|Posted on October 24, 2011 at 6:20 PM|
This place is a dream.; Only a sleeper considers it real.
Then death comes like dawn,
and you wake up laughing at what you thought was your grief ! ~ Rumi
Where I am living, it is possible to pretend the occupation isn’t real, maybe for a moment, if I stay right where I am (and I don’t turn on the faucet - I have been without water for four days). Where I live and work, I can’t see the settlement; and I never see soldiers, if I stay right where I am . What I do see is a strange mix of first and third world development, and people trying to live a “normal” life. Who wouldn’t want that – a normal life - for their children? And it is the children I watch – the young ones don’t know there is something called an occupation. This is just their life. And we can pretend it doesn’t affect them, but only if they stay right where they are - in the bubble.
Last week I stepped out of the bubble. Not far down the road is a refugee camp full of children, more than half the 4700 residents are under age 18. I met a little girl whose first words were not “mommy” or “daddy”, but “Jesh (soldier) – tet, tet, tet (the sound of a gun)”. The occupation is real for her, they killed her uncle.
Last week, I stepped out of the bubble. Farther down the road – all the way to Jerusalem, I go to get the mail; a journey most Palestinians cannot take (I don’t know how they get their mail*) – a short taxi ride and then a bus gets me there. My American passport gets me through the checkpoint, but doesn’t find the post office for me. I will try again this week. It is like living as a scratch-off lottery ticket. A shiny silver veneer-scratch it, what do you find? No jackpot there, just another pretty piece of paper to join all the others (lots of others) littering the ground.
But last week, I stepped out of the bubble. Down another road - I ventured out to pick olives – lots of olives picked, and lots of olives lost, to the creeping settlements and “the wall”. Then I found something else, what one young friend called moments of grace. There are so many of those here. From the taxi driver in Bethlehem that yelled out the window for our entire drive “I love America – I have an American VIP”, to the young man that helped me when I took a nasty tumble on his mountain – guiding each step I took, “hoon - halla hunak” (here - now there). And I shouldn’t forget Abed, my new friend in Jerusalem who rescued me and made me laugh when I was ready to give up on the day and the city.
Tears and laughter, like M&M’s and popcorn, just go together here, under the olive trees – outside the bubble.
**Note regarding mail service - I just found out that most of the bigger organizations have a PO Box in Jerusalem. Other people have friends there or that can travel there. There is a post office somewhere in Beit Sahour that you can get a PO Box at, but there is no street delivery. When the phone or other bills arrive to Paidia's office, an employee of that company brings it to the office. The address is literally "Beit Sahour, on YMCA street, by the Paradise Supermarket, Abu Ibrahim's building". There are also Palestine stamps (I should get some), but it takes about two months for mail to go anywhere from here.