Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Shyness Destination

A few weeks ago I took the train from Tel Aviv to Kiryat Gat, on my way back home to Dura. I bought a ticket to Kiryat Gat because it was closest to the Tarqumia checkpoint, which is the nearest checkpoint to Dura. It was my first time to travel by train in Israel, but I really wanted to experience what it was like. Another reason which encouraged me to take the train was the late time; I was scared of being stuck somewhere in Israel, with no buses driving to the checkpoint left working.

When the train started moving I realized that I had made the wrong decision, and that I should've bought my ticket to Beersheba. The train station in Kiryat Gat is very far from the Tarqumia checkpoint, and certainly at that time of night there would be no buses or taxis to get me there. Through Beersheba, I would have to use the Metar checkpoint, which is more distant from Dura. But since it's a big city, I could find a taxi more easily there. So I understood that I should probably continue to Beersheba, get to the Metar checkpoint near Al Dahrya, (a small town near Dura), and from Al Dahrya it's not difficult to travel to Dura even at midnight.

But in order to get to Beersheba, I would have to get off the train at the station in Kiryat Gat and buy a new ticket. This made me worried, since it meant that I would have to wait for the next train to arrive, and nobody knew when the next train's exact time of arrival is, or how late it would be.

I was so confused. So I decided to ask one of the passengers on the train if my ticket from Tel Aviv to Kiryat Gat would still be valid if I stayed on the train and got off at the Beersheba station. I went to one guy who was standing near the trolley’s door to ask him if he thought that I would be able to continue to Beersheva with the ticket that I have. He said that I could, and that nobody would really check my ticket in Beersheba. Then he immediately asked me “Where are you from?" I answered him, "Palestine." At first he didn’t know what to say, until he asked again “What are you doing here?” I told him that I am a part of a movement that calls for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. He unconsciously started telling me about his eagerness for peace to happen someday, and started saying how he loves Makluba and Labneh and that he knows many bedouins in Rahat, and that everybody in Israel wants peace.

I appreciated his pleasant understanding of peace, but then he started asking all the people around us if they want peace with Palestinians, and he was pointing out that I’m a Palestinian. The passengers were confirming his yearning, saying "Yes, of course we want peace". Someone even told me: “ Go to your people and tell them that we want peace.” Another woman said: "Tell Abu Mazen to stop driving Bibi crazy in order to have peace.” Others just looked at me and said, “Everybody loves peace," and I didn’t know what to respond to them.

I arrived to Beersheba and took a taxi to the Metar checkpoint. There, I found many Palestinian women from the Hebron area gathering near the checkpoint, after a long time of being on the road. They were travelling to visit their relatives in the Israeli prisons. They were complaining about the hard day they had had, as they needed to wait for hours until they were authorized to pass the checkpoints, and then several hours more for the security checks within the prisons themselves, only to get a few minutes of conversation with their relatives through a phone, and a wall of glass separating them.

My mind couldn’t comprehend reality. On the one hand, you see signs of hope every day. Yet on the other hand, you also see signs of desperation. Which sings are more realistic? Which signs are stronger? Now I believe that the signs we feel and feed more are the ones more likely to win…

The Green Palestine

Last week we Palestinians succeeded in operating the first train journey from the East part of Palestine (West Bank) to the West part (Gaza Strip).
It was all easy. Thanks to engineers who worked so hard on this project, cars can also easily drive to Gaza from where I live in Dura, in the south of the West Bank.  A mutual agreement made all the necessary permits possible with the state of Israel. Actually the government usually takes care of those issues for us. Us normal people don't even care so much, since we choose the right politicians to serve us.

Palestine is a democratic state. Especially after Hamas and Fatah decided to dissolve themselves on the day of the actual independence of Palestine after the peace agreement with Israel was signed. They realized they needed to end their existence as resistance political parties. Hamas decided to leave all the politics aside and focus on getting charity to new Palestinian schools and hospitals while Fatah got completely transformed to its youth members who decided to devote their energy on taking Palestine to the modern world. We now run elections every 4 years and always on time, and have never had any delay even for a one day. The last presidential election brought a Christian young woman to become the president of Palestine. She is just 32 years old, an intellectual full of determination who wants to improve the political and social justice situation of the country. The parliament has many brand new political parties. The biggest one is the Green Party, whose main aim is to ensure the wellbeing of our environment as well as ensuring the freedom of citizens and non-citizens of Palestine. Although Palestine is a country that relies on small business projects, the high tech industry led by young businessmen and businesswomen is doing very well.  The Green Party leader has just submitted a draft for a new law that would facilitate the process for asylum seekers to get refugee status. We shall never forget that Palestinians were refugees for decades too.

Jerusalem is like the city of Berlin. It has West and East parts, despite the fact that it is the political capital city of two completely different countries (East Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine and West Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel) people are living in the city as if it was united. We normal people don't know how they made this system work but everything is working perfectly. I often see ministers from the Palestinian government and the Israeli government sitting together in a café in Jerusalem not knowing if they are in their own capital or in the other state's capital. Who cares? Food is good!

Ramallah is the youth center of the Middle East. Saudi women love to come to have fun in Ramallah, they love the beauty of the city and all kinds of weekend concerts.  It is a city that allows intellectuals to meet and to express themselves freely without any concerns or limitations.

Palestinians are everywhere; wherever I go I find a Palestinian restaurant or doctors. They are in America, Brazil, and France… etc but they never forget their Palestinian identity. They often come to share their experience in Palestine and they make a point in participating in the building of the new state. Their generous contributions, know-how and financial support actually helped the state of Palestine to develop quickly.  

The Gaza strip is no longer the most populated area in the world. What the government did was to encourage young couples to move and live in the West Bank. 700,000 inhabitants moved to live in the West Bank.  This is what freedom of movement does: where you live doesn’t matter anymore. Palestinians from the Gaza strip appreciate their new life so much! They are very smart people and their projects are very successful.

In the past, during the conflict, I used to be engaged in people-to-people peace meetings that helped build trust and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. We thought that once our dream of peace would be achieved, our job would be done. But it is the opposite that happened. We found out that our new job now is to share our experience with other people in the Middle East and help them resolve their conflicts. There is a sort of mutual peace ministry that works under both governments. They support our work and run peacebuilding programs. This Israeli-Palestinian peace team has offices in every country in the Middle East.

Life is beautiful and we are really lucky in this region. We have more than enough resources to live, and life is good. It is our responsibility to further our development and positive change. 

Palestine is green and you must see this to really enjoy it!