Tonight in Fara'a - Franck Saurel

Article published on Sept. 8, 2007
community published
Article published on Sept. 8, 2007
The night falls on Fara'a. The stars are shining in a black and deep sky. A cool wind penetrates in the room where my mates sleep. On the open-air roof, several Palestinians boy scouts stay awake. I hear their conversations, their burst of laughter and their silence. An unceasing « bip » made by a walkie-talkie pontuates their chat, stick their ears, they ask and they wait for a reply.
They stay awake, are on watch with squinted eyes scanning the landscape by night. They prick up their ears to the slightest noise. Yesterday night, Himad waited the Israeli army.

Two jeeps crossed the camp that night. He made me listen the singular noise of engine and barks of dogs in the surroundings. Walkies talkies didn't hold up to ring let messages and then nothing… a big silence. This silence screamed a cold sweat. All the stories, meetings and horrors of this situation which lasted for a long time invaded me. I could read the stress and the fear on Himad's face... Those feelings vanished as soon as a smile appeared when he tended me a cigarette, said « shouf Franck… » and continued to talk about his life and his trips. What else can he do in such a place with its political and social pressure except live in the present?

The night falls on Fara'a and the sky is still as bright as previous nights. I like to see a sky full of stars. It always reminds me of stories about the man and testifies of his presence before me, you and them. Philistins, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans, the evening star, Mohammed who reaches the sky thanks to his marvellous horse from the Dome of the Rock « Al Aqsa », the exodus of Jewish people. History and stories…Himad also see the sky and murmurs me « beautiful » while kissing my hands. The moon emits a soft light which clears outlines of the hills. Everything is calm, the mosque, the village, the camp, settlers, the army… a little break.

I use this opportunity to adjust my notes. The village of Fara'a has 2000 inhabitants and its refugee camp counts 7500 people coming mostly from Haifa, a city today Israeli located in the North. Fara'a, a place in this world where refugees are more numerous than the local population. Refugees, they don't come from here and there, they can't come back. Since 1948, UN has rented territories where they can build houses for a period of 99 years…what will happen in 2047? We are in 2007, they have lived here for 60 years and nothing belongs to them. If they leave their house a moment, anyone can settle in, they take the risk to be hunted again… so houses are never empty. Haifa is a seafront city, a life of fishermen, farmers, a life at the rate of seasons and tides that grandparents remember. For three generations, they forward their stories, about where they come from, their life over there, the land they possessed and the work they did. A fishermen's village, the sea… children born in Fara'a since Nakba don't know how to swim… I remember children who participated to the farewell celebration in Fara'a. Abu Djamil, the director of the scout camp asked me to present capoeira (without preparation) for the party. When I spoke to grandparents, parents and children to tell them capoeira's history, an art of resistance and struggle faced with oppression, I felt the small reptile discharging its poisonous thoughts in my heart. My impotency and stasis face to this situation… struggle with my own weapons to defend values… sometimes this animal makes me lose hope. Boys scouts dance dabke, sing revolutionary songs and wear kéfié…they are between 8 and 12 years old. Don't forget. Who you are, where do you come from, what they did…Never forget… but at what price. I feel a huge sadness when I see those dances, songs and supports from adults who always ask more strenght, more heart, louder, faster, more together, more... more... more. I have this bitter impression they were born resistant before being children…yes, I understand it…but should I accept it ?...all is so complicated, painful but so vital for people. Palestinian people are so beautiful when they love, a deep, sincere and exclusive love, in this blinding cycle of violence, children who take my hand and go out to imitate my mouvements, mothers who smiles me, this affection, friendship and love… this hope encourages me.

Beneath this starry sky, in this long-forgotten part of the world, in this Palestinian life you don't really know, in my impotency and our silence, Israel colonizes a land. This is an undeniable fact. Israelis enlarge their settlements and build roads to occupy effectively the maximum of land. They control Palestinian's traffic who go from a city to another by implementing military check-points and/or policemen. They control trade and pocket taxes of Palestinian shopkeepers. Don't forget that Palestine doesn't exist officially. Consequently, only Israel manages trade exchanges and receives taxes. 600 millions dollars of incomes belonging to the unexistant state are taken by Israel. This lead to a serious worsening of Palestinian educative and cultural system. Theaters, schools, associations and hospitals can't be financed by the Authority. International monetary funds subsidize the major part of infrastructures needed for people's daily life. The former Israeli prison in Fara'a was changed into a sport and youth center in 1996. Ten years ago, this prison was full and under the control of the Israeli army… and deeds made inside violate the basic rights of human rights. Examinations, torture and death. Prisonners weren't necessarily killers, they were poets, artists, militants, simple villagers and…Mustafa's father…and Abu Djamil… Some were sentenced to a couple of weeks in prison, others sentenced to several years. Many of them are still alive and I shiver when I think about all injustices and violations that happened to them. I didn't heard nothing about this in my country. I always listened to the word « terrorists » related to the word « martyrs », a shocking shield due to a dishonnest manipulation which excuses the most horrible deeds. There are so much examples. But this is a frightening lexical field I recognize in this story, a strategy known for centuries. Words and harms of colonisation, Algeria, Tibet, Africa, United States, South America. I endeavour to see behind all those walls of immediat violences, appaling injustices and political speeches that provok reactions and could blind people all the time. A cold disclosure. I'm forced to face an undeniable report: the Zionist state of Israel colonizes the West Bank and I didn't know that. Silence from the free world affects Palestinian and from this, the feeling of injustice grows in every heart, the supremacy of people to another can only generates violence and destruction. Legitimacy of Israel… legitimacy of a Palestine State… legitimacy of Palestinian refugees right of return who are dispersed in the West, Gazastrip, but also in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the Arab world… The night is close in on Fara'a camp and tiredness invades me. Stars are still here and the moon alights on the top of a hill, crickets' songs rocks me and music coming from a mariage in the camp joins this spectacle. Live…today…less than tomorrow.

Franck Saurel

Translated from French by: Hanan ben Rhouma