“We may not currently have the might of the Israeli army and the power of traditions confine us in certain roles, however, we know that one woman standing behind another in a line of solidarity is a force more powerful than both.”
–kefah, speaking in at-tuwani village, west bank, palestine
i am going to start with kefah. kefah will be on a speaking tour in italy this fall.
i met kefah in the fall of 2004 under horrible circumstances. we were living in the southern west bank. and a couple of international friends had been walking with palestinian children passed an israeli settlement, when the israeli settlers jumped out of the woods and beat my two friends down. luckily, the kids weren’t physically hurt, but they were scared, very scared. but my two friends were taken to the hospital with a punctured lung, broken knee and arm, and psychological trauma. so i and a couple of other internationals who were living in palestine went to at tuwani and walked with the children the next day passed the settlement. and the day after that.
those kids were amazing. they faced death just so they could go to elementary school.
the israeli soldiers told us that if the settlers attacked us, they would not protect us. and we believed them since a lot of the soldiers were from neighboring israeli settlements.
at night we slept in the women’s museum, a palestinian women’s craft co-op started by kefah.
kefah is amazing. she is a wife, a mother to four sons, a self-avowed feminist, a leader in her village, a visionary, a business woman, a community organizer. when i think of revolutionary motherhood, i think of kefah.
and she has a great raunchy sense of humor.
kefah expanded for me what i understood motherhood to mean. well, actually not just kefah, a lot of palestinian women did that for me. women who daily confront israeli soldiers just so they can work in their fields, harvest plants, leave their house, go to the clinic, go to the neighboring town. women who do it with a babe riding on their shoulders. women who do it with little money and a lot of strength. women. who. do. it.
dont get me wrong, i dont romanticize living under an occupation. its not pretty. its too little food, and too many people dying. its your husband, your son, your father, your brother in jail and you trying to figure out how to get the money to get him out, if that is even allowed. its eid under curfew. its watching your house be demolished simply because it was standing and then rebuilding it just to watch it be demolished again. its your mosque, your school be demolished. apartment buildings being shelled. its never having enough. its living on the breath of survival. its life. and its painful.
revolution aint pretty and it doesnt come cheap.
but it was kefah that i became friends with. and kefah who i watched as she organized women while mothering young boys.
and it was kefah and her village, at tuwani, that i wanted to return to when i tried to return to palestine in the winter of 2009.
in late december of 2009 israel decided to bomb gaza. and bomb her and bomb her. my lil family and i traveled during the bombing. first to scotland to see our friends theresa and jim. and then we got on a plane in mid january and flew to tel aviv, israel. (you have to enter israel in order to enter the west bank). instead of allowing us to enter israel, the airport security put me, my partner, and my one year old daughter in israeli jail for three days. (and no, we dont know why they would not allow us to enter israel, israel is like that, we have some good guesses, but no hard facts…)
there is a lot i can say from those three days in jail. i can tell you that all the guards are hopped up on speed and uppers and live in a world of paranoia that wafts through the jail like cigarette smoke. i can tell you that they refused to give us diapers for aza so she had to piss on the floor for a day until the cleaning lady came in and told the guards to give us diapers or else. i can tell you that in the cell next to us was an eight month dutch nigerian pregnant lady with her husband who had their passports confiscated. and that through the vents aza and i heard the guards torturing him while they videotaped it.
and there are things i cannot tell you. i cannot tell you the sound of aza screaming because she was locked in a room for over twenty four hours, ill never forget it, but ill never be able to describe it either. i cannot tell you the soft look in aza’s eyes when the guard told me: i dont care what happens to your daughter, whatever happens to her is your fault. because you are in here.
even though i had spent the past couple of days trying to get the fuck out of there.
i can tell you how by the end of that experience, no matter how horrifying many of the guards had been, i was so grateful that i was not them. that i still walked with my humanity. that i still could feel compassion for them even if they could not afford to do so for me.
i can though tell you that what we experienced was normal. and whatever was abnormal about our experience in jail was due to the privilege we were extended as us citizens.
after three days they let us go and flew us to amsterdam.
the bombing of gaza ended while we were in jail. and obama was inaugurated a day after we got out. i can tell you that i wasnt feeling very much hope as i watched pieces of the inauguration celebration from our hotel room television set.
i was missing palestine deeply. i wanted kefah to meet aza.
a lot of people want to quibble over israel and palestine. they want to start with the right of israel to exist. they want to start dividing up land for a two state solution. they want it over with. done with. cause they are tired of it.
no body i have ever met is more tired of the occupation than palestinians. bone tired. they dont get a day off from genocide.
and that means they dont get a day away from struggle.
people ask me what do i think about hamas and their refusal to acknowledge israel’s right to exist.
ummm…i have a lot of critiques of hamas. a lot. but israel does not have a right to exist. no nation based on occupation and genocide does (and that most definitely includes my home country the us of a). and no one should require that the oppressed acknowledge the ‘right’ of the oppressor to abuse, violate, and murder. no real peace can be bought at such a price. (i do not believe in rewriting history and so israel does exist, whether or not it has a right to. and we have to deal with it as it exists. but damn, dont ask for the natives to thank the conquerors for their chains…)
and there are few places where this is better articulated than in palestinian hip hop.
so i will end with darg (da revolutionary arabian guys) team. a few amazing mc’s from gaza. they had been trying for months to be allowed to leave gaza and after the massacre on the mavi marmara a couple of months ago and in response israel opening the gazan borders, darg team was able to escape to switzerland where they are hanging out now, planning to come to the states in september and go on tour. if we can get the visas and the funds for them to do so.
“on December 27th 2008 Israel started it’s first strike on Gaza killing hundrends no thousands of lives for 23 days. DARG TEAM after the war recorded and filmed it’s first video clip ‘23 yoom”.
today, one year after the war and DARG TEAM steps in again but this time calling every one to participate and start rebuilding what the war left behind.”
rebuild by us
(it’s in arabic. i really can’t translate it.)
the question i hate the most when i write or speak about palestine is: but is there any hope? did you feel any hope when you were there?
what. the. fuck?
hope? fuck hope.
i saw mamas breastfeeding babies. and old men tending flocks of sheep in full defiance of the israeli military. i saw wild poppies covering a graveyard. and a boy etching graffiti on the apartheid wall. and a 12 year old girl in hijab and school uniform sing umm kulthum with a tenor that would make the stoic weep. i have seen a full bellied palestinian pregnant woman turn her back to an israeli soldier who had a gun pointed at her so she could talk on the cell phone to her four year old son and tell him that she would be home soon. and communities get together and remove the large earth mound road blocks that the israeli army puts down in the middle of highways to cut off transportation between neighboring cities. and grandmothers who will yell at soldiers and lock arms protecting their sons. thrown rocks off of mountains with seven year olds (who had a much better arm than me) and drank tea in front of the rubble that used to be my hosts bedroom.
hope? i have seen much more than hope.
i have seen life. and love. and revolution.
and someday i will see kefah again.