Sorry it has been so long since I last wrote an update. Recently, it has been difficult for me to decide what to write . More and more often, it feels like simply a matter of asking myself, “What sad story do I tell about the violence, racism, and injustice that my Palestinian friends experience at the hands of the Israeli occupation?”
There are many, many stories.
Palestinian friends chased by Israeli settlers throwing stones. Israeli military creating roadblocks to our village, making it impossible for vital water aid to reach At-Tuwani in a year of severe drought. Watching the effects of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian children in the village, whom I love so dearly and bring me so much joy.
Yet I feel telling these stories do not quite capture the heart and spirit of my Palestinian friends, who are so strong, joyful, and committed to nonviolent resistance. Last week I went to a party. Afterwards, I thought, “This is what I want to write home about.”
Some of my favorite Palestinian women from the village gathered at a Palestinian friend’s house to dance. These women are warm, strong, hilarious, and overall just some of the most beautiful people that I know. We had a fabulous time at the party. I tried to feel insecure with my dance (in)ability, but I couldn’t help but relax as women started making up silly “At-Tuwani” dances. And then, in turn, they wanted to see “American” dancing. So my teammates and I did disco.
When everyone was hot and exhausted from dancing, we gathered around, drinking cups of coffee and telling stories. These women are some of the funniest women I’ve met, and that evening they were in rare form. They did impersonations of people from the village. They talked about children in the family (who are also very clever and entertaining.)
And they talked about the Israeli occupation.
One has to have some kind of experience living in Palestine to fully appreciate what I have come to call “occupation humor,” so I won’t bother retelling the jokes. But it is satirical, in the highest degree. And it is very, very funny. We laughed late into the night as these women cracked jokes at the Israeli occupation, Israeli soldiers, and crazy Israeli settler “security” guards. That evening (as they so often do), they laughed in the face a system of violence and oppression that attempts to crush their people.
This is the point: The Palestinians here in At-Tuwani are committed to nonviolent resistance. They resist with their lives, their land, and their sheep. And nobody – not even the Israeli occupation – will take away these folks’ love, laughter, and spirit. It is moments like these that give me hope, and something to write home about.