Weekly Post:

August 31, 2009

Sorry for the late post…Ramadan started about a week ago and after work all I can think about is cooking, then eating, and then being in a food coma. Hahaha….its beautiful. So far, Ramadan has been really amazing here. Ive fasted twice before in the states, but its totally different to do it in a country where 90% of the people fast as opposed to 1%.

Some good friends of mine and I have eaten together pretty much every night. We either go to their families houses for iftar (“breakfast”) or just making food at my friends house. Every night is like a holiday, with tons of food, friends, family and good conversation. Everyone is just spending time together instead of running around doing the things we would be doing normally. Its a really beautiful, peaceful time.

There are lots of lights up all over Ramallah, it reminds me of Christmas in the states. Ramadan is an important holiday in Islam so its very festive. Some traditional Palestinian meals are maqluba (chicken, rice, potatos, cauliflower, tomatos….) mansaf (lamb and yogurt sauce over rice) and Musakhan (large pita bread with oil, onions and chicken on it). Basically, you have to have a main dish-something with meat and rice, served with soup, salad, and at least a couple other side dishes. There are traditional drinks too, tamarhindi-a really sugary juice, Im not sure what fruit its made out of, but its amazing. Theres also a sweet almond drink.

Anyways, Ramadan has been good so far, hard during the day for sure, with work and everything. But the first three days were the hardest, now its becoming normal not to have coffee in the morning. No more caffeine headaches at least, yay!

Well….back to politics!

Desmond Tutu and Carter and some others were in Bilín, but they were there on Thursday, not Friday. They saw Bassem’s memorial at the place where we have the protests. They saw all the used teargas canisters and grenades lying around.

I had some friends that went to see them at a conference they were having in Ramallah. They didnt get much of a chance to chat with them, but they saw them at least. They really should have gone to Bilin on Friday. But at least their presence there probably got the village some publicity.

Last week someone made a small bomb on The Wall near Ramallah. It damaged part of the wall and within an hour the city was full of PA checkpoints (palestinian). I was driving around with some friends and we got stopped twice and went by a few more checkpoints. I dont think they found out who did it, but Israel made sure the whole city was under PA lockdown for that night.

On Friday, some friends and I went to Bilin. But it took FOREVER to get a taxi to leave because there were now Israeli checkpoints set up everywhere.

During Ramadan, as some kind of goodwill measure (dont know how anyone forced Israel to do this…ha) Israel lets Palestinians (who are over 40 or disabled–thereby not posing a “security threat” to the state of Israel) into Jerusalem on Fridays for a few hours to pray at Al Aqsa mosque (the 3rd most holy site in Islam).

So Fridays are crazy in Ramallah and Qalandia because there are tens of thousands of palestinians from all over the West Bank trying to get to Al Aqsa. So the Israeli military closes the car lanes of the checkpoint and lets people walk through that way instead of going through the other building with turnstiles-which would take days to get everyone through.

So anyways, we finally get our taxi and head to Bilin–which is a half an hour outside Ramallah. Theres no checkpoints on the way there–usually. But last Friday the Israelis set up a checkpoint in a village on the way to Bilin, and they stopped us and asked us for our IDs.

I didnt bring mine with me and wouldnt have shown it to them anyways even if I had it–because you never know what they would do with it knowing I was heading to Bilin (thanks to the taxi driver…haha). But I was really worried about my friend Zaid, because he has a blue ID -the one that you can get into Israel with- and I didnt want the soldiers to put a black dot on his ID because he was going to Bilin. A black dot means you did something to “threaten” Israel and then you might not be able to leave the west bank–ever.

But luckily these soldiers were semi-human and even talked to the driver in Arabic instead of the usual barking of Hebrew. The driver laughed when the soldier asked him “Keyf Halak?” (how are you?)…it was funny. Then they just looked at the guys’ IDs and assumed I was a Palestinian girl and didnt even ask me for my “ID”.

So we ended up getting to Bilin really late and the main demo was already over, all the internationals and the communist party that sponsored this demo (PFLP) were already halfway back to the village, watching the second half of the protest–the boys demo. The boys demo is when all the internationals and most of the press leave, then the really young boys from the village (since everyone else has been arrested…even the protest organizers now…) throw stones and its a more dangerous demo.

The soldiers used LOTS and LOTS of teargas on Friday. They shot the cannon right as we were driving up and we arrived in a big cloud of teargas. It was really strong too, as we were walking up we just got the remnants, couldn’t even see the gas, but our eyes and throats and nose were stinging really bad.

The teargas was very spicy on Friday. haha, after 6 months of demos I can tell the difference between the gas they use. sometimes it affects the eyes only-really bad. Other times it makes your skin sting for a long time. Other times the lungs. Its crazy–Im pretty sure they are testing on us.

And they shot the skunk water again (a cocktail of settler sewage, chemicals, and cow intestines…) Same aweful smell every week, and I much prefer teargas to the skunk. Its that disgusting. And Im sure its not healthy, haha we’ll see what happens–I think the ground that gets sprayed with this stuff every week is going to become radioactive in time. ha.

So we watched the boys get shot at with teargas (used like rockets–aimed at the kids, not in the air) for about an hour. Then we went to Qalandia because my photographer roommate was there and he said it was pretty crazy because all the people were coming back in from Al Aqsa.

So we went there, and it was a HUGE traffic jam…people everywhere. We had just missed the crowds coming back through and the Israelis were re-opening the car lanes for cars. So they had this bulldozer they were using to move the huge concrete blocks they used to close the car lanes.

There were just soldiers standing around in the crowd. Lots of kids from the qalandia refugee camp just standing around watching everything–but it was pretty surprising to me that the soldiers were just hanging out in the crowd, each one on his own.

But I guess they are pretty confident that the Palestinians know that if something happens to one soldier, the entire crowd is going to be pretty much massacred for it. Then probably Ramallah will be on lockdown or flattened afterwards. Hmmm….yeah they are safe there.

So after that, I went to my friends house to start cooking Iftar…mmm mmm.

The PA only stamp! Yes its real…if you come into the west bank from jordan via the allenby/king hussein bridge you automatically get that stamp. Or if you tell them at ben gurion airport that you are going to Palestine–which would be infinitely stupid anyway. But if they suspect you of going there at least for part of your trip you still get that stamp.

The main problem with the stamp, besides the obvious, is that its not even for the whole West Bank. Its only for PA controlled areas, which is like 20% of the west bank, and its not contiguous. So if you can get to Ramallah, you have to stay in Ramallah and not leave–and even not go into some areas of Ramallah because they are not Area A (PA). There are three areas, A- PA controlled, B- civil responsibility (Aka no mans land), C- Israeli controlled.

So that stamp is pretty much to discourage people from coming here or seeing too much here. And its most likely just the first step in a much larger policy of keeping foreigners and Palestinians living abroad out of the West Bank. Thats how Israel works, their plans are decades (or centuries…haha) long. They do things in little steps so that people dont see whats really going on. But anyways, I think the next step will be to “tag” the people going through Qalandia checkpoint. If they really want to know which foreigners are in the West Bank thats all they would have to do, just put a little note on our file or stamp on our passport. So I think thats coming soon….

Anyways, on a lighter note, my roommate is working on a documentary called “checkpoint donkey”. Its being produced by the Freedom Theater in Jenin refugee camp–where my other friend from palestine monitor works. Basically, they ride donkeys from Jenin all the way down to Hebron, and focus on different aspects of the occupation in cities and villages along the way.

They will be stopping by Bilin this week– they were supposed to be there on Friday but the donkeys move slower than expected, haha. They are way behind schedule–and they didnt realize that three donkeys wouldnt be enough for 5 people. haha. Plus some of the roads they take are really narrow and winding, so its dangerous with the cars. Ohhh…complications.

But anyways, the end of their plan is to go through Qalandia checkpoint on the donkey–and they are assuming that the donkeys will be allowed through but the people wont. haha. Anyways, it should be funny to see the soldiers expressions as they ride up to the checkpoint on donkeys. haha.

Thats pretty much it for this week– Happy Ramadan!


One comment

  1. I read every one of your blogs, Renee. I think that they are the basis for your book(s) so my hope is that you continue to write in this fashion. I know you may feel that your thoughts are just going into a black hole, but there is at least one reader on this end. Those entries that are especially appropriate I share with your Grandmother as well as the Barracuda crowd. Keep up the good work!

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