Monday, December 13, 2010

Habibi Don't Love Me

to Omar & Anees

By Tala Abu Rahmeh

“Habibi don’t see me”

Suheir Hammad

I went to Yaffa on Friday night. I have a permit that expires next month, so my friends are taking me all over the place to milk it before I become illegal. It’s almost funny that my ability to drive 20 minutes outside of Ramallah in the direction of Jerusalem will actually expire on a specific date.

I have always avoided Yaffa, I never had a relationship with the city aside from my family’s stories of being uprooted from their homes and the smell of the sea, but every time I go there I feel incredibly rejected, like nothing I will ever be or say will ever make me worthy of this city. It is obviously an unhealthy relationship.

After we approached a row of stunning lights shining from Ben Gurion Airport, our car slowly began sinking into Yaffa’s streets that were dimmed in anticipation of Saturday. There was something incredibly sad about such an ordinary ritual, like a child being forced to sleep and go to a terrible school in the morning.

Sensing my anxiety, my friend Anees drove us to the beach. Since I have little to no knowledge of the city I had no idea we got there until he parked. I never told either of my friends that I was terrified of the sea at night, but for some reason I wasn’t scared. Perhaps it was that feeling of having so little to lose that hung upon my entire space.

We stood there for a bit and all I could think of was how inadequate I felt. I kept wondering that if this city saw me, really saw me, wouldn’t it at least love me a little? A scarier thought chocked me for a second, what if it did see me, and found nothing worthy of love? That would be the ultimate nightmare.

After our night in Yaffa was over, we drove all the way on road 1 accompanied by some songs, a little sadness, three jumbo slices of pizza, and a promise “to do this again.”

I haven’t felt myself since that day, and maybe I won’t for a while, but tonight I’m sending a prayer of love to the city that won’t love me, to those who fight so hard against hate, for those who love themselves no matter how mutilated they feel (and those who don’t), for my four grandparents who lived and died in the shadows of Yaffa’s oranges, and for all of us, may we all be loved, precisely and plentifully.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Feast of the Sacrifice

By: David Moser

In Abu Dis, during the Eid, when the children have been given gifts, the parents take rest, and for two days the streets are run by boys with guns.

They stand next to boxes of yellow oranges and green cucumbers, and against the Jerusalem stone of homes, with black rifles strapped on their shoulders and pistols in their hands. They dash across filthy empty streets where on most days men drive their cars, racing from wall to wall. Sometimes the boys hide behind garbage dumpsters and shoot at the windows of passing vehicles. Sometimes they shoot each other.

Of course, the guns are toys, for who would give guns to boys?

“Bo bo bo (come here),” one of the teenagers says, parroting the Hebrew he has heard from soldiers as he points his plastic pellet shooting weapon at me while his friends smile, impressed. Before he says another word, I take my passport from my jeans pocket and pass it to him. He pretends to flip through, and gives it back with a grin at my one-upmanship.

I have also had thoughts of how it would be to be in the army.

Years ago, I had a dream. I was an Israeli soldier, uniformed in olive green, alone amidst urban battle. I was standing against an outer wall of a boxy building and glanced around the corner to see two Palestinians, one man and one woman, who I knew were ready to kill me. These weren’t anonymous fighters, but people I knew in real life, and even dreaming I knew they would never hurt me, if they could only know who I was behind the uniform. But I had to turn the corner. If I turned and spoke to them, they would shoot me before they could see who I was. So I had to shoot first, at my friends.

I did it. I turned and fired at them, hitting both the man and the woman. Rather than fall dead, or even begin to bleed, they sat speaking softly and smiling to each other, unaware of what I had done to them. But they had been shot nonetheless, and would surely die in a matter of seconds. I could not take back the bullets, and panicked at the thought that as they passed from life to death, they would see that it was me who had sent them there. In my terror and humiliation, I started shooting again, and as the dream went dark, fired round after round in prayer that I could kill them before they knew who I was.

When I woke up, the sky was already blue.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Roast Beef Eid

By: Tala Abu Rahmeh

I was on the phone with my great aunt this morning, she was talking about how happy her grandchildren were with Eid Al-Adha, all dressed up and running around the streets of the village collecting tiny gifts and cookies.

On TV, there were images of the Eid festivities in Gaza city. A pregnant looking correspondent asked a child about what he wanted to eat in celebration of this holiday, “Shawerma” he said, one of the cheapest foods one can buy. On a holiday where people boast their huge tables crowded with meat and cookies, this kid wanted a cheap sandwich.

I was in the back of the car, driving to my aunt’s huge lunch, when I started thinking about hope, or perhaps, how hope works. Driving to our small family lunch were people who lost their sister, their moms, their fathers, and said goodbye to traveling daughters (not knowing whether they’ll ever come back), and here we were, on the road to celebrate a holiday of food and hope.

It occurred to me then that (hope) could be the running theme of the city; less than a few years ago, Ramallah was collecting its rubble like pieces of blown up children, thinking that it might never survive the agony of lost limbs and loves, but look at us now, the whole city, heck, the whole country, is going to lunch somewhere.

When we got to my aunt’s house, there were three huge platters on the dinning room table; stuffed zucchini and grape leaves, thickly sliced roast beef, some goat’s well baked internal organs (yup, we eat that), salads, hummus, and a plate of cooked dandelions dipped in tahini (yes, we eat that too, they are really good for you, you should try them sometime).

I filled my plate with salad and dandelions; the less complicated foods. I stared at my plate for a while and thought, this time around, and after so much loss, I’m thankful for the less complicated things. Tiny love notes, kind phone calls, warm music, long novels, funny kids, good poems, and of course, delicious food, prepared with at least an ounce of optimism. Most importantly, I’m thankful for the ability to be grateful, despite my deep inability to not mark this as the fourth Eid without my mother.

As for you, little child from Gaza, I hope you get to eat a huge Shawerma sandwich, filled with fresh vegetables and heaps of outstanding (dripping-all-over-your new clothes) tahini.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On the Bus

by: David Moser

“Welcome, welcome. There is space. You can stand.” He says.

I step onto the blue carpeted bus. Palestinian bus. Jerusalem bound. I pay my six shekels, get my ticket, and stand at the front. The seats are filled with women from the university. The men huddle by the door.

“Where are you from?”


“America. I love America. Especially Las Vegas.”

“Las Vegas?”

“Yes. I love the poker.” He rubs his right thumb and index finger together. He raises his thick black eyebrows and purses his lips.

“Really? Do you play poker?”

He nods once.

“Are you good?”

He raises his chin and makes eye contact. “What do you study at the university?” He asks.

“I am a teacher. I teach writing. In English.”

“Ahh, welcome. Really, I love your country very much. But you make fuck up in Iraq. You make fuck up in Pakistan. You make fuck up in Afghanistan. But I hate Bin Laden. He is total mother fucker. And you, do you love Israel? “

“I live here in Abu Dis.”

“Yes, Abu Dis, Israel. Do you love it here in Israel?"

I look at him knowingly.

“What country is this?” He asks.

“I thought it was Palestine.”

He smiles a wide, toothy smile, touches my shoulder then shakes my right hand. “Yes this is Palestine. Israel, it is nothing. It will be gone in ten years. Believe me. In ten years.”

“How? How will it be gone? Will you beat Netanyahu at poker?”

He smiles again. He makes the fingers of both his hands into guns. Lines them up with the left in front and the right in back like he is aiming a rifle. “Me and my brother, we will do it.”

“You will do what? Someone will kill you. And then what?”

“No. We will shoot them. All of them.” He looks at the floor. We roll down a hill, guided by curving asphalt, into a rocky valley. Two leather skinned men face Mecca in afternoon prayer from the roof of a two story house they have built all day. The sun is still high.

“Are you married?” He slides his right pointer and thumb down his left ring finger.

“No. I’m not married.”

“How old are you?”


He looks at my nose, my eyes. “Twenty…six.”

“Twenty five.”

“Will you marry next year?”


He rubs his two index fingers together. He asks, “Are you Fatah or Hamas?”

“I am Democrats.”

“Democrats. But here, do you love Fatah or Hamas?”

“I don’t vote here. What about you? Fatah or Hamas?”

“Fatah.” He nods twice. “Hamas.” He says and squints his eyes, flares his nose, flicks his right palm open as if shooing a fly. “Do you know Ismail Haniyeh?”

“Yes. From Hamas. He is in Gaza.”

“Yes. He is a donkey. He is a big donkey.”

“That’s true.”

“You know Mohammad Dahlan?”

“Yes. From Fatah.”

“Yes. He is my father. I love him.”

“He is your father?”

“Yes. I am from Gaza. He is my father. I love him. Really.”

“If he is your father, why are you riding the bus?”

He laughs once. “He is not my father, but I do love him.” We enter the round-about in front of the settlement Ma’ale Adumim. A middle aged man with grey hair and a grey kippah drove his ocean blue sedan in front of our bus as he entered the settlement. My companion flicked his hand again.

“We are not terrorists here in Palestine. Right?” He was asking only what I thought. He knew already.

“You just said you plan on killing every Israeli.”

“No. This is not terrorism. This is an important thing.”

“So what is terrorism?”

“What Israel did in Gaza. What Israel does in Jerusalem.” He made only his right hand into a gun this time. “Every day.”

“Where do you live in Jerusalem?”

“Shuafat. My mother is from Hebron. Have you heard of the Jaber family?”

“Yes I have.”

“Do you love George Bush?”

I make eye contact. Scrunch my eyebrows. “No.”

“He is a good man! A great man!”

I elbow him lightly in the ribs and smile.

He smiles and nods. “He fucked every country.”

“And America too. He fucked America too.”

We drove slowly into the A-Za’im checkpoint. The contract security guards were changing shift. We stopped. The door opened. The whole bus emptied as we stepped into the hot afternoon, walked through the fenced passageway, showed ID to a female soldier with a brown ponytail and big hips. We stood outside the bus as the girls reentered. When we stepped back in, we took different places. There was someone between us, and we didn’t speak again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

...And Release

by: R.Kafri

I release you…I release me of you and search for peace away from anything that is you. I am letting you go. I am freeing you and me. I am turning my back to the dead end and moving into the open streets. I want to forget you in Ramallah, because I met you in Ramallah. I want me to dissolve into the city’s shadows until you no longer haunt my sleep, my food, my morning runs, until you forget me and I can no longer remember you. I am letting you go, not for you to come back, but for you to disappear into the dust of dug up streets, into the remains of old deserted buildings, into the ghosts of old homes turned into high rises, into the brightness of neon signs, the loudness of Thursday nights at Orjuwan, and the mist of argeeleh at Azure. Vanish! Please go and let me go… I release you to melt into the smells of hot Eiffel Knafeh, and sizzling Abu Khalil Falafel. I release you into the sounds of car horns, the call to prayer, and church bells ringing. I am releasing you into your city, my city…OUR city.

I walk through the streets hoping to forget you on the corner of Rukab or to accidently drop you at the Manara. I walk from one store to the other gradually picking up my pace hoping to shake you off. I want to discard you like an empty Zaman cup, like a half eaten shawirma sandwich from Abu Al Abed. Release me, let me go like a helium balloon so that the wind can pick me up and elevate me. Set me free so I am free to see you or not see you, to miss you or not miss you…

I release you, release me…

But oh how miserable I am! Because every time I let you go, I find a way to leave you behind, the city reminds me of you, for you are the city, and the city is me, and we are of each other….

Peace, peace, peace….and release

To the skeletons that haunt us, to the past that makes us, to the present that shapes us and to the future that fills us with hope, lets hope...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The View from my Room

*By David Moser

I have a room here in Palestine. In my room I have my water bottle I bought on a rainy day early last spring on the Jersey shore. My parents and brother and I were visiting my grandparents at Easter. My grandfather can’t walk more than a few steps now. We love him. He feels worse than he has to because he lets himself get dehydrated. It’s very hard on my grandmother to care for him all the time. After a while in the living room, with the TV turned up high, we get a bit of cabin fever. When it’s cold and cloudy like it was this Easter we don’t really want to go to the beach, so we go the mall. That’s where I bought my water bottle.

I can sit in my room here and notice my bottle and remember that afternoon with my parents and brother and how we laughed about how we dislike the mall. That afternoon my brother moved an expensive copy of the Bible to the “Religious Fiction” section of the Borders Express.

On my desk here I have a postcard of the Cloisters in New York. I lived in Inwood off and on for nine months and spent afternoons in Fort Tryon Park reading short stories and noticing the seasons changing. That’s where I read the first story of Dubliners and thought of how cruel the sun is to leave us as it does after the summer. How quickly it seems to lose interest. Of course the first cool day feels great. To be warmed by our bodies inside of wool or cotton rather than the fire of the sun. We warm ourselves! But by March we are very cold. The park is also where I sat and thought of how Tegan too cooled to me. I walked through the park when my heart was still beating hard knowing I was moving to Palestine. I walked there before I told my parents.

From my room, I hear fireworks most nights. The first time I was very scared. My first night here I heard booms from the street. After the booms I heard bottles breaking. I was nervous and didn’t know what I could be hearing. It wasn’t fireworks. It sounded like demolition maybe. I didn’t know what demolition sounded like. I went to sleep. My second night here I was taken out for argelia and tea. We smoked a block from the huge ugly wall those who follow events here, hear so much about. It’s covered in political paint: slogans, maps, promises. That night my hosts drove me home. We turned a corner and found Israeli soldiers blocking the intersection to my building. One of them pointed his rifle at us and screamed “lech lech lech” (go go go) as he approached our car. It was dark. I think he was scared. The other soldiers kept focus on the men down the block. The men down the block stood behind dumpsters tipped on their sides in the road to block the army jeeps. They knew the soldiers would come that night. The dumpsters make booms as they are pushed on their sides and bottles fall out and break. It hadn’t been demolition. We made a three point turn and drove away from the fighting. I was in the back seat and shaking. We drove to the back roads. I asked my host if he was scared. He told me only a little, and that Kevin Costner was one of his favorite actors. I thought of Field of Dreams and playing baseball with my father. On weekends he took me to the little league field and pitched to me and hit me ground balls. There were no soldiers on the back roads. When I got to my apartment my hands were still shaking when I unlocked the door. And still when I locked it behind me.

The third night here I stayed in. I spent the night with my laptop. I like telling people that Barack Obama gave me my laptop. A year ago I was in Poplar Bluff working for the campaign. I spent days organizing democrats and nights reporting numbers and printing canvassing materials. By the end of the campaign I had a guard with a gun at the office twenty four hours a day. It was also a scary place to be at night. I don’t tell many Palestinians that Barack Obama gave me my computer. Many would not be impressed. It was the third night that I first heard fireworks. I didn’t know they were fireworks. I did know there had been street fighting the night before. I thought the new booms were guns. I would have enjoyed a quiet night, and think many others might have also, but a wedding calls for fireworks here, and the show goes on. The happy nights and the terrible ones both come with booms. Many years on the Fourth of July, my parents took my brother and me to see the Pittsfield Mets play in Wahconah Park. They were a triple A team, full of young, hard-working players chasing their major league dreams in a park named after a princess of an exiled and exterminated Indian tribe in a city depressed by addiction and the closure of the General Electric plant. After the Fourth of July games, fans could walk onto the field and watch the largest fireworks display in the county. I remember feeling the booms in my ribs and leaning against my parents. I only came up to their chests then. After the fireworks we would avoid the heaviest of departure traffic by going through the back streets of residential Pittsfield. In that neighborhood, fat old white women watched us pass from their porches where they had also watched the fireworks. On those car rides home, I usually fell asleep.

*David Moser works at Al Quds University and lives in Abu Dis, where he talks to people in the streets and looks at the mountains of Jordan.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Diaries of a Daily Commuter: Morning of Random Thoughts

by: R.Kafri
Disclaimer from author: I have been suffering from blogger's block for two weeks. The pressure to produce an entry did not help. The chaos we have experienced at work has left me uncentered and filled with random thoughts. I am sharing with you one of my free writes...This is in no way meant to be a literary piece of art.

Instructions for reading this blog: assume a very sarcastic posture. Please do not read too much into it. Read with a deep bored monotone with an occasional high pitch when asking questions. Again, do not read too much into it. Close your eyes and imagine the actual commute. Laugh (well let’s hope you will find this funny, if you don’t, wait for the next entry, perhaps that will be more of your style).

7:00 a.m. Morning coffee with milk, no sugar….No No anise cookie, too many calories…

SMS to Colleague: Meet me downstairs, on my way

Facebook Status update: Abu Dis

7:10 a.m. Exiting Ramallah…sound of heart breaking, no seriously, heart breaks. I have become a local, cannot get away from this city…that is sad…very sad….

7:15 a.m. Stuck in Qalandia traffic, no reason for traffic jam, yet stuck in traffic. Oh wait, Qalandia checkpoint is blocked, so there IS a reason.

Facebook Status update: stuck in Qalandia

To my right: the Wall. Favorite graphite entry: Ctrl + Alt + Delete.

Random thought crosses my mind. What if Israel had a Facebook account? Imagine the notifications:

Oppressed Palestinian just wrote on your wall

Angry and humiliated Palestinian drew on your wall.

Pissed off Palestinian woman posted a link on your wall

Solidarity expatriate posted the Apartheid application on your wall.

The US sent you a message: can you please please, pretty please keep the settlement freeze…love ya!

Angry, but very smart Palestinian just infiltrated your wall.

England just tagged you in a note: The Belfour Declaration

Hamas > Israel, you are going down with handmade rockets baby!!

Still at a standstill; to my left: The Camping Center. Tents, tarps, and all camping needs… A camping center in the middle of a refugee camp, anyone here sees the irony? (Note to self: excellent blog entry, must write about this sometime).

8:00 a.m. Finally made it outside of Qalandia; on the “open road” (if you call that an open road); more like an open death trap. It should have a disclaimer: Drive at your own risk, loose pot holes, high speed bumps and armed settlers. Why hasn’t anyone made this into a video game yet? Hmmmmm……

8:05 a.m. stopped again at Jaba3 checkpoint, no reason whatsoever. Ok this one is brief, back on the “open road,” if you call that an open road.

8:08 a.m. stuck behind a slow driving settler. Are you serious? You want to take our land, build on it illegally, banish us from our own roads, and then drive slowly on the ones we can actually use?! Get out of my face FOOL! My mental tirade, pleas, demands and threats make no significant different. The road finally turns into two lanes, if you call those two lanes.

8:18 a.m. Arrive in Hizmah…here is a question, what the hell is Hizmah?! (Must discuss in blog entry)

8:20 a.m. Back on the open road, if you call that an open road. Cars are flashing their lights at me. I am so popular this fine morning. Oh wait that means there are police on the road, and….

8:25 a.m. Stopped by Israeli police. He has the nerve to smile at me. I hand him my papers. He asks me if I know why he stopped me, and all I can think off, I bet I am about to find out.

Facebook status update: getting a ticket by Israeli police for ignoring a stop sign, please don’t tell my mother!!

Policemen hands ticket and says: “don’t ignore stop signs,” and I want to say, would like to ignore your entire state if I can!

8:35 a.m. Back on the open road, the only portion of the road that comes close to an open road. To my right a Jerusalem Exit. The Exit I can never take. Here is a thought, what do you call an exit you cannot take? According to the dictionary, exit is a passage out; a way to leave. But if this exit is never going to be my way out, or my way to leave, should I even be calling it an exit? Huh? What... I need coffee.

8: 45 a.m. Arrive in Azarriyyeh…Thank you USAID for the new controversial road! From your people to my people! (Please note the sarcasm) Only in Palestine can a road be controversial!

9:00 a.m. After squeezing my car through the old roads in Abu Dis, I am on campus.

Facebook status update: In Abu Dis; in other words NOT in Ramallah….

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eid Saga

by: Tala Abu Rahmeh

After watching Santa selling balloons in downtown Ramallah the night before Eid, I left the bustling town to go to Aboud.

Aboud, my mother's hometown, is a village 30 minutes away from Ramallah. Its residential stretch is the size of a long narrow street, surrounded by gorgeous hills that overlook the coast. It's going to take me years to understand the culture of that tiny village, especially when it's one of the few ones housing Muslims and Christians side by side.

The reason we had to go there on the first day of Eid Al Fitir, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan's fast, is because it's the first Eid following my grandma's death. Apparently, her house had to be open to visitors who wanted to commemorate her passing. I sat with my aunts at my grandmother's deserted home, shaking the hands of tens of women coming in and out. All of them knew who I was (the daughter of the dead mom and grandma), but I had no idea who most of them were (pretty awkward).

The conversations swung from dead relatives to living ones that have royally messed up in the past few years. I had no idea who most of the characters were so I hungout with the little kids. What I found most fascinating were the toys; all made in china, each kid had a collection of plastic guns, a plastic Winni the Po character, and a fake plastic phone. It's obvious that these toys were especially imported for Eid since the phone sang a strange, barely audible song about Makka, and had a picture of a religious singer dude in a grey suit. I couldn't believe the constant sound of exploding fireworks in a town that is still echoing the memory of Israeli army jeeps and past-midnight gunshots. Perhaps the kids try to gain control by inflicting the noises themselves.

Granny's house felt sad. For a little family that lost three of its members in the past three years, the idea of spreading Eid cheer seemed unrealistic. I spent little snippets of my afternoon looking for old pictures of my mother in grandma's room. Grandma owned one of those ever expanding beds that had a little cassette player embedded in them. I imagined my grandparents laying in bed on lazy Friday afternoons listening to old songs, then granny getting up to bake fresh bread dripping olive oil and za'atar, cheese, and delicious farm eggs from chickens she herself fed.

My grandmother was not the nicest person; she judged people too quickly, was short tempered, thought men had a higher status in the world than women, and always prayed for Allah to inspire me to wear a hijab, but my grandmother was two things that will always move me: righteous, and courageous. She fought for my mother, aunts and uncles to get a stellar education (my mother was the first girl from her village to get a high school then collage eduction), and she always rooted herself on the side of whatever/whoever she believed was right. If my grandmother loved you, you can always count on her to be there for you, argue for you, and unleash wrath on whoever would dare to bother you. The concept of objective and neutral were alien to her.

This eid, my first in four years, felt like an ode to santa and grandma. May santa live forever in downtown Ramallah and hand kids balloons to celebrate all days, bitter and sweet, and may my grandmother float inside of my sky and help me be unabashedly loving, courageous and loud!

Hope y'all have a Merry Eid.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


by: R. Kafri

Here, there was no quiet lazy summer breeze teasing your face. There was nothing but people and the stifling heat. I have dreaded passing through the Qalandia checkpoint. I thought it would kill me to see what everyone has described as chicken cages. Yet here I was, standing in line surrounded by so many hoping to cross into Jerusalem. Almost everyone in line was on their way to pray. They stood patiently in this fly infested place, and slowly one by one walked into the cages designed to make even the most vicious of animals feel helpless. We all passed a locked revolving door. How can a revolving door be locked? Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of having a door that spins? After we were buzzed through the revolving door, we passed through a metal detector that shrieked every time. I was personally convinced that it is designed to sounds its alarm even if you were totally naked! But everyone around me waited patiently, deeply convicted, truly believing that a prayer in Jerusalem might just save their soul, or give them strength and patience to survive this country and this world. It may just help them get by in this senseless time. Nothing makes sense anymore, even Mother Nature seems troubled these days, how else can you explain the extra hot summers, the mudslides, and floods? She is pissed! And as far as I can tell, we, humans have angered her royally. Anyway, I digress; Mother Nature’s wrath is hardly what is crossing my mind while I am crossing the revolving door threshold. I looked around at old, young, men, women and children all pushing forward. Is it faith? Is it conviction? Or is it perseverance that causes them to stand on a hot Friday morning waiting for a seventeen year old’s push of a button to catch a glimpse of their beloved Jerusalem. They inch slowly one by one into the city hoping that their prayers will be answered this time that their son will come home, their daughter will get married, their job will get better, and this checkpoint will one day disappear.

Fridays are lazy, it’s the day families reconnect, lovers meet secretly away from the rush of week days, and friends lounge sluggishly in each other’s apartment too tired to do anything, yet too lonely to go home. Fridays carry the promise of a gathering, a luncheon or an argeeleh on the terrace. They are beautifully slow, but not here. Here Fridays are of resilience and determination. They are a joyous reminder that we are still here. Sixty-two years of shock and awe has not erased us from existence. Sure we may have lost more land, and yes there are many moments of weakness, but we are still here. Walls, check points, death, and arrests have not stopped us from coming back every Friday to stand in line. So listen up my “imposed neighbor;” you erect a wall and we will climb over it. You post a checkpoint, not only will we stand in line, but we will turn it into a sale point of water, coffee, tea, kites, snacks. You separate, brutalize, demolish, confiscate, hand cuff and arrest; we build, develop, heal and hope. You look back into history; we look forward to the future. You isolate our cities, we choose to work in one and live in another only to travel every day between both. We are here, our Fridays are here and so are our Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and every day of the week. We are NOT going anywhere; you can beat us, bruise us, and break our bones, but you will NEVER break our spirit!

I stood humbled by everyone around me, bowed my head and took a few more steps into the cage. I lazily made my way from Ramallah to Jerusalem for the first time in fifteen years….

Monday, August 30, 2010

What I Would Tell You

By: Tala Abu Rahmeh

Today, I walked into a publishing house for an interview. On my way in, an article hung on a frail board caught my attention. A year ago, a couple of weeks after my mother's first year anniversary, my aunt called me to tell me that Amo (uncle) Salah, one of my parents' best friends, had passed away after fighting cancer for two years. Amo Salah, who is known to the world as Salah Huzain, a renowned journalist, writer and translator, had a piece written about him commemorating his first year, right there on that board.

A few months before my mom died she emailed me a piece Amo Salah had sent her; it was a story about Ghassan, his brilliant son who got in a car accident a few years back and has been in a coma ever since. The piece is titled "Ghassan, my heart." I still can't bring myself to read it. I remember three things about Ghassan, his writing, how tall he was, and how my dad, when I turned 21, told me that Ghassan was perfect for me. I remember a lot more about Amo Salah; how funny his dance moves were, and how when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, he hugged me and gave me his sweet-as-honey Arabic translation of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." After I got home, I noticed a little dedication he had written on the inside, it said, "to my friend Tala, may you always be a warrior of light."

I lay in my bed in Ramallah tonight, thinking about him and my mother, the world's softest warriors of light, and my heart hurts. It aches because of how much I miss them, but its aches echo deeper because of how strange Ramallah seems these days. In a way, it's catching on to the world's love affair with cosmopolitan-ness and superficial progress, but its core still seems so sad. Maybe it's because it has lost the ability to joyfully celebrate people like Salah Huzain, or those everyday heroes that we bashfully ignore because of a collective sense of misplaced pessimism.

If I could talk to you now, Amo Salah, I would tell you jokes, because your laugh was worth all those deep political discussions that were well-intentioned, yet, let me tell you, utterly boring. I would tell you that I'm trying to pursue happiness in Palestine and you'd laugh at me. I would tell you that when I was 6-years-old I really wanted to taste your home-made wine, and I would joke-kick you because of that time you told me to try prose instead of poetry (after I sent you poems). I would tell you that the sweetest apples I have ever had were from your backyard.

I would tell you that tonight, you are my heart.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Hate Ramallah

by: Tala Abu Rahmeh

Most of the time (at least). I hate the random piles of garbage, heat,
abrasive cab drivers, loud children singing along to horrible pop songs at 11:00 pm, guys with disastrously oily hair hitting on everything that walks by, noise and more inconsistent noise. It’s shocking that a town this small manages to entirely overwhelm me. It’s even more shocking that I have grown to resent it after so many years of constantly falling in love with it. What is it that makes us grow so apart? Cities are like lovers; we fumble into their bodies and brains at the beginning, then as time goes by, we either grow more comfortable in loving them, or start banging our heads against the wall for wanting them in the first place. Ramallah and I go way back; but what’s worth mentioning is that the last time I was here was for my mother’s funeral, who I watched melt from cancer during my summer break in the city. Whether I like it or not, I blame Ramallah for my mom’s exhausting departure, and her sky that one time housed everything I ever loved, is now an empty vessel holding a sun I can barely stand. That’s exactly why I came back. Being the utter fool that I am, I decided to reconcile with the city before I depart, perhaps forever, to greener pastures. These sporadic blog entries will chronicle my disjointed journey; I hope you find some of yourself in them. Pray with me for some healing and an upcoming, abundant love.

Tala is perhaps one of the most talented young Palestinian writers. Her prose is beautifully composed, but it is her poetry that will heal your soul, and send you an abundance of love. Tala will write regularly for this blog. If you wish to send her any comments please do so on our email:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Big Olive

By: R.Kafri

As the summer nights in Ramallah emerge, and as many of our sons and daughters return from their countries of residence, the city is pregnant with a festive aura, a feeling that something good is coming. Ramallah’s famous summer breeze carries with it a promise of happiness, excitement, late summer outings, barbecues and lazy mornings. Ramallah has been a summer vacation destination for decades, and impressively it has maintained its elegance throughout the 1967 war, two intifadas, the hand over to the PA, the flooding of all kinds of new inhabitants from all over Palestine and the world.

Ramallah’s elegance lies in its reluctance to wake up in the morning. Walk around early in the morning, and it is a ghost town; stores start to open their doors around 10 a.m. Its elegance lies in its old store signs that, for many Ramallah residents are old and ugly, but photographers from all over the world have descended onto the city to capture these exact signs. They are the essence of Ramallah’s beauty. Ramallah’s elegance lies in the smell of ice cream outside Rukab and Baladna. The wifs of ice cream made with gum Arabica carry me to a time when coming to Rukab was a family activity; you eat ice cream first, followed by a glass of room temperature water. That was my father’s mandate. My favorite was the green (lime flavored) and yellow (lemon flavored) ice cream. As we got older and Baladna ice cream opened for business, the family outing to Rukab faded into a memory and ice cream became something you shared with your friends after school. We walked to Baladna; we sat upstairs and placed our orders. Our taste has become sophisticated and complicated, instead of a few scoops of ice cream, we now ordered a chocolate milkshake, or a banana split, or the infamous chocolate MUD; my sister’s personal favorite. Our lives although scarred with curfews, demonstrations and friends being arrested, didn’t seem too complicated at the time. We still managed to talk about what other teen girls all over the world occupied their time with, boys, dresses, haircuts and whatever girl talk came up.

Today, we, my girlfriends and I, much prefer to discuss this over drinks at Azure and a plate of tabbouleh, not because the ice cream is not good, but because we know what ice cream does to hips and waists, and we have, I am afraid, succumbed to weight loss pressures, and have turned into calorie counters. I still, every now and then, every blue moon, allow myself a large serving of Baladna ice cream. But these days I just buy a large container and take it home, where I can enjoy it in the privacy of my living room, where I am free to travel with every bite back to a Saturday afternoon with my girlfriends at Baladna ice cream.

I have recently developed sensitivity towards preserving memories. I have a need to remember and not to forget the good old days; a sign of age, maybe? I am not sure. Or perhaps it is because you cannot walk through Ramallah’s streets without seeing the change happening right in front of you, new buildings, new shops, and new people. All is very exciting, but it provides you with the need to hold on to your memories. After all my greatest and longest running love affair to date is with Ramallah. She is consistent, steady and always there. Ten years in the US did not stop me from running back into her arms.

In the past two months Ramallah appeared in the New York Times twice, a small Palestinian city with a night life rivaling Amman, and a city that insists to proudly name its streets after Palestinian martyrs. Regardless of your opinion on either subjects, one has to admit that such a mix is quite unique. If international journalists write about the city,then why not someone who is in and off Ramallah. Why leave her portrait to be painted by others, when no one sees her like we, her children, do? By no means am I an award winning writer, so kindly accept my humble attempts. After all this is the age of blogging, social media and Facebook notes. I would walk Ramllah’s streets looking to observe. I would visit its restaurants looking to experience, and I would engage in as many discussions about the city looking to discover other people's Ramllah. We live in a country with no guarantees; one day we could be opening a new cultural center; another we could be picking up lost pieces of art from its rubble. So why not take a moment to document what we see, feel, smell and hear now? So that when later comes we have the written work to remind us. Change leaves nothing untouched. Perhaps preservation of our memories is all we have to maintain our history. Or maybe remembering the past remains far more concrete than speculating what the future holds. Or perhaps, just perhaps, the ever changing Ramallah landscape causes those of us who are in love with the city to want to preserve what we know and knew. This was our backyard, our play ground. It is where we first fell in love, where we learned the pain of loss, and the hope of desire. It is where we cried, walked in funerals, ran after Israeli jeeps carrying our friends in them. We are off this town; it breathes life in us as much as we breathe life in its streets. And as the city builds more high rises, and landmarks like Cinema Dunia’s building disappear, we humans, the most emotional beings on earth, want to hold on to memories.

During my childhood years, Cinema Dunia wasn’t open, but I still remember very clearly the steps leading up to the three arched doors. The doors were made of metal. It was a medium sized building, and had three columns rising on top of the doors. No one went to cinema; there were no films playing and cars would park on the pavement in front. And when we walked past it, my mother would always say that back in the day Cinema Dunia was the place to be in Ramallah. We would play on the steps after ice cream or while our parents stopped to chat with a friend on the street. You can imagine my grief when in one of those summers I returned from the US to find that the building was replaced by a parking lot! More recently, after I returned from the US to live in Ramallah permanently, I was pleased to find the space was being prepared for a new building. Secretly I hoped the architects of the new building would be as in love with this city that they would want to recreate Cinema Dunia’s steps as a tribute to a landmark in our city that was so unjustly and unexpectedly erased. Only a person with a romantic disposition would think that such a train of thought is the most logical one. Today the new building is ready, and while it looks very modern, I can’t help but dislike the blue lights illuminating its rooftop. Not only does it look like an airport runway, it completely changes Ramallah’s very humble but very dear skyline.

For us who love and live in this city, what we are left with is our own photographic memories buried deep within. We are like mothers who enjoy watching their children grow up, but continuously pull out their baby pictures yearning for those cute giggles. Ramallah will continue to grow, and my memories will at least preserve a part of it that belongs to me....

“Memory is an act of the past in the present…” -Unknown

R.W Rafik started this blog along with several of her friends. Please feel free to comment on our opening piece in the comments section. For personal comments please feel free to send us an email to:

Our first blog is coming soon....