Getting Personal: From death to a desensitized society

These past two years I, like many active Palestinians, have become accustomed to reporting what happens on the ground. Whether we use social media or take notes to write articles later on, the idea of reporting stays with us as we take part in many actions on the ground. We report to have a record of what happens on the ground, since the mainstream media has adopted the Zionist narrative, we become civilian journalists. Like possessing  a split personality, we simultaneously  internalize the personality of a reporter and that of angry Palestinians voicing their discontent with the status quo.

Yesterday (Dec.7th) there was an action in Nabi Saleh commemorating 26 years since the 1st intifada as well as the murder of Mustafa and Rushdi Tamimi. Both were murdered by Israeli forces that to this day roam freely with no repercussions. As a group of us head back to Ramallah we hear news of a martyr in Jalazon Refugee camp.

Rushdi & Mustafa Tamimi, credit: Activestills
Rushdi & Mustafa Tamimi, credit: Activestills

First emotions to accompany me were those of anger directed at the colonisation, and sadness and empathy with his family who lost a son, brother, cousin, friend. Those thoughts were followed by the need to report this.

Another martyr. What’s his name? I don’t want to report a number, he’s not a number. I ensured to remind myself and everyone I can reach out to that Wajeeh is not a number or a fraction of a statistic printed in a booklet. Wajeeh Wajdi Alramahi from Almazeera’ in historic Palestine but living in exile in Jalazon refugee camp. Wajeeh, with beautifully greenish-blue eyes, and smooth pale white skin. I say pale because the first time I saw Wajeeh he was a lifeless body.

Wajih Wajdi Al-Ramahi.
Wajih Wajdi Al-Ramahi.

So I report. Returning from an action commemorating two martyrs, only to have another martyr die. A child. A child. A child. A child. A child. Those two words kept repeating followed by the word dead. My mind turned into a broken record, repeating the same words over and over again. I reported and then chose to sleep. I slept knowing the odds of me waking up were in my favor. Wajeeh slept too. Except he slept in a refrigerator in a desensitized Ramallah.

The next morning, I was awoken by a call from a friend asking if I’ll be heading to the funeral procession. I said “yes, I’ll meet you there.” When what I was thinking was, ‘what’s the point? He’s dead and half of Palestine is metaphorically dead and numb. How will I look at his mother? Like most Palestinian mothers she’ll wait for liberation to come to avenge the blood of her son. To wake up, go to a funeral, chant that Wajeeh’s blood is not cheap and colonizers will have their day. Only to return to the hustle and bustle of Ramallah taking any meaning those chants had out and through the window.’ I struggled to get out of bed, to go to the funeral and face his mother, his little brother his family and look them in the eye. I felt dis-empowered. I wanted so badly to be able to hold every 14 year old Palestinian and say, no more deaths after today. Palestine is revolting and we will go home. Home.

Where is home? Although we all share the same struggle of colonization, the individual struggles are different. And as I entered Jalazon refugee camp, I tried to imagine Wajeeh’s I couldn’t even scratch the surface.

Born into exile, the struggle of identity grows even deeper in Wajeeh. Born and raised in the Jalazon refugee camp, but told he’s from a different place, I tried to imagine the schism of identity within a refugee. The struggle of exile. Or the struggle of having other Palestinians projecting their inferiority complex through the adoption of the colonial mentality of supremacy in which Refugee Camps/refugees are seen in a negative perception. -The very ideals held by colonialists become indoctrinated within us, so refugee camps are looked at as backward places where savages lie.-  Or maybe the struggle of being asphyxiated by the walls of the camp where the alleys between houses are too small for flies to pass, or the growing illegal Beit Eil settlement in the backyard, or the PA’s coordination with Israel to further isolate the camps. Or, or, or, or…

I couldn’t even scratch the surface.

Heading to the camp I walked through the streets of Ramallah where life goes on. It’s as though there was nothing. Life goes on. It was hard at that moment, on the day commemorating 26 years since the first intifada where once thousands of people would drop everything and go to the processions of martyrs. It seemed unfathomable, like some sort of urban myth.

It was raining. I tried to be tragically poetic and imagine the skies as the parallel universe to our society, in which the skies wept and wept and wept, and we walked, mechanically, with the same indifferent faces. The desensitization is understandable, but unfathomable. I know the history of it, the years of fighting, one intifada after the next, each family going through its own struggle, Israel’s divide and conquer hard at work. I know the history of exhaustion.

Then I thought, what does 14 year old Wajeeh have to do with a history that preceded him? And a future in which decolonization happens that Wajeeh won’t  live to see or partake in? The exhaustion is not his fault; he deserves to have thousands in the streets, hundreds of thousands. He deserves to have shopping centers turned to ghost towns. He deserves that and all Palestinian children deserve to live in a world in which fear doesn’t follow them every day, in which they can live knowing that the entire Palestinian people are their backbone and if they happen to be murdered we won’t be silent. We won’t be silent.

The deafening sound of silence.

I got to the camp, with posters of beautiful Wajeeh everywhere, I couldn’t take myself to go to the burial. Instead I stood on the sidewalk and waited until my friends finished and joined me.

There I met five children, Hamada (7), Taleb (8), Ayman (14), Mohammad (10) and Mohammad (12). We began speaking, and they began telling me how Wajeeh was killed on the street in front of us. They began telling me about Wajeeh. “He was a good kid” 10 year old Mohammad told me. When was the last time you saw him? I asked and here 14 year old Ayman answered “Last Tuesday, he was just standing and smoking.” Smoking like the majority of Palestinian society, usually due to underlying sociological and psychological suppression. After their stories about the camp, they finally decide to ask for my name. “I’m Mariam, what’s your names?” They all gave me their names until I got to 10 year old Mohammad” And yours? “I don’t give out my name, how do I know you’re not intelligence and won’t turn me in to the Israelis?”

10 years old. 10 fucking years. And here he is telling me about security precautions he must take in order not to be taken by Israeli forces.

I leave. I make a quick stop by my father’s shop and ask “How’s your day so far?”
He replies “Business was really good today, really good.”
Those words echoed in my head, business was good, followed by dead. Dead. Dead.

Today I don’t report. Today, I pray for Wajeeh and every unnamed, forgotten martyr to rest in power. I pray for Palestinians to fight colonial culture and wake up from the self induced coma.

I pray. In the weakest form of action, I pray.

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One thought on “Getting Personal: From death to a desensitized society

  1. So much truth in this article, powerfully written and powerfully sad. Just wanted to let you know that I read it and thank you for sharing it.

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