This picture of the wall was taken from Abu Dis, which was one of the many towns we had to drive through on the way home from the Dead Sea yesterday. Because of the by-pass roads, closures, checkpoints, etc., what should take about 30 min to the Dead Sea takes over an hour and a half. It’s really incredible. As we stopped our bus here, we were told stories about how this part of the wall has impacted the community of Abu Dis. Apparently there is a hospital within a few kilometers of the wall, but Abu Dis residents have to drive all the way around to go to another hospital, but sometimes when people are deathly ill, they attempt to move people over the wall.
Survival and resistance. An interesting, often paradoxical, combination of ideas. This was brought to our attention when someone from our group asked about all the produce and goods that come straight from Israel that the Palestinian people buy, and was asking why they don’t attempt to boycott the goods? The man who was speaking to us talked about “survival and resistance.” He works with the Rapprochement center in Beit Sahour, and they are continually seeking out ways to non-violentally resist the occupation and the Israeli government – but at the same time, they still have to eat, they still need to live. He said it’s hard to find the balance between surviving and resisting sometimes, but both need to occur. He used this as a chance to share his views of people painting murals on the Wall. He said he hated it. Because now, he said, tourists come and take pictures of the wall and say, “Oh, isn’t that beautiful…” (I felt a tinge of guilt when he said that) and after awhile, the Wall becomes an expression for people’s artwork, and it becomes normalized; people become used to the Wall – whereas he wants people NEVER to get used to it. He wants people to hate it – “it is an ugly thing, and I don’t like any attempts to make it look pretty.” Although, he said he did support the more grotesque, political graffiti-work that is being done on it.
Yesterday I went to a pool at the Golden Park Resort in Beit Sahour with a Palestinian, Raed. He is 33 years old and owns a workout gym here in town (hence, he’s HUGE, and it was a little funny for little Adam to be following him around in the pool). We hung out, swam, played with some high school guys, had a Coke and ice-cream cones and just had a very relaxing morning/afternoon. As I was sitting there, I found myself thinking: “This is the occupation…these kids are having fun, laughing, playing in the pool and enjoying life…hey, this isn’t too bad…” And then I had to stop. No. This IS bad. This may be “life” but this is also “surviving…” – these are people who are living under an illegal military-occupation and trying to make the best of it.
The pool is absolutely crowded because these families can’t just get up and go to the Dead Sea for a day without an incredible amount of planning and luck at checkpoints. These kids are kids like any others in the world – they are loving life, and laughing, and…but these kids will grow up – and they will soon begin to attend school, and they will learn about places in the world that, if the occupation continues, they will most likely never have the opportunity to visit and travel to. These are kids who will begin to realize that the big, tall, grey “fence” is there to keep them out from the rest of the world. These are kids who have realized that they have been “surviving” up till now, and that it is time to join the resistance (and they will choose both violent and non-violent ways to resist) movement against this occupation.
I realize that I don’t have any real answers…I often find myself without words to really be able to describe what I feel for these people. I was walking to the internet café just 10 minutes ago, and a car drove by, backed up and said, “Hey, do you remember us, where are you going?” And the truth is, I did not remember them – and even still, I think they may have never met me, but just met another American from our group – but they offered to drive me the 10 min drive up to Bethlehem to the internet café; these people truly are some of the most kind and hospitable I’ve met…