Friday, July 11, 2014

Life Goes On - My last night in Ramallah

"Life Goes On"

This photo was taken on the last day of my June trip to Israel/Palestine. It is a view of the "Manera" or main traffic circle in Ramallah Palestine. The photo is taken through a bullet hole in the window of my favorite coffee shop in Ramallah "Stars and Bucks Cafe" (no, not Starbucks, but close!).  

I walked through the city with new eyes that morning, though they were exhausted from not more than an hour of sleep. I thought I was ringing in my last night with a bang, having gone out to see a world cup match at a great bar. Little did I know the sleepless night had just started, and my helplessness had not even begun to be tested.

Less than an hour after I returned home from watching the game, the streets came alive with gunfire, bright flashes of light followed by an echoing crash (flash grenades), cars with sirens passing by, tear gas, rubber bullets, rocks being thrown, fire, and shouting. The Israeli Defense Forces had made their way to the Manera, just two blocks from where we stayed at the Friends Boy's School. The night pushed on as I felt more helpless than I ever have before, until the sun came up and illuminated a red sky. This was their third night coming into Ramallah's limits as "Operation Brothers Keeper" pressed on throughout the West Bank. 

Some context-

The fifth day of our two and a half week trip, three Israeli boys went missing while hitch-hiking home from school inside the West Bank.  The country lit up as Netanyahu rallied support and launched a national campaign to "#bringbackourboys." Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the kidnapping, though offering no evidence, even when Hamas denied responsibility. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began what was called "Operation Brother's Keeper," in which the "purpose" was to search for the three missing boys. 

It is now clear that the intention of "Operation Brother's Keeper" was not to bring back the boys, as a gag order was placed on the evidence that Israel knew the boys were dead within 24 hours of the kidnapping. The kidnapping served as the perfect cover to get into the West Bank and Gaza, attempt to dismantle Hamas, and it surmounted in the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Not to mention the intentional deception and emotional manipulation of Israeli people that stirred and incited a racist fervor.

This sleepless night on June 22nd was a small taste of what Palestinians have been going through since the beginning of the occupation. I was entirely shaken up the next morning. I was devastated. I woke up and saw photos on the news that were posted of the clashes and destruction from the night before, and fully expected to see the destroyed Manera from the photos on the street the next morning.

The Manera was not destroyed, the shops were not closed, the people were out, and there was a protest forming where the clash was the night before. Not a stray rock on the street. People had cleaned the street, pushed away every rock, put out every fire, and picked up all the debris. There were many bullet riddled buildings and windows, and if you looked closely, you could see traces of the night on the street, stray tear gas canisters, or rubber bullets strewn in planters. But otherwise, I learned quickly, resiliency happens here, and "Life Goes On."

I am very thankful for receiving a Pickett Grant to help fund this incredible and challenging religious/educational/service trip to Israel/Palestine. I am working on a photo project to share my experience of the trip, as well as a forum to present at Atlanta Friends Meeting about my journey and perspective. 

With gratitude,
Liz Nicholson

1 comment:

  1. Dear Liz, thank you so much for sharing this remarkable experience in Ramallah and for your commitment and steady heart in the face of so much pain and violence. Resilience and the persistence of hope amid fear are indeed lessons for all of us.
    in peace,