At times, life in the Ramallah bubble becomes too surreal.
On Thursdays, almost every working person and student finds respite in the arrival of the weekend, which begins on Friday here in the occupied West Bank.
While Ramallah’s inhabitants attempt to escape the routine of their work week by indulging in activities of their choosing, the fact is the nightmarish reality of the Israeli occupation is inescapable.
Last Thursday night brought bereavement and devastation to the family of 17-year-old Muhammad al-Hattab. The level of pain felt by Muhammad’s loved ones is unimaginable.
At 10 pm that night, the Palestine Medical Complex received four youths from Jalazone refugee camp on the outskirts of Ramallah. The boys had been shot multiple times in their upper bodies by Israeli soldiers.
Palestinian sources, however, said the boys were shot at from the watchtower next to the refugee camp entrance, which is already quite a distance from the adjacent Beit El settlement colony, as anyone who has knowledge of that area can tell you.
Local sources also said the boys were shot at while they were inside their vehicle, a claim supported by the fact that there were numerous bullet holes in the exterior of the car, as well as blood stains inside.
It is not unusual for Israeli government spokespersons to spin the truth, in fact it is routine in the many cases in which video of the incident is nonexistent. The unjustified killing of Palestinians living under occupation is routine, and justice for the victims never achieved.
The four teens from Jalazone had one of the largest Israeli military bases at their doorstep. They could never hide from the fortified watchtowers at Beit El. The soldiers installed in them their robbed one of them of their lives, while the others will never be the same.
Angry protesters took to the streets of Ramallah after Muhammad’s death, chanting and screaming, expecting someone to listen. Various groups of youths went around the city and asked the bustling restaurants and cafes of Ramallah to close in mourning.
Small and crowded Ramallah will always astound me; extreme pain exists alongside the desire for amusement and escapism. The protesters, marching in central Ramallah until close to midnight, hoped to share with the rest of the population a piece of their anguish.
Most of the people who live within this city, like any other place in the occupied West Bank, are not able to travel more than 5 kilometers in one direction without having their path blocked by an Israeli checkpoint, army base, or a settlement. The occupation hinders almost every aspect of daily life, and the numbness to it terrifies me.
I feel numb, too. I work, have a routine, and always look forward to the weekend. I face the uniformed Israeli soldiers every day as I cross the checkpoints. However, I also try to suppress my feelings, I hide from the horrors of the occupation.
Those horrors are faced every minute by us Palestinians, but at different degrees of severity. I am able to “hide” from the occupation, I can pretend it does not affect me for multiple days or more. While there is always a moment where I am reminded of how horrible my living situation is, I am sickened to know that many Palestinians don’t have the privilege to hide from the occupation, to pretend it doesn’t exist, even for a single moment.
The occupation tears families apart every day. It tears individuals apart, both physically and emotionally. Whenever we pretend to forget, we are reminded of the horrors of this injustice by the gut-wrenching screams of a mother or the breakdown of a father who are told their only son has been killed. Their suffering is compounded by the knowledge that justice will never be served as long as the Israeli occupation continues to exist.