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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heavy

I feel heavy.  If I were in a jokey kind of mood, I'd probably say that it's the bag(s) of candy one of my students brings to almost every class.  But I'm not in a jokey mood.  I'm sad.

It's a beautiful spring day outside and I met my language partner (who I help with Spanish and who could, theoretically, help me with Arabic, but I told him I like keeping up with my own Spanish, so that's the only language we speak) this morning.  When he arrived, I asked if we could walk instead of sitting in a cold classroom.  Thankfully, he obliged.  Walking is therapeutic and I hoped that going out and walking on such a gorgeous day might alleviate some of the sadness and weight I feel (especially since rain is in the forecast for the next few days).

The walking therapy worked...temporarily.  The sun felt good on my face and it was nice to talk about something other than what was on my mind, what is in my heart today.  But when our time together ended, my mind went immediately back to what is paining it.  I returned to the house, opened my Facebook, and saw an article about children, CHILDREN, as young as 7 years old being arrested and held in jail for up to 8 days, supposedly for throwing rocks.  Sure, kids shouldn't throw rocks.  I get that.  But, jail?  Eight days? Eight days where they may or may not be kicked, hit, threatened, given sufficient water, food, or access to a bathroom.  Eight days where they may or may not be with a parent or lawyer when they are questioned (usually not).  Though the article was written last year, I know arrests of children are a daily reality now.  Already on my mind was a student who wasn't in class yesterday...

He hasn't missed before and I wondered, but didn't ask, where he was.  Last night another student posted that the boy wasn't at class because he'd been arrested.  There wasn't enough information for me to know if he has been released or not.  I think he was, but I'm not sure.  I hope I'll get the whole story tomorrow in class.  Interestingly enough, the topic we'd been discussing in class yesterday was facing adversity.

In my class of teenagers, I have been using as reading material and fodder for discussion journal entries my students wrote last year.  The title of the piece we read yesterday was "Adversity, It's Not Always a Bad Thing."  After reading it together,  I asked my students what kind of adversity they face here.  They mentioned the same kinds of issues we'd read about- mostly big decisions they'd make about school or challenges they face with their extracurricular interests.  As I was listening I wondered if these were truly the hardest things they faced (secretly I hoped they were) or if there were other things they weren't saying (like, I don't know, living under the Occupation) that cause stress in their lives.  I gave them an assignment to write about a difficult time in their life or the adversity they face.  It's due tomorrow.  I think it is easier to write from the heart than it is to speak in front of a group of people.  As you might have noticed from my writing here, I find the writing process pretty cathartic.  I don't know about my students... We'll see what comes out in their writing...

Just before learning about my student's arrest, I saw a post and many pictures on Facebook of a community center I visited just a few weeks ago in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood just outside the Old City in Jerusalem.  A few of us spent several hours there walking around with a man from the neighborhood who showed us maps of the area that highlighted houses with demolition orders, houses that Israeli settlers had taken over, other land that had been or will be taken because of archaeological work being done underneath it, and more.  He showed us where streets and buildings had cracks because the archaeological excavations being done under them are too shallow.  He showed us houses that Israeli settlers took over because they were "uninhabited," which could mean that the family living there went out for a few hours or for the weekend.  He also made sure we noticed how nice the streets and sidewalks are where the settlers live, as opposed to the cracked and dirty streets and sidewalks (if there are sidewalks) where Palestinians live.  The Israelis control the infrastructure and any changes or improvements made to it. Hmmm...

I don't know how old the man is, not very, but he walked with a cane and it looked like he had a brace on one leg.  In 2009 he was shot in both legs by an Israeli settler.  He had heard shouting outside his house and when he walked outside the settler was pointing a gun at one of his sons and had thrown the other down. When he tried to intervene, he was shot in the knee.  Then the settler went and shot a 15 year-old boy in both legs.  The man's children were crying (for obvious reasons) and because of the disturbance the settler returned and shot the man in the other leg.  The settler's punishment- 24 hours in jail.  The man's children feel guilty because, despite their father's assurances to the contrary, they feel it was their fault their father got shot. Imagine the weight of that... Adversity...

When we were in Silwan, we visited the community center that was demolished yesterday.  There we drank tea and watched a video about how the settlers and IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) in Silwan target children, much like what I read in the article I mention above. Yesterday I saw pictures and watched a video of it being torn down .  Today I read an article that highlights what will be done in the space where the center had been. Reading it, I am disgusted by the emphasis on the new construction that will go there and not on the systematic destruction of a community.

With all of this on my mind, I feel heavy.  Writing here takes a little of the weight off, not because anything changes (though I hope that with enough international attention things will change eventually), but because I know you are now carrying a little of the burden, too.  I know you didn't ask to do so.  I am grateful that you keep reading and keeping taking on some of the load.

Adversity... my petty complaints about occasional power outages, Internet interruptions, or cold rainy weather are nothing compared to what many Palestinians face each day.  I don't know how they bear the weight... I am learning what adversity really means...

3 comments:

  1. I got up early to see if we had enough snow for schools to be closed. We don't. To think that was the worry I had is almost criminal. I wish I could bring all those children here to protect them but they need their parents. Oh my heart aches so badly. I'm also feeling much hatred for the Israeli soldiers who have families and should know better. But, in this situation, I believe there is a plan to divide and conquer. Asking for God to forgive my hatred.
    There will be a service at Crescent Hill Presbyterian where the concentration will be on the earth and land-on Sat. 2/18. I will be lighting a candle for peace for the people of Palestine who's land is slowly being taken away from them. Last month the topic was water and of course, Palestine has a problem with that, as well. BE SAFE CORY and may God bless all you do.

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    2. It is difficult to deal with the anger/hatred for everything Israel/Israelis do in Palestine and to Palestinians. I haven't gotten that figured out either. As an update, I found out my student was taken to the police station for fighting and was quickly released. It was strange to find myself relieved that he'd been brought in for a legitimate reason...

      Thank you for your prayers and support.

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