Thursday, April 26, 2012

To Paris: A Letter to the Jabaa' Checkpoint Soldier

by: R.Kafri

Dear Jabaa' Checkpoint Soldier
                I am going to Ramallah. I will always be going to Ramallah when I pass you.  Day in day out, that will always be my destination.  Where else could I be going in my Palestinian plates car and Palestinian ID passing through your precious little checkpoint? Paris, mathalan [for example] ? For the thousandth time, I do not speak Hebrew.   No, I do not carry any fancy foreign passport.  Yes,  I speak English fluently, because I am smart, I worked hard, and instead of spending my teenage years learning how to use a gun, I spent them holed up in my room, reading books and learning how to use my pen.
Much to your surprise,  I am a professor of chemistry, of all subjects.  Please collect your jaw off the floor.  I spent eleven years studying abroad, in the United states to be exact.  I did not consider remaining there, and I did not apply for a green card. The only green card I carry is my Palestinian I.D. It does not grant me any privileges, in fact it has sometimes deprived me of  basic rights, like the freedom of movement in my own country.  But I hang on to it dearly, and  will not replace it with the “good” green card, as you so eloquently put it. Where is that accent of yours from? Russia? Is that why you came to "Israel", looking for the equivalent of a"good" green card? 
Don’t you get tired of stopping my car every day? Isn’t it a bit monotonous to be asking me the same question? “Where are you going? Lawain?” Every day I have to discipline my urge to get  lippy with you .  I have to stop the words from throwing themselves at you and then exploding in your face (no pun intended, or maybe it is).  What I really want to say in response to your ridiculous question: To Paris!! I am going to Paris!!  Through your checkpoint I hope the world will receive me with wide strong arms. I hope it will cradle my dreams and handle them with care, and that it will not crush them like you have managed to do with the hopes and dreams of all Palestinians in the past present and many generations to come.  To Paris, so I can have creamy butter croissant, and good coffee early in the morning, and fine aged wine with my deliciously fresh salad in the evening. To Paris, so I can attend contemporary dance festivals  and poetry readings. So I can walk in open air markets.   To Paris, so I can meet smart educated people, and have endless philosophical discussions filled with rhetorical questions pondering the state of the world.  To Paris, so I can sit on my window sill and yearn for better times at home.  So I can live and breathe everything Palestinian like it was the last breath after a long struggle with a terminal illness.  To Paris, so I can never forget your checkpoint and the long boring humiliating unnecessary delays, so I can carry the cries of a pregnant woman giving birth at your checkpoint in the creases of my wrinkled dress, and the endless spaces of my soul. To Paris, so I can tell the world about my students sitting on the ground, shirtless, handcuffed for one reason and one reason only…they don’t carry the “good” green card.  So I can write countless blog entries about men, women and children who were once trying to get somewhere but never did because of your checkpoint.  To Paris, so I can write about Palestine like a distant land that inhabits the warmest chambers of one’s heart, so close yet so unattainable.
But wait just a second!  I do that already, all day every day right here, just twenty minutes beyond your checkpoint in a tiny little town called Ramallah. So NO of course I am not going to Paris, I am still going to Ramallah.  And I still yearn for Palestine and better times, every day, all day.
Please wipe that shocked look off your face.  Release the grip on your gun. And relax the angles of your mouth, it appears that you are smiling, or maybe just smirking.  I am not an untamed animal trying to escape my cage, I do not have a tail growing out of my behind. This is not a zoo.  I am a woman, and to your grave disappointment you and I belong to the same species. We are both Homo sapiens, a.k.a  humans.  Contemplate THAT  while you wait to harass the next car passing through your precious checkpoint.  In the meantime, I am still going to Ramallah!!!

Not So Sincerely,
An Educated Palestinian Woman ( possibly your worst and your government’s worst nightmare and Palestine’s best potential) 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Letter to Laila

The following piece was first published on Mashallah News on April 12, 2012 

by: Tala  Abu Rahmeh

Dear Laila,
I couldn’t believe you were finally here until I counted your 10 fingers. They look like real fingers, creased from all the struggle to come into the world. They look like you were clawing your way out, and that idea alone makes me deeply love you.
You looked too tired for a 4-day-old, as if you are storing sleep for years of sleeplessness to come; ones when you’ll be pinning over a crush, studying algebra, applying to graduate school or singing a lullaby. The nights when you will watch dawn break out could be more than your new body can bear.
Your timing was impeccable. You knocked your mother’s stomach at 2:30 am, knowing that Qalandia checkpoint will be empty, and your grandfather would not have to curse traffic (since your father has agreen ID and can’t come watch you swim into the world). The car whizzed through the ugly gates, but was searched at the entrance of the Israeli hospital. How can you claim your Palestinian identity if you’re not a suspect while still in the womb?
As your mother screamed you out, Palestinian houses were being demolished, and a kid was nursing a bump on his head from a floating gas canister, but then you came, and the glory of your little body silenced all the dangling rifles. Your grandmother, beautiful with curls, held you so close so you can hear her heartbeat. What else could possibly matter?

When I saw you, I understood, for the first time, how one could love somebody to their bones before they really know them. You insisted on sleeping on your belly (you have opinions already), and breathed the world in and out. When I held you, I could see your lips pouting and your pinky clutching on to mine. You blinked because the sun bothered you, then you succumbed to a squeal. Your hunger these days is bigger than you.
I wonder about this world you’re waking in to. My head is cloudy and I’m scared, but there seems to be so much love in the folds of you, and love like that cannot be let down. I see dusty roads and young soldiers screaming for IDs and I think, I never want you to hear the screech of this terrible loneliness. I don’t want you to get in a car every single morning wishing this whole country could just collapse in on itself. I don’t want you to feel the way I do today; disappointment with a committed desire to runaway.
What does it take to be happy these days? Perhaps you could tell me, because you have brand new eyes. Perhaps its the little things, like when a mother throws herself in front of her child to protect him from a bullet, or when a doctor artistically removes a sharpnel from someone’s thigh, but why must our joy come from the overcoming of suffering? Can it ever be about a quiet day, a sunflower or a really good book? Is it so bad to be one of those awful normals, who think about lunch instead of the fastest way to meander an Israeli jeep?
Today, without having a hint of an answer, I wish you this: one starkly bright morning, you rise slowly to face your mirror, and you see the acne scares, the tousled hair, the broken nail, the scarred knee, the unread books and the body issues and think, how lucky am I for this to be me? And in that moment, you will finally be.
Your loving aunt,