I'm sorry for not updating more. We've been so so so busy meeting with so so so many people and been given so so so much information that I've not yet had time to compile my notes. But I would like to share a few thoughts.
Yesterday was the first time I'd been to the Mediterranean Sea in ten years. The last time was Greece, '09-'00, something like that. My sisters and cousin and I were taking a walk around town, and a gypsy girl kept following us around, aimless, bored, with nothing better to do. When we got to the sea, the gypsy girl ran in with all her clothes on, screaming into the froth. I had never seen anything like it. The image burned in my corneas.
Yesterday, I ran screaming into the sea with all of my clothes on and felt a sort of liberation I had never expected to find. I found a sort of liberation I never knew I was looking for and I swam out far in my skirts, body-boarding back to shore, grateful for the salt in my sinuses, jubilant beyond measure.
And then I remembered Suheir.
Suheir was born in and currently lives at the Deheishe Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. (The poverty in this place was like a combination of old European cities and West Philly: every street was a narrow allyway, and it was full of wrecked homes and rubble. Not yet 100 years old, the camp was full of ruins. But this is another story for another time.) She reminded me of my Thea Voula after a funeral, vivacious and spicey, tinged with an interminable sadness right behind her eyes.
Suheir has lived here her whole life, lives about an hour from this beach, and is forbidden to go.
Apartheid, my friends, is real. Apartheid is real when some people have seperate roads based on their ethnic and/or religious identity. Apartheid is real when some people are waved through checkpoints and others have to wait hours in the sun, caged in and with guns in their faces. Apartheid is real with nationalized healthcare doesn't apply to some folks. Apartheid is real and it's long and bony fingers interlock, here, with colonialism, and repression of democracy.
"The only democracy in the Middle East" doesn't have freedom of speech.
With that, I'd like to share a poem by Laurie Siegal, a delegate on this trip.
"I Am A Refugee in My Own Country"
as told by Suheir - Deheisheh Refugee Camp
Why have us suffer?
All the time we are under oppression
The Soldiers come
They explode the house
When we stop suffering
When I take the children to the beach?
We are human
I don't know what we do
We want real peace
We need your help
We are not alone
We need your heart
We will be free one time