I parted with Mustafa this morning in Ramallah, I already miss him. I liked his free nad sharp mind, his militant family, unfortunately I didn’t see his father. His youngest sister is Bissan, 11 year old, the second one is Taura 20, which mean revolution, the third one is Jaffa, 23 years old, she is named after a Palestinian city now in Israeli territory. The fourth girl is named after Haïfa, also a Palestinian city now in Israël since 1948.They have also two sons, the younger one's name means "storm", which is also the name of a group of resistors after 1967. Mustafa’s name was given to remember his grandfather who had to flee Haïfa and became a refugee in Jenin, and died while trying to go back to his native land. We went down to Ramallah to spend two days in relative calm. I cross again the countryside, see again the olive fields, find the Israeli settlements as long corridors built on top of the hills and extending for kilometres. The white stone, the golden bushes, the goats and their shepherd, the barbed wire surrounding the army and settlers’ roads…when it’s not my meetings that make me think about occupation it’s the landscape that reminds me of it. The cab takes dirt roads to avoid a maximum of check points. I was the only foreigner in the car, with Mustafa and Nabyle, one of the Palestinian actors in our drama team in Jenin. There were also three students I didn’t knew.
At the first check point there a young man with long hair, badly shaved and wearing big pink Dior sun glasses and a green uniform with an M16, asked for our identity cards. The Palestinians give their “green” cards written in Arabic and translated in Hebrew, and I gave my passport. He looks quietly at the pictures without never raising his eyes on us, however he stops on my "international face", he rests his elbows against my window and reads the names. He’s having fun pronouncing each name, NA-BYLE, MO-HA-MED, etc…etc. “Your name is Saurel?” he asks without looking at me, his eyes fixed on my picture….””Yes”, “Do you speak french?”…Sure yes. He turns towards his barracks and throws my passport down in car, at my feet, without looking at me.OK, I shut up. Mustafa is from Jenin and the soldier seems to have paid more attention to me than to him even though going south is an uncertain trip for a Palestinian from the north…
He could simply forbid him to cross the check point or he could let him stand under the sun for hours…obliging the state security. We cross two other check points, one of the army and the other of the police. We arrive at Ramallah two hours later and it’s incredible to see the difference with Jenin. There are fewer scarves, the hair and the eyes are revealed, the men have nothing covering their shoulders and the women wearing blue jeans smoke nargileh or cigarettes in open air coffee shops.…a space, I must say, more tolerant for the liberties of men and women, because they have a lot to endure, starting with the boy I am travelling with. It’s pleasant to see him with a great smile when he was drank his first beer at the “sangrias café”, listening to Cuban music and glancing at the young Palestinians girls at the next table.
I can see myself at Tareq’s house in Jenin with his parents, generous and fervent muslims. They were sitting facing me on two armchairs separated by a plant. The husband wore proudly a thick moustache and a friendly smile, he was wearing a pink djellaba embroided by gold. She was dressed in muslim traditional attire: a white hijab covered her hair exposing only the face and fell on her shoulders. Her dress was black, covering all her body except her hands. The plant between them was drawing an umbrella with green thin sheets that were falling on their armrests. At this time their hands come touch the sheets, caress them slowly. They do these gestures with great tenderness…Tareq’s aunt asks me a question that surprise me “are you scared by the jews when they come in the night through the camp?”. Her husband, informatics teacher, is in jail just because he has militated against the occupation and the nightly Israeli army raids into the camps. I understand that I am not afraid of jews or muslims but I am scared about the words. The confusion spreads itself at a scary speed too, I don’t worry about a jew or a muslim but about a young man around eighteen who is indoctrinated , sure that the all world has swore his end…scared observation for the both sides. I’ll continue to fight against the racism and for the oppressed people whether they are sefardic jews from Tel Aviv’s suburbs or young people from Jenin…
I arrive at Dheishe, next to Betlehem, around 10 p.m. I suffer of sunburn I caught yesterday while I was sleeping by the swimming pool…A new adventure is beginning, another place with other people. I liked to see the enthusiasm and how the bodies stretch, the eyes full of desire to act and the willful minds of the new participants. They arrive with big open eyes but also with convictions and a western outlook which will be shaken during this trip.
I tried to give some observations about my feelings about how to tackle a course or about the workshops and the young people I met…after all, to see the way is good, however to pace it is even better. Even if it’s the project where the group has an important role, the individual in his reflections or acts is essential. I have nothing to impose, I am coming to discover, to get to know you and perhaps to understand you. If you want, you’ll show me the world, who you are, what are you are dreaming about…I would like to let you discover mine.
Translated from French by: Anaïs Antreasyan