1. Hi! I’m alive I hope you are too!

    Because I have found myself with a week of preparation before I begin teaching a two week english intensive to a group of 10-20 women in the jordanian badia and I have come to you S for your expert advice.

    Really though, non rhetorical. Like, help.

    I continue to blunder through the world guided by my faulty talent filter just hoping to fall into some kind of good for the world efficacy. It’s brought me through the past two months in Palestine and landed me here in Amman for the next month or so.

    I’ve settled, relatively, as it goes. And I’m looking forward to filling in the gaps of the last few weeks. Including tear gas, bullets, sewage streets, fasting, hard goodbyes, tough choices, bruises, and most of all love. A lot of love.

    Did I mention I’m living with JB these days?

    And I published my first piece on Palestine?
    http://www.pij.org/details.php?blog=1&id=291

    Jazzed to sit down and do some updating.

    And really though. How does one begin to teach English?

    I dreamed the other night about romping through colorados majesties with you dressed to the SoCo 9s, flannels and wool socks and knit hats galore. Maybe because, as it goes, the Middle East turns out to be a desert, and it happens to be July, and I happen to be too poor to buy a fan… Mountain air and your aura dreams make sense.

    Miss you love,
    M

     

  2. Last night, I cried of happiness. Happiness. 

    When the last time was that that happened, I couldn’t tell ya. 

    I need to stop saying “I have so much to write” and actually write. Bolivia-bound come Sunday. Really don’t think I should bring my computer, but have sufficient reasons to do so. I think.

    — S  

     
  3. Just organized an office worth of paperwork in Arabic. It’s like that time I did all the taxes of that small business by hand.  Or, more literally, by fingers, because that’s still how basic addition works for me.  #notalentfilter #googletranslate

    Being qualified is a social construction as we say.  But I don’t know if I’ve been quick enough to recognize that this, being given chances like these anyway to see what we’re capable of, and getting paid (and/or funded, and/or fed) for them… that just might be privilege.  Because there are probably plenty of Palestinian women that could be here doing this better than me.  But I’m the one with the blue passport born speaking English to a family and onto a life path that supports all of my wildest endeavors.  so here I am.  Hows that for an alhomdulliah?

    On the bright side, it all makes me super grateful for amazing organizations like this one working to make that all a little less absurd from the places that it makes the most difference.  It’s good to be back here in Idna, in Hebron, with these amazing women and the community they’ve created at the Women in Hebron Cooperative.  It’s strange to be so confronted with like occupation on top of patriarchy on top of poverty type heavy serious oppression stuff and also at the same time this kind of hope and reminder that resistance and change and making a difference in tangible lives is possible.  Not easy, but not moribund.

    Is what I was thinking about as I filed away orders and receipts and grant paperwork all day.  Next post I’ll write about something lighter.  Like what is becoming my epic saga to make friends with the vicious cats that live outside my window.  And sometimes break into my house and eat my lebenah.

     

  4. and for something a litter closer to what I’m calling home these days.

    M

    (Source: Spotify)

     
  5. This song should have more than 300 views.  Espcially because like 50 of them are me.  Also because our favorite Heather Browne of CC study abroad office/badass music blogger fame set up the recording.  And since we collectively constitute like half of the study abraod business for CC that pretty much makes us famous. fuelfriendsblog.com

    M

     
     
  6. Forgot to find a place for these gems but I think they make nice bookends to those last three posts. The first, a demonstration I ran into in Bethlehem on my way to Hebron Friday that (from what I understood of an Arabic explanation) was part to do with the maiyya wa mila’ = karaama salt and water = dignity movement in solidarity with the near 100 Palestinaians entering their third week of hunger strikes, some for much longer.

    And the second from a surprise closing and unclearly motivated construction of the main enterance to beit ommar that I had to circumvent on my way back home on Sunday.

    Put your protest pants on and you never really know what you’ll find. But today is Monday, so I’m back at my desk, staring down another two and a half months of what is so ‘adi around here. And trying to understand and do all I can in solidarity to change it.

     

  7. 'Adi part 3 - My Hebron

    I don’t have the political will nor an deep enough grasp of the H1/H2 zones, the checkpoints, the demographics, the religious significance, and everything else that makes Hebron - Hevron and/or al-Khalil justice. So instead, I’ll simply just state some things bluntly to which I know an eloquent argument exists to support. That is, tell you what I think rather than write a dissertation. Because lord knows there’s plenty of time for that later. So to start, Hebron is nuts. In my mind it’s the most stark example of what this conflict has created both in visible on the ground effects (here resulting in apartheid-esque daily living conditions) as well as on a more meta level (that I liked to think of in this case as warped extreme idealism.)

    The city of Hebron is a good chunk into the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In this case, the West Bank. Under international occupation law it’s a solid no-go for the occupying power to transfer their population onto the occupied land. Because you know, as an international community we’ve at least decided that imperialist and colonialist nations have to at least be a little more subtle. Unless your Putin and you feel like taking over a little chunk of Ukraine every now and again of course. But, quite like Putin, the international communities distaste has done little to slow settlement of Israelis into Palestine. In fact it seems to be one of Netanyahu’s number one go-tos whenever he’s feeling jaded. Or not jaded. Or if it’s a day that ends in y. And as it turns out there’s a lot of days like that, which is how you get a good 600,000 or so Israelis living illegally in settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Most are economic settlers drawn in by subsidies and low rent. Some of them don’t even that they live across the green line as they never run up against checkpoint or the separation wall in full force. But some settlers are ideological. They know exactly where they are. And they are there with a mission whatever it be; the reclaim the holy land of their ancestors, to fulfill prophecy, to push out the Arabs. And so here’s where Hebron comes in. As I see it in a general (and widely accepted) caricature, Hebron is where the most um, passionate? crazy? radical? ideologically violent and violently racist? (I’ll let you pick you adjective) of Zionist settlers dig themselves in to wage the holy battle of pioneering all of Judea and Sumeria in order to prime it for the second coming. Anyone’s basic rights that stand in the way are but casualties to the greater cause.

    If you’ve heard of Hebron you might have heard of children getting routinely arrested, or maybe the history of massacres on both sides, or something else terribly violent. Basically, thats pretty right for what it is. That is, it happened, and happens. And that’s what so often makes the news, builds the narrative.

    However I might argue even more than physical battle ground of civilian weaponry, bleach, rocks, rubber bullets, tear gas, spit, fists and whatever-else-have-you that comes in and around your typical Friday protests… the often lost story that lays the contemporary foundation beneath the rest is that of Hebron as an administrative battle ground of land grabs.

    this side of Hebron isn’t as easy to take provocative pictures of or catch on video, but as you’ll see sometimes you can do just that. It’s not the Hebron you’ll get to know, see, understand and feel quickly like you do the segregated streets and thick army presence and constant sound of fireworks, maybe tear gas, maybe bullets in the distance. This part of Hebron vibrates at a frequency much more under the radar.

    This Hebron lives in the zoning laws that change quickly to a suit a certain kind of need and deeply deprive those of others . It’s trickery with the fine prints of ancient deeds and pitting neighbors against each other with access or lack thereof to sewage, to roads, to entrances to their very homes. It’s confiscating land for military bases that go on to support outposts-turned-nationally-recognized-but-still-internationally-illegal-settlements. And all of it is inching, or rather meter-ing more and more land away from Palestinians. It’s not a thing unique to Hebron. You see these games all over the OPT. But here the tensions manifest themselves the thickest. This Hebron operates by leveraging class and culture and law and history and whatever else to take that land and dignity away from a long local population and secure it for radical ideological fringe (and largely condemned by the general population) Israeli settlers.

    Let’s take a case study to see what this really means. And lucky for me I stumbled so literally into one up in the hills this weekend. All these tactics are in one way or the other is tied up somewhere in the story of the Abu Haikel family and the land of Tel Rumeida. To the good grace and built up genuine relationships that my friend and our guide Cody has impressively cultivated around town I had the privilege of getting to spend a morning with them hearing their story.

    This family’s particular brand of battle for their land is being fought versus a state sponsored and almost hilariously overtly conquest-y zionist archeological project run by the Israeli antiquities authority. (See: https://m.facebook.com/groups/549213671837027?view=permalink&id=611785998913127) Witht he help of 7 million shekels of funding the antiquities authority has begun to dig into the land that has held up the homes of these people for generations. Already the struggle has dwindled the number of families that remain. What once was around 70 lives being lived out here has more than halved to around 30, Its amazing what kinds of apparatuses like the art of uncovering history can be turned so terribly political. But you know if that sounds like its treading contestable and the video doesn’t do it for you, an Israeli organization of archeologists has come out strongly against the project for its disregard for ethical and rational practice. And, rest assured that plenty of the goings on are illegal on multiple levels. Levels that the Israeli courts and police themselves have pointed out, ruled against, and helped-ish to stop.

    From here this becomes yet another story that I lack the eloquence to tell in full so I’ll over some photos. They show a family’s land. Partly owned, partly rented, but all paid for years up into the future. They show the fences being build around it, the thousand year old olive trees being threatened with razing, and the old stone walls being crumbled to the ground. They show the signs that tell a family everyday that entering their own land is dangerous. A warning that is unfortunately confirmed consistently through confrontations with soldiers, with antiquities officials, with bulldozers. But, as the two matriarchs of the house learned last weekend, when the law isn’t quick enough to act rightly on your side sometimes there’s nothing left to do in the battle to stay steadfast but sit down in front of your olive trees and refuse to let your history, your heritage, and your rights be demolished.

    (The video above and the last picture here come from the Save Tel Rumeida Facebook page which does a way better job of explaining the story than I do here, and also has links like this https://m.facebook.com/groups/549213671837027?view=permalink&id=622423931182667 to write a letter to the Israeli antiquities authority if one feels so inclined.)

    Take or don’t take that as far as you will, by all means. But wherever you take it, it seems hard to ignore as a goal that has been manifesting itself for years in Hebron and beyond. And not just up in the hills, but down in the heart of the medina as well every Saturday with another quaint tradition that makes this place what it is; the settler tour that with it brings a weekly near shut down of the Palestinian old city.

    Every shabat around 4:30 a tour of maybe 30 current and perspective settlers saunters through the Palestinian souq with the guides shouting loudly in English and Hebrew the prime importance of the Jewish history here in an attempt to convince folks to join the struggle. There’s no pretext about it. Except I guess you could count the run through of the old city that the IDF take on as a precautionary measure a half hour or so before the tour passes through as some kind of oretext. This entourage of a couple dozen soldiers has taken to doing some silly silly (read: unnecessarily forceful and probably illegal) things. And this Saturday was no different. Fifteen minutes before the tour group walked by the soldiers decided to break into a Neshat al-Batshe’s family’s home without any kind of warning. like literally broke the door, and continued to ran up past the unsuspecting family in full military style so that 6 or so of them can get on the roof to set security. Because apparently they couldn’t do that from the military base they already have that is literally one roof over… As you can see quite poetically here. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=788796531152215&substory_index=0&id=100000656272146 breaking doors, taking names, taxpayer dollars and young impressionable lives all being out to good use. Riiight.

    (The above video and the last photo here courtesy of my friend from house building days Cody and current CPT team member stationed in Hebron)

    Basic property and/or human rights are the kind of things you can pick when you feel like respecting around here it seems. Because, Israel. It’s like minorities being stopped and frisked on the streets of NYC, or the racial breakdown of the prison system back where I call home. Because, America.

    To me is the kind of place where I stand and look out from a rooftop and see the speckled buildings dawned with their Israeli flags pushing in and out making islands with the rest and truly it looks like a place under conquest. The kind of picture you see in a text book of a hundred years ago and think “jeez how did people let that happen?” I thought I’ve had too many times around these holy lands.

    So that’s Hebron In a nutshell. Crudely. My analysis without much nuance. Again, its tumblr, so you know… When I run for office (lolz) don’t be an asshole and quote this on Rush Limbaugh. or do. That would satisfyingly ironic.

    Because really when it comes to a lot of these things, there isn’t enough nuance in the world to excuse the blatant human rights abuses and fundamental disregard for humanity. And just overall, nuance can’t overshadow what this place seems to me: a tangible manifestation of a time that a really unfortunate combination of all we are and what we’ve come up with on this earth (and as an American I fully recognize my large role in the all) by way of ideologies and economies and laws and priorities and values and definitions of success and conceptions of the ‘other’ combines with our capacity to create broken systems, allow ourselves and others to continue living in them that just really freaking demonstrate how much we can screw up what beautiful things, places, people, and capacities the universes has gifted us with.

    Right, so in traditional form this is where you end with the hope.  Because that last part kind of sucked.  And maybe here this is the place for nuance.  Because no doubt there is beauty in Hebron.  Layla’s laugh as she chases shabab away with a stick, the kids handing out nuts and running around with chickens, the little giggly boy holding on to his kippa atop what looks like his older brother shoulder running him around just for fun, the buildings turning purple every night reflecting another typically stunning sunset. People organizing, bulldozers being stopped, community being built around resistance. There is certainly good here, there is love, because life is beautiful.  But on a macro scale the reality cant be erased by these little acts of poetry alone.  Maybe inspired to action, maybe made more clear, memorialized to a current of change.  But for now, today Hebron as a whole remains today at least to me as it is: a fucking place man.

     

  8. 'Adi Yanee Part 2 - Gettin Around on the Weekend

    Work didn’t seem to need me much this Thursday (as also might turn out to be the norm) leaving me with four days off to fill as I pleased.  So, I geared up for the weekend, packed my camel-riding turned protest pants with my camera, my passport and an onion and headed off to Hebron.  I made a pit stop Wednesday night in beit Ommar to enjoy a dinner of waraqa dawali with whats coming to become my family away from home.  Stability has come to me in many forms these past few years and here it seems to be in that of the hectic rhythm of this family of 8 that is insistent on reminding me betna betchi our home is your home.  and also trying to trick me (with unexpected, though short-lived success) into eating meat.  But were working through that haha.  

    That night we passed the hours into the early morning sitting on the porch flicking at flies, taking in the stars and talking about hope.  And how no matter how the wind blows somewhere in there our pasts and our interpretations thereof so faithfully traject our futures.  And what it means to combat the complexities that come with just being human - of love and family and morality and obligation - all on top of (or maybe underneath) the reality of being a young man caught stuck in the sweet spot statistic for looking like someones existential threat on the one side in order to on the other, on his, become the shoulders that bear so directly, so visibly all that is occupation.   

    And then we woke up in the morning to the giggly hawal! hawali!'s of his 6 year old brother that are starting to become familiar; something like the nokia tone that has for so long now signaled morning to me.  After a true Palestinian family affair type big breakfast and bigger conversation and an Arabic study session on the swing under the mish mish tree in the back yard we packed up a few things and headed off down the dirt path.

    When else do you get to see , vibrant slam poets like the Brit Sabrina Mahfouz nail a piece about body image, Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif describe the smells of revolution and Haifa Zangana of Iraq read in Arabic of her home country in one place?  Ramallah during the Palfest 2014 literature festival is where.  And sitting next to a good friend who you’ve just recently inspired to pick up (or you know download the ebook of) treasure island and get back to reading in English for the first time in a while, it all makes the uncharacteristically chilly wind of an open Ramallah night not seem nearly so cold.

    We ended the night crashing at his uncles place, a visit complete with Zumba, nail polish, and lots of candy crush with the cousins. Also photo booth. Also this. All in all wracking up another night filled with the satisfaction of good company and strong coffee.  And what a thing it is to drift off to dreaming only to be awoken by, at least as your mind has you convinced, the very thing you were dreaming of.

    sleepy as I was, the Palestine Friday beckoned, so I put on my protest pants and with a final alla yistor min ila jay my friend and I parted ways.  Off to Hebron it was.  To meet up with an old ICAHD compatriot crash once again in the hospitality of others and reconnect with a place I called something close to home with the people that made it that way back in the old city.  And Hebron, as it seems to me, is the kind of place that comes to you better perhaps in pictures.  Like this shameless selfie

    And perhaps it’s own post.

     

  9. 'Adi Yanee - The Daily Commute

    I’m not generally one to write particularly linearly.  Nor am I a huge fan of the whole “I did this, then this, then this” kind of thing.  But I think for the sake of setting the scene of what It’s like to be living and working in this place there might be some merit to giving you a recap of what seems to be becoming a typical week in the life.  ‘adi yanee.  Normal.

    So here it goes.  Maybe we’ll find some meaning in the narrative.

    So, on workdays, roughly Monday-Thursday, I leave the house around 8:30 and follow the separation wall from what one might call my back yard, past the abandoned gas stations that used to once faithfully serve the now shadowy shut down road to Jerusalem and make my way to and through checkpoint 300.  Living in the West Bank and working in Jerusalem means I get to start every day as so many Palestinians do with an ID check and a boarder crossing at one of the near 100 checkpoints currently fixed in the WB.  A nice dose of occupation every morning.  Keeps you honest. 

    Once arrived I corral myself to follow behind what little line there might be (as most daily commuters cross much much earlier in the morning) around the metal swirling gates to abdicate my bag for a moment or two to the ex-ray machine, turn a few more corners and a few more hallways before I make it to the security guard.  Unlike most of the people who go before me, I bypass the fingerprint scanner, questions, or general examination at all and instead simply wave my passport at the window and push through the turn-style and with that, I’m across the green line. Israel proper, if you will, greets me with ‘taxi taxi?’ and I greet them back with a la shokran because still, over here, this close to permit checks on the hips of rifles and under the shadows of watch towers there is rarely an Israeli civilian to be found.  I hop onto the 24 bus that brings me to Damascus gate in East Jerusalem by around 9:45 and a quick walk takes me to the office down past Salah A-Din street by 10.  Its funny because I came into this summer thinking working in Jerusalem I’d have ample opportunity to use the Hebrew I picked up back at my adjunct at CC.  But living like a local Palestinian as much as I can means, without really even noticing, I follow the same routines built on systematic segregation.  I haven’t so much as gotten to use a simple ken or lo with anyone out of uniform on the streets.  And you wonder why perceptions of what is 'adi what is normal on both sides is so warped.

    Once at work I set myself to whatever tasks I’m assigned.  So usually that ends up mostly being whatever it is I make up for myself.  This week my desk time went to reading reports and articles and all I could find for a story I want to write about young people who jump the wall to work illegally in Israel.  Why they do it personally and why its done systemically, what its like to get caught and not for them and their bosses and the economy, and see what if anything can be done to make it all suck less all around. 

    And then, head full of numbers and legalize I head out around 5 to catch a the bus home hoping for good conversation and little action else.  But sometime there is.  Like the two unlucky guys who got caught in a rare but routine permit check on the way back in on Monday. whose fake snores weren’t quite enough to get them by the unimpressed boarder policewoman as she and her partners restrained their hands behind their backs and led them off the bus, down the street, out of sight.  And in moments like these I manage to understand more in five minutes of seeing than I could in a full day of reading. 

    After work maybe I’ll find a talk or a lecture to go to.  Like the one on Tuesday about the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation with the professor who curtly predicted that if Israel ever managed to cleanse the lands of all Palestinians it would mean world war three.  Or maybe I’ll hang out with my landlord downstairs and his friends like the night I sat until 2 am watching two of them play best-of-five backgammon for a heated fifty shekles.  Or maybe go out with the other internationals and chat over the smoke of the cigarettes all around about who from the camp has been arrested that week, whose car started on fire, or who found themselves in the hospital.  And then fall asleep to the stray cats over prayers wafting in my window and drift into dreams of better space for a vibrant civil society.. and also maybe bagels and skim milk.. and also maybe all of those things together at the same time.

    -M

     
  10. HAPPY BIRTHDAY 21!! Ah that’s real! Have a great day! And make anyone you’re celebrating jam out to this with you! Please. There’s a great drinking song in there somewhere just waiting to be pulled out…