Monday, September 12

news from Nablus

a friend of mine sent me the following mail the other day
I thought her experiences could be of interest for others too.

For a long time I’ve been trying to motivate myself to write a long mail to all of you telling you about the situation here, about what I see around me – to be your eyes in this part of the world that is so often presented to us at home in a distorted way.

It took me so long to finally start the mail, because I had (and have?) the strange feeling that the more time I was spending here the less I understood.

I’m not sure that the fog has been lifted yet (is that THE light over there? J) so I warn you in advance that what is to come might be very chaotic.

What prompted me to write today of all days?

I was on my way home a few hours ago with Alice, Leila (from Naples) and A. (from Nablus) and we stopped to have some kunafe along the way (kunafe = warm and sweet and wonderful, very sugary but there’s also cheese inside – a nutritionists nightmare but so good…).

All the way we had been joking and laughing, but in the kunafe place (for lack of a better word to describe the place) A. started talking about his experiences during the second Intifada.

A. is only 19 years old, a good footballer, funny,… He seems like a normal, really nice guy, but today he told us about things he has seen and experienced, that I think no one should ever have to see.

I take him as an example, but most people here in Nablus, in all Palestine, could tell you similar stories, stories that make you feel so helpless that even crying seems to be hard.

There is a whole generation without any hope for a better future, without any perspectives – even plans that seem so normal to us like being able to choose freely what to study, to find a job, to go on a vacation – “simple” things that fade away at the latest in the cold reality of a check point, of a nightly invasion…

And it seems its getting worse instead of better.

In these days there is a lot of talk about the withdrawal from Gaza, “we are experiencing a historic event”, is what they tell us, and pictures of crying settlers being driven away so cruelly from “their” houses and “their” land seem to be omnipresent.

I fail to see the historic importance of Sharons move (and I welcome any discussion with people who see things differently, I don’t claim to be the bearer of the one and only truth).

Of course it’s good that the settlers are out of Gaza and I hope that the people there who have suffered so much will finally be able to live a more peaceful, “livable” life.

But at the same time the number of settlers in the West Bank has risen about\for\of?? 9000 persons (with only 7500 settlers leaving Gaza and 4 – in my opinion – pro forma evacuations in the West Bank) and ultra-orthodox movements like in the extremist settlement of Tapuach (located between Nablus and Ramallah) are getting stronger and stronger.

The withdrawal from Gaza gives Sharon (and America) the opportunity to be the good guys again, good guys that want peace, that give the Palestinians chance after chance, while the Palestinians (evil terrorists all of them) continue to go to bed with the sole wish to drive all Israelis into the sea.

Politics is such a dirty business, but living here just makes me want to study it even more, in the hope to understand one day why all this is happening.

The withdrawal from Gaza doesn’t change the almost unbearable living conditions in the West Bank – life here is like being in a big open air prison – for Palestinians I have to add, for us internationals its much easier, especially getting out (of the West Bank).

It makes me feel guilty in a way knowing that because I was lucky enough to get born in good old Austria I can leave Nablus any time I want, go to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv for the weekend, visit my friend in Jordan and come back again,… all this without problems, while the Palestinians, the ones living here, cannot do that.

With one of my English classes in the Balata refugee camp (girls between 14 and 16) I did a lesson on traveling (I was not sure if it’s a good topic at the beginning, but it turned out to be) and one girl said that her only wish is to see Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is about 1 1\2 hours from Nablus if you go by car and don’t have problems at the checkpoint.

Around Nablus there are approximately 8 checkpoints (and military stations on some of the hills, so that you can hardly go through the mountains). For a young male Palestinian its almost impossible to leave the city, it doesn’t matter whether he is studying in another city or he wants to visit somebody. You can apply for a permission, but it depends on the mood of the person in charge if you get it.

Also for all the other people - women, old people, etc - its hard and the soldiers can always find a reason to stop you from passing or treat you badly if they feel like it.

I was shocked the first time I left Nablus via the Howwara Checkpoint and I saw people waiting patiently behind metal bars – images that you keep in your head, that remind you of cattle farms and that make you sick.

I don’t want to demonize the soldiers, I try to understand them in a way.

The first time you see them it’s like a shock – they are so young and seem almost like kids playing war with their big machine guns and uniforms.

Young Israelis have to start their military service when they are 18 (unless they decide to study something that the army considers useful for their purposes in which case you can do your service after you finish university, but the majority of the young people starts at 18) and it lasts 3 years for the guys and 1 ½ (or 2, am not sure at the moment) years for the girls.

It’s hard to refuse to serve and it takes a strong person to go through the whole process, knowing that your refusal will make your future life in the Israeli society much harder (f.e.: potential employer asking about where you served in the army, answer: no army, hmmm… sorry, job is already taken.. ) Until not too long ago people also got sent to prison for refusing to serve in the army. There is such a strong pressure on young people to “do something for their homeland”, “to defend their country”, that I consider myself proud to know people that had the determination and the guts to say no to all that.

I don’t know if I would have had the strength to refuse if I would have been in their position (18 is pretty damn young), so each time I’m at a checkpoint I’m wondering about how many of them don’t even want to be there and how they are going to think after having lived 3 years in this militaristic environment…

I could go on but since this is already soo long I feel like I should give you a break J

I don’t know how much of this you know or is obvious for you anyway, especially because I’m sending this to a very diverse group of people, diverse in experiences and interests - as well as in background and origin - and some of you know this conflict from the inside.

I just felt the need to let you know a little of what I am experiencing here, I already feel so helpless every day seeing the injustice around me and this is the least I can do – tell those of you that don’t have the opportunity to come here about the things I see around me.

This is a very impulsive first account and there are so many things that I haven’t even mentioned… so many things that have many more layers and of which I only described a tiny part of the first layer, there is so much more to say – just let me know what you think, and in case I haven’t been clear on something I would be happy to go more into detail.

I’m planning to write more soon, but knowing me it will still be a good while…

Uff, I think I should really stop now,

thanks if you’ve made it until here J

Powered by Blogger