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….