“If it looks beautiful, it’s not ours”

More selections from my 2004 Palestine journal. I’ve included photos taken of the planned Separation Wall’s path as intended in Biddu. The homes on the hilltops which resemble an American suburb are Jewish settlements.

29 June 2004: 12:03am

Where to begin? What to talk about first? Well I can start by saying that I am no longer in the village of Az-zawya. We only had a short stint there for one night but not without having two large feasts in the homes of two Palestinian families. The first feast was held in the home of the family who owns the house we stayed at. We were welcomed with at least a dozen different dishes of meat, vegetables, soups, and fruits. I am so overwhelmed by the hospitality; they are giving to guests and sweet and liberal with offerings of food and drink. Truly, for a people with very little, their welcoming attitude is amazing.

Like I said, we had two feasts. Our second was held on the roof of the mayor’s home. We were all invited to his house and before we knew it, it was 1 am, the barbecue had cooled and the women had cleared the table and some were smoking the arghila under the beautiful moon and stars. The smell of sweetly spiced smoke floated in the night. The collaboration and and solidarity of the community was evident in every word uttered from all present. Though I never met any of these people before, the camaraderie was strong, we all felt it. I mean, many of us didn’t even speak the same language.

The next morning, this morning, we woke and gathered our things to learn that we changing towns. This time, and I hope its the last, we have found ourselves in Biddu. The bus ride was long and hot, and we found ourselves surrounded by settlements and signs in Hebrew. I spoke with a young Palestinian man during some of the way. I spotted on a hilltop what I thought was a Jewish settlement. He said it was. Then he said, “If it looks beautiful, it’s not ours.” The houses were all well groomed. This broke my heart. My response was awkward and I felt stupid.

ImageBut, alas, we have arrived in Biddu where I hope I can make a home for myself. This evening a resident gave us a tour of where the wall will be constructed in Biddu. Like so many places in Palestine, it will slice land and people from their jobs. It will destroy relationships and olive groves and it will imprison Palestinians. Of course, there are heart-wrenching stories like the house that is directly in the path of the wall. That is no accident, they must have been aiming. This home straddles the wall’s path. I took pictures.

ImageBiddu is located near a settlement and the story of the settlement and one Palestinian family in particular is horrific. When the settlement moved in, one family somehow refused to leave. To this day their house stands, but it is literally imprisoned. As the home butts up to the edge of the settlement, it is completely surrounded by a fence . The fence is so close to the house that only two people can walk side by side around the house at a time. I tried three people, it didn’t work. The Israelis even made one path, flanked by the same fence, into and out of the house along with a lone watch tower only used to watch that Palestinian family. How do Israelis, who do such things, sleep at night? How do the settlers look their neighbor in the eye? Do they look them in the eye? Life in Palestine is more like a condition, a perpetual transition, as if all the parties are constantly waiting.

I have noticed this condition of transition, but there is also a coping I have discovered, like reading a magazine to pass the time and forget your troubles. I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I don’t know when, or if, I will. I suppose I really don’t understand the Israelis. What do they fear, its like a psychosis. It must be fear, right? Could they hate this much? Are they paranoid? Who are they?


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