Just got back from dinner at the Hanania household, and it was incredible. We tried the Palestinian beer, which is brewed in only one village, a christian village called Taybeh (beer is not brewed in traditionally Islamic cities).
All the food here is incredible! The falafel, the freshly baked pita bread, the hummus, even (especially?) the cookies, which are freshly baked in small bakeries all along the streets. My grandparents would love these cookies, I wonder if I can bring some back? Probably only if they are sealed. Jane and Max relate a story of a student who tried to bring a case of Taybeh back and was denied, probably because they were loose in a case and could have broken, if they were individually wrapped and unopened they would have been fine, they say.
I guess I should explain a little more about why the song “gotta lotta walls” was so relevant to me yesterday, because I think I didn’t even mention the wall in that post. See, Israel has constructed a wall, ostensibly for security purposes, which is one of the biggest disruptions in Palestinian life. The Al-Haq presentation showed us specific cases where the wall had actually surrounded the houses of Palestinians. In one case, a family was fenced in, and not even given the key to open the gate until the father had petitioned countless times to the Israeli government (otherwise the gate was only opened 15 minutes at a time). Al-Haq has this incredible new multimedia presentation called “virtual field visits,” in which you can take a virtual tour of the wall site. This is from what I consider to be one of the least biased NGOs we’ve met with so far in Palestine. Take a look here. It’s the closest many may get to actually being in the region, so it’s incredible that they’ve added this feature.
Today we met with Omar Barghouti, of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Movement, modeled after the anti-apartheid movement that succeeded in bringing down the South African government, after many many years of opposition. The BDS movement is much younger hderere than it was in SA, but is making incredible gains – they’ve reached many many people and inspired much activism, some of which has directly affected companies that contract to Israel. They’ve even been able to reach Snoop Dogg, whose response was appaerntly something to the extent of “fuck that, I won’t visit that country” (once again, paraphrasing). Then he canceled his scheduled concert in Israel.
Mr. Barghouti had some really interesting, much more biased views on the occupation. However, he presented a pressing case of violations of international law, and a well-documented history that involves, contrary to popular perception, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians before the invasion of Arab states in 1948. He presented it thus, “Why should Muslims and Christians of the Middle East, who had never been anti-Semitic, be subject to the reparations for European Christians who killed European Jews?” (paaaaraphraasing, but this one is nearly a direct qote). It’s one thing to ask a nation to take refugees, but quite another to ask them to give those refugees their own country, and unacceptable to let them ethnically cleanse the original inhabitants of the region. That is why the Arab nations invaded, to defend native Palestinians. All of these arguments and their counters are on the internet, and he cited a book for us to read called “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Ilan Pappé.
I recognize the horror of the Holocaust, but I do have to agree somewhat with his argument – and even more so with the notion that the Holocaust does not justify the current war of attrition being waged against the Palestinians. All the more so because I am disgusted by some of the spin the media puts on it, and the ignorance people are kept in in this very region. Max cited a story of an Israeli settler who met a Palestinian woman in a village, who had been displaced from the region where the Israeli woman now lived. “You don’t have running water?!” She exclaimed, “We have swimming pools and irrigated gardens up there!” I would never have been exposed to this if I hadn’t come here. We take limited showers (so-called “quaker showers” by Max, you wet yourself, lather up, and rinse) every day, and the temperature is dictated by the heat of the containers on the roof. We wash our clothes in the showers with bar soap. This is not something that I have to live with permanently and for that I am blessed, but it is life for many.
This aside for tonight. I’m glad you are all still reading after that block of much ado. The culture here is incredible – so much food, such hospitality. These are truly some of the friendliest people I have ever met. I went with Max to the market today, which was an incredible experience – hustling and bustling through stalls of incredible fresh fruit and bread.
There are also these guys, who I forgot to mention before and realized I have to put them in.
These “sussmen” sell a kind of sweet traditional tea, which tastes something like our sweet tea with a bit of herbs and some smoky molasses flavor. Yummy and interesting. I’m gonna stop ehre for the night – we have to be up at 5:30 tomorrow to leave for Jerusalem by 6:30, to get through the checkpoint and meet up with our tour guide by 8:00. I’m definitely nervous for this one but inshallah everything will be fine. I haven’t been getting nearly enough sleep on this trip, but it’s all too exciting to care. Long post, much love to those of you who are reading about my experiences.
Disagree with anything I said above or have a question? DOn’t forget to comment, or I’ll never know, and you’ll never be at peace. Or hopefully you will.