|Posted on December 1, 2010 at 9:48 PM|
I have been back for four weeks now. It seems each time I go to Israel / Palestine the return gets harder. I still find myself looking at my watch and calculating the the time. That has usually stopped by now. It is strange that I have such an attachment to someplace that was never my home. Each time I go, that attachment grows stronger. I can only imagine what it must be like for my friends that are from there and can only return occasionally (and some not at all). There is also a feeling of guilt that I do have the ability to travel back and forth, returning to a safe and mostly comfortable life. It is like I am only playing around the edges of that reality. I remember someone on my first trip saying that we are just voyeurs.
I am starting to believe that this is like one of those ‘life stressors’ when we are told we shouldn’t make big decisions (I know mine recently have not been great). I was speaking with another activist about her experiences of returning home and found that I am not alone in this ‘hyper-emotional’ frame of mind (perhaps it is a form of the "Jerualsem Syndrome" that people talk about - except I don't think I am Jesus). I think it is all that much harder because there are not a lot of us that do this work, and it is easy to feel isolated. I also think it is hard for our friends and family to really understand why we are feeling the way we do. When I was flying back I wrote about crossing the halfway point and that whichever side of that line I was crossing to, I was leaving something precious behind; it really is like being caught between two different realities (like Scotty on Star Trek caught in the transporter beam, unable to materialize in either ‘world’).
There is an irony in all this. As much as I talk about how much it matters to the individuals we meet in Palestine (and Israel) that we have come in solidarity (and it really does), I do not hold any illusion that I as an individual impacted them in any way close to how much they have impacted me. I am just one of many ajaneb (foreigner) that they meet in the course of a year; but they are one of a handful of Palestinians and Israelis that I will ever get to know. I wonder sometimes if they know how much I have been changed by them or how I carry the memory of each in my heart.
Whenever I complete a project, I think about what I have learned. So as I think about this trip, along with basic things like, I don’t need to pack hair conditioner but do need to bring the filter bottle, I have come up with my top ten lessons learned (not in any particular order);