We invite contributions–memoir, poetry, diary or blog entries, testimonials, photographs, etc.!– to post here that will continue the work of the special issue. Please send any questions or submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a new entry–a poem–that we are publishing anonymously.
into your soul
no one has gone before
hear the sound of your beating heart
this hijab around my head
represents who I am
don’t give me that
yes, it exists
an occupied country
Lefta, where grandparents once lived
Got my courage from my grandma
as she would stand up
to the IDF
she watched them shoot
at her steel doors
got her patience from my mother
as she walks through
dodges bullets daily
Though this is not what you expect
all you see are
when you see me smile
You don’t want to know how self conflicted
as I advocate for Palestine
with fingers wrapped around
a green Starbucks cup
I am a walking contradiction
Puzzled on what I want
Reflect on this
I tell you what you want to hear
fit my experiences
To your job qualifications
I conform to your requirements
wear dress shirts
and formal shoes
to persuade you
Don’t ask me
for I am
in the process
We are pleased to share the first two entries, by Tasneem Nedal Sawalmeh and Enas Mansour:
“NIGHT VERSUS DARKNESS, ME VERSUS THE SOLDIERS”
by TASNEEM NEDAL SAWALMEH (An-Najah University, Nablus, Palestine)
The house, where my family lives and in which I was born, was the house of my grandfather, its proximity to Al-Fara’a Valley which could have made for a pleasant life except for the nagging feeling of being in the wrong place. I was always reminded that were made for a better life, and that this better life had been left behind in Jaffa.
Jaffa, I was told was the pride of the sea, and Al-Fara’a didn’t even have a sea. Jaffa was my dream, and Al-Fara’a is my nightmare that I am living in.
Occupation, curfews, checkpoints and fire shoots, that is all I can recall from my childhood vocabularies. I opened my eyes with the name of refugee upon my head. I was taught that the camp is a temporary place, and we all will go back to Jaffa. I still can remember one of my grandfather’s sayings when I was six: “The oranges you have right now are fake, you should have seen how Jaffa’s oranges were.”
I graduated from UNRWA school at the age of 15, and then I went to a governmental high school out of my camp because at that time there were no high schools inside the camp.
Living in a cottage in the middle of the forest with its door broken, where at any moment a wild beastly animal could attack you while you stand armless, is the case of living in a refugee camp. Yet in all cases you have to be ready and alert to fight to the last drop of your blood to save the family that bestows you the self you have.
Approximately, every two days the camp was invaded by Israeli military forces to arrest innocent Palestinian youths to the extent that we were missing their presence if they didn’t come!
Tear gas bombs and stun grenades were part of our nights. Yeah, nights because the so-called ‘the strongest army in the world’ strikes only at night. They use the darkness to cover their sinful deeds.
Once when I was sixteen, I woke up at the sound of their footsteps near my house. I looked from the window and an idea came to my mind; to freak them out! So, I gave them a high whistle. My giggling could be heard from the next street when I saw them rushing fast unconsciously, and one of them fell down on the floor so the others started screaming at him.
Days were passing in the same way where nothing happened except the action movies of every two nights.
I always thanked God because I only have one older brother who was always away from the camp. But in the case of my father I was not happy at all because he travels from time to time for the sake of his work. However, that made me stronger.
In the 5th of February, 2014 at a very cold, foggy and gloomy night where Venus was the only star that shone. The whole thing started at 2:00 am.
I was in deep sleep when the first bomb exploded. I heard it but I couldn’t open my eyes to check it out. An hour later, my father came to wake me up to move to another room because my room is the nearest to the street. I didn’t move from my bed and hissed to my father that I am used those noises. I was so naïve to disobey my father’s order for he knew that something bad would happen.
The Israeli occupation forces invaded Al-Fara’a Refugee Camp at 2:00, early morning. When I opened my eyes, I discovered that they were already in my father’s uncle house, Abu Falah, which is next door. I glanced from the window at them; they were arresting Abu Falah and transferring him outside the neighborhood. The other soldiers stayed among the houses throwing gravel toward the surrounding windows, shouting, singing and provoking people. Suddenly, when nobody responded to the soldier’s provokes, I heard the military officer warning the soldiers to move to safe places far away from the house” ta’bor lmkom btuh.”
All my family, my young sisters and brothers, were awake waiting for that noise to be ended, so they could go back to sleep. My young sister was crying, and we all wanted to stop her because they might shoot our house if they heard any sound from the near homes. They would feel that they were being watched although I was pretty sure they knew that, but the fear inside their nasty souls would push them to do that.
So, I cuddled her and started to sing “Yalla nnam,yallah nnam “,”sleep baby, sleep”. She was about to be dozy and her eyes were about to be closed when the officer started to countdown. I realized then that he was going to explode something, but never thought that he was going to explode the ground floor while the rest of Abu Falah’s family were still inside the upper floor.
Abu Falah screamed that there were 10 children and their mother still up there, but the stupid officer ignored this and exploded it. All the inner walls were destroyed and the furniture was burnt; even the windows of ten houses, in the same neighborhood including my house, were broken. It was so horrible to watch and listen to the children screaming and appealing for help. Divine providence interfered and nobody was injured. It was traumatic for everybody especially for children.
The worst of all is what Maan reported in their news. They said that an Israeli soldier got injured slightly when he got stoned on Wednesday at the Al-Fara’a Camp near Tubas. A Palestinian Agency said this! It is Palestinian, this means, in my opinion, that it should support our case, or at least report what exactly happened. Surprisingly, they didn’t mention any word about the explosion of the house. ‘A soldier was injured!!!’, alas! We become the terrorists, not the terrified, the occupiers, not the occupied, in the world’s perspective.
Even the Israeli story seemed to be more objective. The Israeli radio claimed that an Israeli guard was injured at Al-Fara’a Camp where he was stoned while he was involved in a security activity with an Israeli military force in the camp. They also reported that a Palestinian was arrested and another was injured and sent to the hospital.
“A CHILD’S MIND ABUSED”
by ENAS MANSOUR (An-Najah University, Nablus, Palestine))
I never thought of politics as one of my interests, but sometimes there are things in one’s life that can’t be easily ignored. I should say that when I think about it, politics isn’t something that we should be afraid of because it’s a part of any human being’s life. Despite my belief that I am one of the people who are almost terrified when they hear the word itself. It must be a result of the surrounding society, or my parents insisting that I should stay away from any gatherings of people talking about political issues. I would never blame them for that, although I don’t really know if it was the right thing to do or not. I guess in our situation, any parent should do the same because they would be worried about their kids being put in any kind of danger.
As a Palestinian who hasn’t exactly lived war in its literal meaning, I have absolutely been through difficult situations that I can’t forget with the occupation in our country. I don’t prefer talking about politics, but rather my feelings about the occupation that I have never shared with anybody else all the passing years. I decided that it is time for me to share some of those thoughts, which have been terrorizing my mind since childhood.
I was born in Qalqilya, Palestine in the year of 1993. And I was the first for my parents, but the youngest of the big family. Our apartment was, and is still, in a building located on the main street of the city center. The building is owned by my family, including my grandfather’s apartment, my uncle’s and my father’s aunts’. So, usually my uncles, aunts and other family relatives gather at my grandfather’s place each weekend.
I’ve always asked my grandmother to tell me about war and the invasions of the Israelis to their house. She would tell me how they used to ruin their food, throw it all on the floor; and how they used to wake up and be surprised by them standing with the rifles over their heads. I can keep asking my grandmother to keep telling me the same stories over and over without a bit of boredom.
In the year of 2000, I can never forget how the Israelis in Gaza murdered the 12-year-old Muhammad Al-Durra. His picture trying to hide by his father’s back can’t let go of my mind. It was one of the most shocking scenes of the “Second Intifada.” At that day, the Israeli soldiers were all around my town, Qalqilya, with their jeeps announcing “mamnou’ al tajawol,” a call for a curfew. I still have a strong memory of the day when I was with my cousins on the big sofa of my grandmother’s house. We were all sitting next to each other watching the live streaming of Muhammad and his father on the small TV. And I remember the old national songs, such as “al-hilm al-arabi” The Arabic Dream, which we used to listen to at the time of the streaming. I am truly in love with those songs. In the days of the curfew, I used to join my cousins when they went to examine the street by looking carefully from the small white window on the way up the stairs, waiting to see an Israeli vehicle passing. I was the most worried about the Israelis seeing us and shooting. I know that those days were terrifying to me, but I still sometimes want to go back there.
At the same year, I was once sleeping at my other grandma’s house, the one from my mother’s side. I was not really feeling safe there because I wasn’t used to going and visiting them much. At that night, I was sleeping in the room where my bed was right next to the window above the street. I woke up at night with the sounds of bullets and bombs being shot heavily everywhere. I went running to the living room trying to be as far as I could from the windows. My grandmother and aunt were with me, and the three of us bent down to the floor. It was very dark and I was badly shaking and covering my ears not to hear those sounds. Until this day, the sound of bullets is the one that most that freaks me out. Even when they are shot by Palestinians at weddings, I keep closing my eyes and covering my ears trying not to hear them.
I have tried to prepare myself for if the Israelis come to our house unexpectedly, or if we have to leave the house for an unexpected reason. I have thought that the first thing I would pick up should be my phone and my laptop. However, last year I was sleeping at my grandma’s house, the one in our building. My family was in Nablus, so I was alone with both my grandmother and grandfather. I woke up at night to the sound of the bombardment. I went running to my grandmother’s room without being able to think. I was shivering. That night, I didn’t remember to take my phone with me even though it was next to me on my bed. I realized then that my preparations for not leaving my stuff behind would not really work.
I don’t know if a person in my age is supposed to fear the Israeli soldiers the way I do, or is even allowed to feel this when they hear the sound of their bullets. I believe that the children of today are very strong, the Israelis never frighten them; they would act bravely if they have to meet. I feel ashamed of myself in comparison to what I see from the little children having more courage than I do. I am not sure if it’s okay to tremble this way if I ever came across one of them alone. I don’t even know how exactly I would feel about it then.
I can tell you one incident that happened with me last year when I was going back home from college. Usually, the taxi that takes me back from Nablus to Qalqilya drops me two streets away from my house, so I will have to walk – Nablus is the city where my college is located. It was almost evening when I reached, got out of the taxi, and started walking. I had to cross this wide street that is cut in the middle to organize the cars going in opposite directions. I had already crossed the first half of the street and started moving my foot to the front to cross the other half. I turned my head to the right side to see if there was any car coming. Suddenly, I noticed that there were three or four Israeli jeeps stopping for me to pass. That moment, my body became numb. I didn’t want to focus on the jeeps so I wouldn’t have to meet any of the soldiers’ eyes. I can’t really remember how I crossed the other half of the street. It was actually the first time that I encountered Israelis like that by myself. I guess that I wasn’t afraid of the soldiers, but rather of the Palestinian guys throwing stones at them; they were very close to me and I was worried that the Israelis might get teased by them and start shooting. I thanked God that I wasn’t far away from home.
I remember five years ago when I was coming back from Jordan with my family. It was the first time for me to travel with my new Jordanian Passport and ID. I insisted to my dad that I didn’t want him to hold my documents, but I wanted to feel independent by acting as a grown up. I was walking right behind my parents, my three brothers and my sister. When it was time for me to give my passport and documents to the Israeli woman, she examined them for a moment, then looked at me and told me to sit on one of the chairs, which were put aside. I felt my eyes starting to fog and my legs unable to hold me. I walked to the chair looking at my dad ahead of me who was walking with my family without paying attention that I was told to sit aside and wait. I sat on the chair without recognizing how my feet were able to move my body towards it. My eyes were still trying not to lose my dad who disappeared with the others between the crowds. At this moment, my mind was torturing and blaming me for not listening to dad when he said that I should keep my passport with him since it was the first time for me to pass with my own passport. But how could my regret help now for I was already stopped by that cruel Israeli woman whose face I can’t forget until this moment? I waited anxiously a little bit when another Israeli woman called for me and asked if I had any weapons with me. This made a conflict inside my mind; what would make her ask me such a question? Was she just continuing to torture me because I didn’t listen to my dad? Or just making fun of a sixteen-year-old girl? She asked again trying to wake me up from my self-negotiations. I simply answered “No,” trying to hide my smile over her stupidly confusing question. She ordered me to get into a small room when my eye glanced towards my dad coming back for me, noticing that I was missing. She came in and started checking on me by passing a small machine over my body. After long minutes of examination, I was allowed to leave. I went out of the room, still afraid of making any wrong movement that would cause her to call me again. I saw my family waiting for me and they got me a piece of chocolate while they were waiting. I was shocked by their reaction. I mean, why would they get me a piece of chocolate at that moment; it wasn’t really what I needed, or maybe it was. But, I guess, that I should have expected this reaction of my dad trying not to show that he was extremely worried about me in front of the Israelis; acting as if nothing had happened.
I also remember the first time I smelled tear gas. I always wanted to know how it smelled like. It was actually just about a year ago, so not really long from now. I guess I was “too” protected by my family not to be able to smell it earlier. I was once sleeping at my grandmother’s with my aunts in the room with me; and the windows were open. The moment I woke up to that smell and started feeling my nose and throat itching, and my eyes burning, I knew how it felt. I wondered how the other kids could handle it; it was terrible. After that night, my nose became like a sensor to the smell. I could smell even the slightest amount of it, and run to close all the windows.
In my way to Nablus every day, if I ever have to cross a checkpoint, I feel both worried and excited at the same time. I feel excited because I want to check on how those Israelis behaved. I have this idea that one should know their enemy the most. That’s why I feel excited to know more about the Israeli Jews. I want to know more about how they think and how they act. I also imagine sometimes what it would be like if there was simply no war. What if we were just free people and could travel wherever we wanted? What if the Israelis came to our land looking for a home and they were good to us? I’m sure that then we wouldn’t have fought. We would have had a place for them between us, just all-together living in peace. I even believe that we shouldn’t be classified as Palestinians and Israelis. At the end, we are all human beings and that’s how we should act. I guess that every human will always have this goodness inside of them. At least that’s what I think. I know that my thoughts are just weird sometimes. But I’m sure that everybody has the right to express how they think of this life.