Im in the American colony and a cat is sleeping on my lap. My nervousness is reduced with every stroke as I acclimatize to my surroundings. I thank God that I chose to sit next to the fireplace but then maybe I'm not shivering because of the cold. I ponder whether Its rude to order tea before my guest arrives but Im too nervous not to and so I ask for mint tea in Arabic.
My guest arrives. She is tall and I can see that she was lean back in the days. Her curly hair forms an aura around her face. She sees me and walks to me. I shake her hand and ask her to sit down. Maybe this interview wont be so bad after all. Maybe she is not really a ... Zionist.
When Harvard University told me that I will be interviewed by this woman, I of course jumped all over the place. I promised myself earlier not to tell anybody that I applied to Harvard in the first place but I couldn't keep my excitement. I did my research about the woman and was surprised by what I found.
My interviewer was first of all Israeli. I got nervous but then I criticized myself for thinking that that would mean anything. Yet as I searched more about her and as I read her articles I found exactly what I was afraid of. In between her many articles are glimpses of her ideologies. In one of her articles she clearly states "I am a proud zionist". In another She says that she agrees with President Donald trump's decision in moving the American embassy to Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
I freaked out. This one time opportunity. This interview that I worked for years just to reach is being done by A ZIONIST of all people. Believe me I would not have an issue with a jewish woman. But her political views are being said bluntly. She wants a state at the cost of my people. I called and I texted people asking what to do. Should I be notify Harvard about this ? Should I make a big deal out of it? Will I seem racist or even worse Anti-semitic ?
I was told to be calm and go to the interview and be smooth. And here I am trying my smooth talk in an attempt to impress a woman who thinks Palestinians should be Truck drivers. Second class citizens here to serve Israelis. I tried to impress her as much as I could. But her eyes went through me as she asked degrading questions like Do you now how big Harvard is? Do you know that you will be doing your laundry ? Do you know that you will be abroad ?
Her questions were not even about who I am as a person. Where my interests lye. My life as a jerusalemite. My blog. Nothing. Her questions were here to let me know that she doesn't think I should be here. She wrote a lot of words and let me know in the end that Harvard is indeed a great university and that i may very well be disappointed in the result because theres good competition.
I left the Interview feeling clueless but an underlying feeling of being cheated took hold of me. I did email Harvard and I let them know of the conflict of interest that was between me and my zionist interviewer. They responded telling me not to worry.
Sadly enough, all of my next interviews were all with Israeli citizens or jewish people. I felt victimized every time I wasn't offered a Palestinian or an international student. Not only did I have to overcome my nervousness in order to let them know who I really am, I also had to break years of prejudice towards my people. I felt horrible that my future was in the hands of the people I trust the least.
To be honest my interview with Georgetown was different. The man lived in Tel Aviv, was an American and didn't identify as an Israeli. Indeed, unlike that other woman he was open to learning more about me as a Palestinian and came not knowing what to expect. I listened to his point of you as he listened to mine. In the end we agreed that I will take him on the greatest adventure throughout the West Bank. That was the only interview I came out of thinking "Yes, he knows who I am now".
I didnt get into Harvard but I did get into Georgetown. I will not lie. I was broken hearted the moment I knew about Harvard's decision. My tears slipped down my face throughout that whole night as I slept on my mother chest. The next day I was ok. Better yet I was excited for Georgetown. Now I sit down and wonder why only students from the west bank get to go to these big universities ?
Are they better than jerusalemites? or is it the fact that they are only interviewed by internationals or Palestinians?
The problem with my case is that I was not even allowed to believe that I did not get in because I did not deserve it. I received their decision doubting that my interviews biased opinion against me could've changed a lot. I hope that Universities take this matter into serious consideration. I hope that they dont repeatedly put Palestinian in my position. And I wish a great successful year to every Palestinian Student here and abroad.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Our Headmasters, faculty members, family, friends, and most importantly the graduates. Welcome. We’ve waited for this day in many forms for years now. In couple of minutes between chemistry and math class. In sighs of joy as we finish our official exams and in the small goodbyes that we have been bestowing on every detail of our campuses. Now that it is upon us we are sorry and glad to be here.
I was very curious when I was younger. I would ask my mom about all sorts of stuff and she would tell me to wait until I was older. Obviously this worked out for me because I have stunted growth and I grown taller since 7th grade. But that been the case in this institution. Our curiosity has always been fulfilled whenever we seek it. Our teachers have readily provided us with all sorts of love and knowledge. This has created a s some sort of familiarity between us.
And as I know Familiarity is comfort. Familiarity is safety. Today we are saying farewell to familiarity. This institution has been our guardian for twelve years and is cautiously sending us to the adult world to make our own decisions. I’d like to thank my mentors for their unconditional guidance throughout.
I would also like to thank my ultimate inspiration. My best friend, my My mother has constantly declared to me that I can do whatever I want and be whoever wanted to be. She has weaved our house with music, fun and love. She has guided me through these past seventeen years and I don't know if she has ever realized that all too feeble without her guidance.
I became very aware of this in summer of 2015 and I would like to share this story with you today. I went on a camping trip to the sea of galilee with my family. I can't see without my glasses and so swim with them. Therefore, unthinkingly dove into the water not expecting that my glasses would tumble off my face and into the depths where desperately reached out but only grasped the void of losing my only source of vision. My only source of clarity. As I tried to regain my balance I stepped on hidden sharp stones and submerged spiky branches. The pain was cunning and I surrounded.
I faced my mother with all too despair telling her of the incident. although the lifeguard laughed at the idea of finding glasses in the middle of the sea. She threw herself in the water for what seemed like hours trying to find them. Eventually as she turned her back to the sea walking back to me. She raised her foot and felt an object get stuck to it. She was ready to scream in fear but found my glasses instead in between her two toes.
This horrific experience has taught me that the impossible . These glasses can represent so much. They can represent , health, success and our loved ones. Entities that we lose and regain along our way. When our beloved principal died. we had lost a very important person in the deep dark water. His absence was most felt and his compassion is deeply missed. To an extent where the doors of our school have become unbearable. glasses can remind us that life is possible even without our loved ones. They promise us that we will pass these hardships.
You see class of 2018. We lose so much in that water. Justice is lost on daily bases in the deep dark water. That is the reality for us Palestinians. Two days from now the American embassy is moving next door. Our rocks are being used to deny our existence. Deny me, you and our common ancestors. One by one, day after day we could slip into reality and forget about the day we protested against this. Lose clarity towards the glasses we are losing right now. Perhaps, is easier to surrender than to change something that is impossible.
But if theres anything I learned from these glasses is that to continue on. Look for them. Re-create them. Dont look at the sea in haplessness. Let’s choose not to surrender. Right here, right now. Choose to devote our lives for our cause because our choices are affecting the future right now. barely anything that we can do but the choice of not complying to our reality that simple glimmer of hope is enough.
Class of 2018 look around is it. We are the future. We do own the world. We are fast moving entities barely seeing our surrounding heading to where that flash of gleam is. There's just one simple thing left. take off our robes, face the world and change it together.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
As I was filling out this application, I read "Israel" "West Bank" or "other." I panicked while looking at my options because they did not seem like options to me. They appeared more like statements: I would never call myself Israeli, I do not carry a Palestinian Id, and well I am too patriotic to say other. Even my "Temporary" Jordanian passport cannot help me at this point. Being stateless is grueling.
I've experienced this many times throughout my life. Trying to fit the politically complex situation into a seemingly incomplex question. Where are you from?
President Donald trumps declaration of Jerusalem, my home, as the capital of Israel only erases me and every Palestinian Jerusalemite off of the map. This eliminates every shred of the existence of these Palestinians including their and my ancestors' DNA which lies in the soil of almost every cemetery. The organic material of what is left from their bodies does not only keep the world's ecosystem in balance but Jerusalem too.
The situation for Palestinians is only getting worse. Unlike in the times of the first Intifada, Arab countries are less inclined to support the Palestinian cause. The conflict between brother countries and the manipulations of other countries have diverted our Arab allies from the cause they were so ready to die for forty years ago. The international community has created an image of Palestine as a troublesome aunt that nobody invites to Thanksgiving dinner because she won't stop waling about her horrible relationship with her neighbor.
In between these agendas are simple Palestinians fighting for their daily wage in a psychologically challenging, unnatural situation. From the inability to see the sea that so many of their great-grandparents swam in, to the electricity cuts that Gazans go through. These people are trapped by walls of a prison cell and are shushed whenever they argue otherwise.
The Palestinian conflict is the longest ongoing military occupation. The Israeli separation wall that divides Palestinians only reminds me of concentration camps where the Jewish people waited for the international community to fight for their justice. Israeli zionists now are the reason Palestinians ask for the international community to fight for their rights.
When I was younger, I thought that interbreeding and talking could solve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. However, now as I am getting older and have interacted more with the Palestinian people I have realized that it is difficult to negotiate when a needle is pocking one side of the two negotiators. The joining of Arab countries and their aid to Palestine can make both sides of the negotiation table equal. Furthermore, the political situation in Palestine can be improved by letting the new generation take part in the Palestinian's political strategy when it comes to negotiations.
I fear the day in which I won't even have the option to say that I am a Palestinian. The day my people will be mentioned in history books among the many others that have passed by Jerusalem. But that is the beautiful thing about Jerusalem, isn't it? It has and will always be a generous host of anybody from the world. I know that Jerusalem can accommodate the Palestinians, the Israels and their conflict. I see that every day and when I do, I know I am home.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
I am reading a book in my favorite spot at my house. I lie on my back then on my stomach, when I raise head as I realize that this is the last week of school. Ever. I don't know why. Perhaps its my mom's music playing in the back. Music that breathed alive through me reminiscent of a childhood I am not sure of. I wonder why nostalgia for something I've never had hurts. I ask it to never stop and it obeys. Or perhaps its my book: The last meeting of two lovers who cant erase their memories. But Im yearning. I'm yearning for the person that I used to be. In other words, I am yearning for words. I write in my head as I look quickly for anything to engrave it on before its forever lost and here you are my beloved. I miss you.
Familiarity is safety. This is last few weeks of familiarity and afterwards I will be flung into the adult world where I very much might fail. I have encountered this once two years ago when I almost enrolled in a boarding school half an hour away. At that moment my whole body was tearing up as a response to the messages of my heart while my dry eyes responded to my brain's commands. I remember there was a song that was stuck in my head for weeks. It talked about the times when it was alright for moms to tuck us in bed and love us. How I wished it was fine to be feeble again. Because thats who I am. Vulnerable. In some need of the familiarity of the warm hug of my mother. I knew that if I were to come back home I wont detach the cement that has stuck skin on to skin.
I am there again. I look around and I am dead scared. Is it wrong that I can't move on like you? I cant imagine myself anywhere else other than stuck in between 45 sessions of walls. In a room where my smell is yours and your voice is mine. You're my own familiarity. And I know that you hate me only because I'm unfamiliar to you. I gently shake my head as you leave me because no one should see that I'm scared of the cold.
But maybe life has been a bit kind towards me. Seven months ago I have been flung into the cold when my own idea of a father died. The walls that have governed my safety from the outside where more than destroyed and i haven't articulated anything that matters every since. My sudden trauma defied my voice and so my younger self started dying knowing all too well that the true end is coming soon.
My years haven't been perfect. Quite the contrary. But they were appreciated and still are. I wonder why Specific events and people represent this journey. Why I can still remember that specific moment of my first day at school when I hid my imaginary Cinderella dancing in the dark of my arms from the kid who'd become my best friend later on only to leave me missing what I once had. Why the guy sitting next to me is my childhood. He is the same kid that I haven't paid attention to but know like the back of my hand. Why it took me so long to know that you are my everyday. That you've seen it all therefore you know me better than me.
Familiarity is all that I have and all that I will lose. Am I to act normal as if Im used to the tiny goodbyes ? Ones I steal as I pass by the stairs, the doors, the janitor, the darkness of the hallways, the cold of the church, the traces of rubber the floor, the mystery of all that I don't know, his desk and the yellow light of the green rooms. Ones that I do on a small scale every day so that the last one isn't as hurtful. I convince my self that familiarity with pain is its own remedy to its effect.
Monday, September 4, 2017
The rise of an extreme style of conveying an opinion has turned the word terrorism into a word that is frequently heard. With that comes a new definition of oneself. One that is based on what you consider as a terror act and what groups you think are terrorists.Your political affiliations determine who you are.
As a Jerusalemite I’ve witnessed terrorism and had to form an opinion on who are terrorists at an early age. Nevertheless, until the age of 11 terrorism was an abstract idea that I only heard about in memorials such as 9/11. However I was surprised to find how existent terrorism is in Jerusalem. This happened when I witnessed an attack where a man drove into 4 people on a train station. This would become the premier of a long set of attacks that have been taking place in Jerusalem for the past 3 years.
Oddly enough I figured that the man who committed the act was an arab and referred to speaking in english and hiding my religion book that I was studying from. I hated the man. Hated how he put me and these strangers in such a position. Hated how desperate he was for attention. I was also bewildered how such a simple act that can't be stopped can ruin the whole country. After All, the government can't just stop people from driving.
This became more frequent as time passed. The style of the killing would change from driving over people to stabbing. These committers were so embedded within the society you can't prevent them until the act is done which has drove the police to become even more violent and oppressive such as shooting any palestinian looking person they doubt.
As time passed I started to see a different angle to what is happening and I stopped calling them terrorist attacks. When a civilian kills an another due to injustice, is that a terror attack ? When a man defies a country that is oppressing him, is that a terror attack ? Israel commits many crimes against palestinians. Palestine doesn’t have a strong army and won’t fight so it makes sense that a civilian would try convey a message through these attacks. They are showing the Israeli government that things are not fine.
These attacks are done by jerusalemites that are considered as second class citizens. these are individual acts with no political background. These people are not extremists. These are citizens that are treated unfairly and are outcrying against an occupying power. They know these attacks won’t bring back a country however they will disrupt the daily regime in israel which is enough.
There is are specific classes in the hierarchy that are committing these attacks. They are mostly working and lower class. These have immense financial difficulties that are even made harder due to taxes imposed by the israeli government. These youngsters are also targeted by the israeli police for no concrete evidence. So when a government attacks you and you can’t protest. You become violent.
A recent interview was conducted with the family of a martyr who committed an attack. They explained that their son was quiet and introverted but loved visiting Al Aqsa mosque. He was supposed to turn himself in to begin a 4 month jail sentence for a fight he had with an israeli policeman and was prevented from visiting the mosque. On his way to prison he conducted an attack that killed two Israelis. This man thought that whole government was against him. Out of desperation he decided to kill himself and punish the government. As a Fatah (a political party that is running the Palestinian government) official said:” The occupation government bears responsibility for the Palestinian responses.”
Here Israel practises its collective punishment as a response for the attack. They create concrete blockades with checkpoints that prevent people from going through their daily life. They destroy the houses of the immediate family of the martyr. Family members are detained and taken to jail and of course the body of the attacker is not given to the family. This is supposed to scare people from committing such attacks but for now all it's causing is more uproar for the injustice Jerusalemites live in.
But then again terrorism is any act of terror against civilians and these palestinians are killing Israelis. Targeting the military makes more sense humanity wise. I was talking to group tonight about this same topic and a man mentioned that it is an unwritten rule that any act of resistance against military officials is not terrorism, but in the mentality of an attackers, its easier to kill civilians because they’re not as protected by life vests.
So where does that leave us ? Are they terrorists or not ? That is a question I can't answer. Your ideologies shape you and your opinions. However, I do encourage every reader to try and find all aspects of a story. Even this ruthless attacker can have a story that might make him human. This makes defining terrorism even more complicated, but that's better than turning a blind eye on what is happening.
Friday, June 16, 2017
The power line falling at my house in Jerusalem is an infrequent yet completely delightful occasion. Just like every other house in the Western Hemisphere it's a great opportunity to shut our phones and sit down together as a family. However, down south of The State of Palestine hours without electricity in Gaza are the norm and matters are getting worse.
Israel supplies Gaza with 120-140 MGW through 10 electricity lines. Around 23 MGW are supplied through Egypt however these are not reliable. Together they make up around 150-160 MGW which account for 40% of what the UN estimates as the power supply needed to meet basic humanitarian standards which are 400 MGW.
So since april Gazans receive around 4 hours of electricity a day leaving businesses and schools unable to operate fully. Medical Aid for Palestinians CEO Aimee Shalan said: ““The international community’s failure to solve Gaza’s devastating fuel and electricity crisis – and the 10-year blockade and closure of which it is a part – is severely affecting the lives of ordinary Palestinians. With only a few hours of mains electricity per day, hospitals are forced to rely on generators for power, the fuel for which is now carefully rationed and in danger of running out entirely.
“Surgeries have already been cancelled, and hospitals forced to cut back on essential cleaning and sterilisation services. Medical equipment is rapidly degrading due to constant fluctuations in electrical current.”
However the issue is becoming more complex as The president of The Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas has casually informed Israel of their intention to pay 40% less on their monthly bill of 40 million shekels which are used to supply Gaza with Electricity. This will result in more electricity cuts by that reducing the 4 hours by 45 minutes.
The President of the PA has asked Israel to reduce the electricity as an attempt in a series of many to pressure Hamas ( The PA’s main rivalry) to step down from Gaza. Hamas took over in 2007 after a bloody coup.
Hamas has responded with an outcry calling Israel’s actions “disastrous” and that cutting power pushes Gaza even closer to explosion. However Israel is taking a nonchalant stance on this responding that the supply cut would be according to the payments received.
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarded this issue as an internal Palestinian dispute and that Israel is not part of this struggle.
Egypt meanwhile has offered to supply the much needed electricity if Hamas agrees to a list of security demands that include handing over 17 men wanted by cairo.
In the past Gaza used to have one power plant consisting of four power turbines which requires diesel fuel. At its optimum it can deliver 140 MGW. Hamas has used Turkish and Qatari funding to buy diesel however the power plant closed around january this year due to what Hamas claims as high taxes on the diesel fuel that is only supplied through the PA.
I couldn't help but notice The word Qatar there in the last paragraph and start my own interpretations as I love conspiracy theories . I need to point out that The past two years haven’t been as politically eventful in the middle east as the last four months ever since Trump’s visit. One of the reasons of the blockade on Qatar is due the fact that Qatar supports Hamas which is a terrorist organization in the eyes of countries such as Israel and the US. The lack of support from the surrounding countries including Cairo ( which takes part in the blockade) and Qatar's now inability to help could be putting Hamas under serious pressure. Is the US’s plan to end terrorism in the middle east or is it to end Hamas ?
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Last Monday on prisoner's day Marwan Barghouti a palestinain leader announced an open-ended strike in an op-ed article in The New York times which the Israeli prison officials report was smuggled by his wife, Fadwa.
Marwan Barghouti who is leading the strike was convicted on charges of murder and was sentenced to five life sentences. In his article he stated that: "Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells."
More than 1000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons have joined the strike. About 186 have ended it, yet hundreds have joined since. The reasons to end the strike are personal which could include health conditions as every body is different.
The main demand is to ensure regular family visits. As Barghouti stated, Israeli prisons are mostly in the occupied areas and so it is difficult for families to even get permits that allows them to enter and travel in the occupied areas turning their lawful right to see their families in Israeli prisons into a privilege.
Other demands include improved medical service, pay phones to call relatives, access to education for Palestinian children and an end to administrative detention which is when an individual is arrested without being convicted or without knowing what he/she is being convicted of for security reasons. Under international law this could only be lawful under exceptional circumstances. However Israel has been in a state of emergency for 67 years and regularly exercises administrative detention.
Individuals could be detained for "secret evidence" that the lawyer nor the detainee can see. The integrators could prevent access to lawyers and food. They can even prolong the stay of the detainee for as long as they think is necessary.
They also pressure prisoners by isolating them in inhuman conditions that include a thin mattress and no bathroom in a solitary confinement.
At the moment there are around 6500 Palestinian prisoners including 500 administrative detainees. These include political activists, students, journalists and authors.
Israel has been punishing the hunger-striking Palestinians by forcibly moving them to different sections of Israeli jails, confiscating their clothes and personal belongings, force feeding them and placing their leaders in solitary confinement's.
As for the prisoners' bodies. They stop feeling hunger pangs after the third day. Their bodies starts to use their muscle protein to make glucose , a sugar that is important for their cell metabolism. There is an increase in nausea due to the lack of energy provided to their brain. The kidneys stop working which increases toxics in their bodies. Salt and water ? Blood pressure falls due to lack of salts in the blood which prevents blood from reaching all body parts. Also salts prevent the stomach from developing a great environment for bacteria and fungi growth.
Lastly, What can we do ?
I have ignored this for a week now but have decided that the only way we can go through this is hand in hand. I dont know how effective these methods are but here they are:
1- Theres been videos on social media circulting about the water and salt challenge. Where a person drinks a glass of water with preferably a sprinkle of salt.
2- I've seen some people changing their profile pictures to include a slogan that says dignity strike. You could do that by clicking your profile picture and adding a frame.
3- Share #dignitystrike or in arabic #اضراب_الكرامة which I think can bring awareness to why our prisoners are striking.
4- Theres the freedom and dignity run tomorrow in Ramallah that starts from AlSa'a circle at 9. I believe the larger the number the more awareness this could bring.
5- Boycotting isaeli products. Truthfully, I've always found this difficult but you could start by gradually decreasing Israeli products that you're buying.
I hope that I'll see people my age participating more in bringing awareness to the rights that are being denied to our prisoners. I've seen adults participating in the challenge but not as much from teenagers . I'm not criticizing or anything but I hope that whatever we do can help or at least support our families in the israeli prisons.