shahida : bearing witness

1. between the cacophony of different accents fighting to be heard in banal conversation outside my door and the vehicles honking non-stop an people yelling on the street outside my window of this dim east jerusalem hostel bedroom i am attempting to rest my mind and skin in ; there is no solitude for my thoughts, no place of non-distraction, no place of internal privacy amongst external happenings. of what needs are my solitude? of what practice can i make them exist in all locations? i just want to read and sleep with the poetry of Darwish sifting through my dreams. i want love to come and visit me there too. but she shall come soon.
israeli settlement near bethlehem, palestine

israeli settlement near bethlehem, palestine

I belong there. I have many memories. I was born as everyone is born.
I have a mother, a house with many windows, brothers, friends, and a prison cell
with a chilly window! I have a wave snatched by seagulls, a panorama of my own.
I have a saturated meadow. In the deep horizon of my word, I have a moon,
a bird’s sustenance, and an immortal olive tree.
I have lived on the land long before swords turned man into prey.
I belong there. When heaven mourns for her mother, I return heaven to
her mother.
And I cry so that a returning cloud might carry my tears.
To break the rules, I have learned all the words needed for a trial by blood.
I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a
single word: Home.

Mahmoud Darwish ‘I Belong There’

2. “we must step out” the man next to me says on bus #21 from bethlehem to east jerusalem, “with everything?” i signal to all my stuff. “it is best” he replies. i think of all of the pro-palestinian documentation and information in my bags, the images from a week of photographing settlements and photographing israeli watchtowers and security infrastructure within the west bank. i wonder if they’ll do what they did last time and take me through the x-ray to check everything out. but then, simply because i am surrounded by palestinians, and i have fair hair and blue eyes i am the last person they are going to harrass today.

3. “Do you know the lord?” the australian i meet in the checkpoint que asks me once we’re back on the bus. He is working at one of the refugee camps in bethlehem. “he sent me here.” he continues. “No, I am not familiar..” I respond, now seeing where this is leading. “oh…well lets pray he touches you while you’re here.” he goes on. “Well, I don’t know about that..” I say, hoping for him to get the point. “Oh, he will, he will, he’s touched me, over and over again…when i lent against the wailing wall, i put a prayer in there and then tears just started falling…” “hmm” is my response, trying not to be too un-holy in the holy land. We then get into a ‘debate’ about massacres. he begins by stating something about the army, and how it’s good because the youth get focus and discipline. “I disagree” I say “I believe it instills fear and  promotes control.” – he is surprised i am contending him, “well, what do we have in australia, when the youth finish school, they do nothing..” he says. “No, they go travelling and learn about the world and the interconnectedness of the world, not how to massacre the interconnectedness of the world, some anyway.” I go on…”You are working with people who are the victims of the occupation, of soliders and of settlers…, how can you think it’s a good thing..” “well i don’t believe tht is true..” and anyway, the conversation disgusts me and i look out the window solemly waiting for him to get off.

4. “we are citizens of a non-state” i hear a voice tell me. “we have identity cards that are palestinian” but we cannot enter into israel, we cannot pass through the checkpoints without the right forms or with another identity card, and even then we will be harassed..” held up for hours maybe while the soldiers yawn and lean against their trucks, holding their guns and feeling powerful.

5. i can come and go.  i can move freely, unless they feel i am too radical or suspicious, that i might spread the truth too far on the other side of the world. but the truth has already been spread on the other side of the world, the information is all there if those eyes really want to find it. i have two passports that enable me freedom between thousands and thousands and thousands of kilometers, across cultures and borders and barriers and languages. if only i choose to go. but i have the choice.

6. i want to tell you about the settlers. but i cannot form the right words; i cannot find the words right now. but they are being sponsored by the government to live here in the west bank, in palestine, they are even being protected by soliders whey they come to occupy a palestinian home; it is cheaper for them here, they have more water and more infrastructure than the palestinians, they simply have more than the palestinians. there are many who believe it is their god given right to live here. there are many who simply want to live cheaply. both categories are frightening and is best if you watch this: – it might help what i am trying to say.

settlements near bethlehem

settlements near bethlehem

7. i want to tell you about the wall. but i’m sure you know about it. apartheid runs strongly through these lands, it is no less than apartheid. and it is much more. it does not simply separate the west bank from israel, it does not simply separate palestinians from israelis, it separates palestinians from palestinians and palestinians from their land, from their olive trees, from their livelihoods, and in some areas, it runs straight through their backyards, and corners them on their lands. in some places it is up to 12m high.  think it is best if you look here for technical and statistical and background information :

the wall in bethlehem

the wall in bethlehem

the wall in bethlehem

the wall in bethlehem

8. and so, i have moved hostels, into a quiet room in a place in the old city, where i attempt to read and think and write and feel good about this process, about where i am and what i am doing, but i am slowly being touched by the sense of loneliness again, the sense that comes with too much time on my own, even though it is only 2 days now. and perhaps it’s that i need to spend more time on my very own to get used to it. perhaps i just long for her presence so fully that i cannot think so fully about this time on my own. perhaps i just need to keep moving and keep creating and not sit still for too long, too long for the thoughts to get there to loneliness. and loneliness is a hollow feeling, a feeling devoid of substance, a feeling of white walls and flourescent lights, of neat folds and orange peels.
So who knows what move is next. perhaps to sinai earlier than i thought, to sit by the red sea and take the real time to think and read and sleep without external distractions, but maybe that isn’t realistic either.. i do not know. i need not to think of the future so much right now. just to read and sleep and feel okay.

more later, with film with images, with full thoughts. maybe of sand and sea as well.

In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing
the history of the holy . . . ascending to heaven
and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love
and peace are holy and are coming to town.
I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How
do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?
Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?
I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see
no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.
All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly
then I become another. Transfigured. Words
sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger
mouth: “If you don’t believe you won’t believe.”
I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white
biblical rose. And my hands like two doves
on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.
I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,
transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?
I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I
think to myself: Alone, the prophet Mohammad
spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”
Then what? A woman soldier shouted:
Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?
I said: You killed me . . . and I forgot, like you, to die.

Mahmoud Darwish ‘In Jerusalem’


One thought on “shahida : bearing witness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s