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….