Two teammates and I took some time off team on Sunday and Monday to spend some time in Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. With our small overnight bags, we walked through the Old City towards the Bab iZaweyya, where we would catch our transportation that would take us to Jerusalem. On our way, we ran into a good friend of the team.
This man is simply lovely. With a smile as bright as day, he always has a warm hello and a friendly Arabic phrase to greet me, and he is patient as I fumble around in my head for the appropriate Arabic response. The other day he appeared in CPT's apartment, as I was in the middle of two or three different tasks (with two or three others in my mental "to do" list) when he greeted me with "marhaba" ("hello".) I stared at him blankly for a few seconds, blurted out something in Arabic (which may or may not have been "marhaba" or "marhabteen" -- both appropriate responses), and muttered something apologetic about my inability to think quickly enough in Arabic. Ever smiling, he accepted my greeting and began chatting with other teammates as I continued about my work. All this is to say, this man is a good friend of the team, and he is one of the many beautiful folks I have met since coming to Palestine.
Back to the story: my teammates and I ran into him on our way to Jerusalem. We exchanged greetings. Seeing our bags he asked, "Are you leaving the country?"
"No," I said, "we're just going up to Jerusalem."
"So you're leaving the country."
At that moment, I felt a pang of grief stab my heart. I remembered: This man -- a beautiful person, father, friend -- cannot go into Jerusalem. He is a Palestinian. He needs a special permit from the Israeli authority -- a very difficult thing to attain -- to enter the city.
Talking about it with my teammates later, one reflected, "I suppose Jerusalem might as well be another country."
But for many Palestinians, the gap between Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank is greater than that of two different countries. For U.S. citizens, there is no comparable equivalent. The travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba is the closest parallel my teammates and I could identify, but most U.S. citizens do not have the same emotional, religious, and/or familial ties to Cuba that many Palestinians have to Jerusalem.
When will Jerusalem cease to be another country for so many of the Palestinians living in the West Bank?
In the words of a friend, "Enshallah bukrah!" ("God willing, tomorrow!")
About this Blog
"Ordinary People" is something of an intentional misnomer. I live and work with Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. They are doing things that are hardly "ordinary": committing themselves to active nonviolence and to loving their enemies -- following the commands of One who was anything but ordinary. And yet, the Palestinians with whom I work are also very ordinary -- they are not some kind of spiritual superheroes/superheroines who do things most folks can't do. They are simply ordinary people daily committing themselves to living a higher calling -- a calling of love and active nonviolence.