Monday, 8 January 2007

Side by Side: It follows you wherever you may go

Now with the workshops finished, there's a sense of relief and exhaustion. The first two days went well, the important things worked out, and we know what's missing. But there's still another six months to keep up this momentum, maybe this is the real challenge.

At the meeting following the first workshops, it hits me, once again, that the occupation here is something you can never avoid. There are moments of calm, when everything seems distant and the news is simply a collection of other people's stories, but sooner or later it will slap you in the face. I ask Leena, the Palestinian coordinator, whether she prepared the short report I asked for:
"I'm sorry, I couldn't think last night. My brothers were arrested."
"Your brothers were arrested? What happened?"
"I don't know. The soldiers came in and took them at night. I was so panicked, I couldn't get the reports done."

I also realised, finally, that there's never any need to ask "why" in these circumstances. Ask "why" and you're met with a puzzled look, exasperated, as if to ask "are you serious?"

Driving through Jerusalem with Sami, he explained he hadn't been since his papers were torn up during the first intafada. "Why?" I asked, and he just stared at me. Mohannad explained how he was turned away from Allenby bridge last time he tried to cross into Jordon. I asked him why, and he laughed. Someone explained the story the boy whose father was killed during an Israeli army raid into Hebron, and I asked why. "Why?" they replied. "What do you mean, why?"

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