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...