terrorists". and i thought about the fears my friends and family had when i told them i was coming here. it is true. the ideas fed to us by the media are blatantly false, or at least biased, most of the time. i have been treated with nothing but kindness and respect from everyone i have met here. everyone is so open to talk to me about how they feel about the occupation and their hopes and fears of it changing - hoping it will end, fearing it will not.

maybe it's hard to understand but everything here is controlled by israel, almost all the products are in hebrew, travelling outside a city you must pass through israeli security gaurds always with there hands on their guns. even the area just next to the wall, on the palestinian side. they were trying to build it into a park for the children but the israeli government will not allow it, and a christian group claimed it is part of a holy site on the other side of the wall - so there it sits in wreckage, from when they erected the wall 3 years ago in this area. why? even the sanitation, there are millions of dollars in aid waiting to build infrastructure for better sewage treatment systems, education, etc - instead because of blocks in permits it just sits. they are blocking every attempt at progress.

a story: my friend, aluk, is teaching english to the students here. he was teaching them words to express emotions and one of his students wanted to know how to say "goosebumps". he asked the student, when have you felt like that? he said when he was sitting next to a man who was crying. aluk asked where he was when this happened. the student responded it was in prison, and he began crying too because he shared the same experience as the man, and they cried at the thought of being "interrogated" again (he did not know the word for torture yet). they had done nothing and were "interrogated" daily trying to get them to admit to something they hadn't done. but he felt lucky because he was released.

another worker here told us she and her family are going to visit her brother in prison soon. he has been held for a year without even being charged yet. almost everyone here has a family member who has been in or is in prison, for little or nothing. and most the time they are forbidden to visit them.

the center here is focused on cultural expression for healing as a form of resistance. As i watched the children smiling and dancing i realized that that is the best form of non-violent resistance - keeping your cultural identity. when looking at the tactics of the oppressors one of the ways they gain the most control is by imposing their own values on the people they occupy and try to dominate by destroying their own ideas and values. and by keeping true to self-defined values the spirit cannot be defeated. and that is what i see here in the eyes of the children and in the graceful expression of their dances - a spirit that says you can't tell me who i am and who i can be, they get to decide that for themselves. is that so much to ask?

1 comment:

  1. I just finished reading through a book of graffiti art by Banksy and in his book he had created some artwork on the wall in Palestine. One of the pieces was of a small child who had just drawn a ladder up and over the wall. As I sit in the comfort of my own home, I read this blog and get goosebumps. I wonder about the forcing of ways onto another and the amount of power and fear present to rob someone of their humanity. And the undying flicker of hope...