Thursday, July 5, 2012

When the Evening Comes

Its a little past midnight and I'm sitting on the roof of the dorm building at the college. I tried to go to bed, but I couldn't fall asleep. Sleeping would mean wasting some of the precious few moments I have left here in Palestine, so instead, I'm up here enjoying the beautiful view of Beit Jala. I tried to take a picture so that you could enjoy it with me, but this is the best I could do:

I know it doesn't look like much, but trust me when I say that in person, it is absolutely breathtaking. There's a party going on off in the distance somewhere, and I can hear singing and clapping. Its probably a wedding. I heard a huge bang a moment ago; either a lone firecracker or a soldier's gun shot. It sounded so near, but I didn't see an explosion in the sky... maybe the firecracker was defective. The kids in the refugee camp across the street didn't even flinch. They're used to the noise.

Out of all the things that I've experienced this past year, the distinct scent of Palestine is one that is seared in my brain forevermore. During the day, the smell is a heated concoction of Arabic coffee, dust, rich spices, garbage, roasting shwarmah meat, car exhaust, and whatever fruit is in season.

But once the sun goes down and the blistering heat of the day is replaced by the gentle cool of the night, the smell transforms. In the breezy darkness, you can truly smell Palestine. It is earth - olive wood, soil, and a hint of the smell that comes before a thunder storm even though we won't have rain again until the Fall, along with the bit of argeela smoke that wafts from the open windows in the restaurant across the street, and the smell of the freshly washed and sun-dried laundry that the women in the refugee camp are just now finding time to take off the clothes-lines. I'm absolutely sure that this is what heaven smells like. I wish I could bottle it up and take it with me, because I know that my hurting, homesick-for-Palestine heart will soon be craving the familiarity of this evening scent.

With eleven more scalding, sunny days and cool, windy nights in Palestine, I am trying to soak in everything about this confusing, wonderful place that has, at my very core, become a part of me. The sights, the smells, the conversations with beautiful people, the long walks around Bethlehem, the newfound friendship I have with the grocer next-door, the beauty of the Adhan echoing over the hills five times each day, the special spot where I always sit on this rooftop, the way the moon looks so much closer here, the tears I've cried over the conflict in this precious town, the apartheid, the oppression, the pain, the hope, the resilience, and the longing for peace; I want to remember it all. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Cycle of Abuse

I've been so busy these last few weeks trying to cram every little bit of life into my time here that I haven't really had time to do anything else, including blog, but I saw this quote today, and all I could think was "THIS IS ABOUT PALESTINE!"

"It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I simply can't build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death. I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty too shall end, and that peace & tranquility will return once again."
--Anne Frank

And then I saw the author, and all I could think was "wow, this is a cycle of abuse that needs to be broken." The abused child grows up and is much more likely to end up abusing his child than someone who never suffered abuse. The psychological damage that is inflicted on one person can also be inflicted on an entire people group, on an entire nation. The Jewish people have been horrifically abused... and now the nation of Israel is, in turn, abusing a weaker people group: the Palestinians. This abusive cycle needs to be broken, and healing needs to take place on both sides of the wall. I have said many times "there will be no peace without justice," but I think I need to add "there will be no peace without justice, and there can be neither peace nor justice without healing."

Intensive therapy helps to heal the abused child who has grown into an abusive adult, but how do you help to heal an entire nation of abused people who have allowed their government to turn into an abusive force? And how do you respond to those countries, like the United States, who are enabling this dysfunction? My psychology degree didn't cover this... if only there was an instruction manual.