Monday, February 23, 2004


In the summer of 1993, I went to the West Bank through Jordan, taking taxis and buses over the Allenby Bridge, a security checkpoint and entrypoint to the West Bank that I still have nightmares about. Our luggage was strewn all over a giant metal tray, our body cavities searched, and we languished in the heat for over 12 hours, waiting for someone to call out our names and allow us entry. Mama, an Egyptian, had always told me that such measures were meant not only to humiliate us and to give Israel a sense of protection, but to keep us away from the West Bank.

Once inside the West Bank, specifically my grandfather's house, we rejoiced-- by eating a big meal, dancing to music, and telling stories. Not a rock was flung for our entertainment, not a bomb set off.

That same summer, we attempted a trip to Jerusalem but were stopped on a hill outside its borders, our paperwork deemed unworthy. I remember standing at the checkpoint's fence, its diamond wire-shapes framing the Dome of the Rock. There are a lot of moments to which I can trace my hunger to become I writer: that moment comes in at #1.

I'm sure that this makes a lot of Israelis, Zionists, and anyone else who will defend Israel no matter what, laugh. Who was I, afterall, and why did I make such a big deal about not being able to go to Jerusalem? What connection did I have to Jerusalem, anyway? I was just a kid who'd been fed a bunch of propaganda, they'd argue.

They're wrong.

It had nothing to do with Jerusalem, which I care nothing for compared to the love I feel for Alexandria. It had to do with the unfairness, injustice, discrimination, and the alienating wall that is built when one people asserts its rights, its price of human life, its worth, over others'. I felt that I was not human that day. Or maybe I imagined the immense melancholy that overcame me, and the humiliating worthlessness that squatted in my heart. But I don't think so.

This morning, hearings are being held in the Hague to determine the legality, or lack thereof, of Israel's new "security" wall. The wall is nothing like the fence of my 15th summer, which I could see and dream through. The people it affects are not 15 year-olds on summer trips. The wall, when completed, will isolate up to 300,000 Palestinians, and chop the West Bank into 16 separated pockets.

Israelis and Israeli sympathizers may cite suicide bombings such as yesterday's as the main reason for the wall, and the truth is, though suicide bombings will not be a regular occurrence after the wall, they will be more devastating since those who do get past the wall will make sure their strikes are more effective and enormous. This is because Palestinians will not go away, like dejected dogs, and will not only remain angry, but become more infuriated. Israelis' sense of security will be a temporary one that will not last.

The real problem here is that Israel does not accept that the Palestinians exist, and that they need to be acknowledged and allowed to share the land. All of it.

This leads to the second real problem: the Palestinians don't accept the Israelis either.

But they're both just going to have to suck it up.

One day, when the U.S. government realizes that encouraging an end-of-days bullshit tension in the Middle East does nothing less than help destroy its very beliefs, along with its buildings, it will help mediate a just peace, one that gives both Israelis and Palestinians equal rights in the same country.

PalIsrael? Yes, I'm a dreamer still, 15 years old and naively believing that if fences, walls, checkpoints could be cut down, people would be a hell of a lot less angry, less likely to kill themselves along with tons of others, and if I were the one putting up the fence, the feeling I'd get from not needing a fence, from not believing so firmly that others are constantly out to kill me, would set me free. But I don't see what else to hope for. The taking down of fences, checkpoints, and walls all over the world takes a lot of work. Dreaming -- believing-- may be the first step.


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