I want to highlight that this is an opinion piece and only focuses on one side. Other viewpoints were omitted, since this is a collection of my personal memories from a time I got to spend with a Palestinian activist in Jerusalem and West Bank last summer. It comes from a moment before the war. His being stands in no correlation to the current happenings. But maybe being Palestinian is already enough to do so in the eyes of the world. My words try not to suggest a political standpoint, but rather try to shed a light on a person and on the roots of our all our beings. Maybe by coming back to our cores, seeing we all share the same, we can come back to one big table. Perhaps seeing humanity in one another is what connects us.
This is a story of a man. This is a story of a meeting. This is a story of a connection. This is a story of friendship. This is a story of hardship. This is a story of oppression. This is a story of humanity. That has been stripped.
You’re shy at first. You think about your words. You take your time in between deep exhales. You even intimidate me at start. You sit very broadly, as to ensure the space around you is truly there. But never in a way of taking away others. After a drink or two you have that impulsive temperament that so many of your people have. But ever mixed with this deep calmness. Although I cannot differ between sadness. Or maybe it’s just life that has drained you, though others are the ones to pull the plug. Crackling 80s music blares from the speaker. You look deep into your glass, give it a swirl. ‘We cannot choose our lives. We cannot choose our future. For who would choose this.’ You play with the cards you have been dealt.
You pull out of the driveway ever so serenely. Your hands gliding over the steering wheel as if it weren’t there. We sit in silence while the bustle of traffic seems to go on without us. We sit in silence while the world stays loud. We sit in silence until slowly you unleash your mind. Slowly your thoughts start dancing, together with mine. You guide me through the past, through the future, through the present. You gently show me your wounds so deep I cannot see the end of them. You open your being to me, so that I can see. So that one day the whole world can see. So that one day they choose to see.
In the lunchtime heat, the asphalt burning hot, we lean against the car trunk. Staring into poverty. Staring into despair. Staring into pain. Staring into a city crumbling under its weight of the oppressor. Staring into futures suffocated by their tormentor. ‘Only quickly, they don’t like us looking’. Back in the safe haven of your home the words stumble from your lips. In such heat, in such anger, in such desperation. Your fight runs through your eyes, your mouth, your hands, your fist. Your torment reaches me however, so softly. It could kill me. It could let the tears push their way to freedom through my eyes. A release – just as you would like for yourself. For your family. For your community. ‘But who am I to cry. I should not be crying; I am the free’. But we are not free until everyone is.
The words your tongue speak lie heavy on my shoulders. They wrap themselves around my brain like a dark haze. The stories your face tell run through my eyes, to my heart, with no escape. The weight of oppression carried for generations before you and generations to come, is mirrored in your body. Finds its way to the wrinkles on your hands, to the grey tips of your hair. The weight of oppression has stripped you off your youth.
I look in the eyes of the suppressed and I see anger. I look in the eyes of the suppressed and I see pain. I look in the eyes of the suppressed and I see despair. I feel the hand of the suppressed and I feel hope.
Entangled between all the heaviness of struggling, of surviving, of living, lies the bliss of being human. The dancing, the laughing, the hugging, the loving. All lies nestled within, at the core of your beings, persisting through the pain, the torture, the suffering, the agony. Because the oppressor can strip you off everything, but they can never steal your humor, your love, your connections, your humanity. You take a step closer. ‘That makes you stronger than your oppressor’. That is your fuel for your fight, for peace.
The overcrowded streets lead us to prison. We drive past running men and crying children. We drive past freedom, behind a wall so tall and long its shadows enter your soul. We drive towards lives imprisoned. Detained in your own motherland, in your own home. A life lived until your safe space is stripped off you, until you bleed, until you are left empty. A life spent away from home because they say it’s not yours, because they say you shall not stay, because they say you stole. They twist their tongues so long, change the narrative in their minds so flagrantly, until the oppressor becomes the victim. Until you, the homeless, the freedomless, the futureless, until you are the perpetrator in the eye of the world.
In the evening light we sit, we eat, we let the silence fill the room between us. We let words said and thoughts unsaid weigh us down. We let the words get stuck in our throats because we understand our speechlessness. Your eyes glisten in the sun. I wonder when the last time was you cried, but I think the riverbeds of your body have dried up. We sit, pondering in our minds, in our hearts about the questions of humanity. We sit with the impatient cores of our beings. We sit with our desperate side. We sit with our hopeful side. We sit, just for a moment and watch the sun go to sleep. ‘I like this moment. It means I survived another day’. We sit. We listen. We breathe. We are human. Just for a moment, frozen in our memories. ‘Don’t be impatient Alice. Justice will always come, change will come. We just need to keep being patient.’ I wonder if he would still use those words now.