My Palestinian mother has a favorite expression that she likes to use. Whenever she wants the curtains pulled back, a window or door opened to the outside world, or just wants to get out of the house, to be outdoors, she would always say that she wants to “ashoof wijih rabie” (roughly translated: to see the face of my God).
The “face of God” to her, meant the beauty of God’s creation, visible to all! The blue skies, the green hills, the moonlit nights, and the dew covered flowers, were all symbolic of the face of God, meant to be seen and enjoyed!
Last summer, while my family and I were in Palestine, we got to see and experience, first hand, the magnificence of God’s face and the ugly face of occupation and oppression, the Apartheid Wall that is being built by Israel.
Even as a small child, I was enthralled by the simple yet awe inspiring natural beauty that surrounded me. The ancient olive trees, swaying in the morning breeze or covered in a blanket of white snow, the daily display of exquisite sunsets as the sun dipped below the surrounding hills, and my favorite one of them all, the magnificent moonlit nights whereby the moon would first appear to be resting on top of the hills, as if it were a giant spot light, and then arc across the sky, saturating the entire country side in its golden hue!
A few weeks back, I was talking on the phone with a friend of ours who lives in the neighboring village of Al-Ram. While we were talking, he quipped that in his neighborhood in Al-Ram, it gets darker much earlier than in the other areas. I laughed it off, thinking that he was making another one of his wise cracks, but he assured me that he was dead serious.
I explained to him that I had no idea what the hell he was talking about and asked him for an explanation. This is what he had to say:
His home and place of business in al-Ram, which is located on the main road between Jerusalem and Ramallah, face due west. This used to be a blessing because he could sit on his porch in the late afternoons, drink a cup of tea and smoke a cigarette as he watched the sun sink slowly behind the hills, affording him a front row seat, perfect for enjoying the lovely sunsets.
This he informed me, has come to an end with the building of the abominable 30 foot high concrete wall that runs right down the middle of the main street which connects Jerusalem to Ramallah and beyond! The wall runs the length of the road, in a north to south direction. So as the sun begins to set, it literally does get darker earlier for those people that have homes and businesses in the “shadow of the wall”, because the wall blocks out the sun as it sets in the late afternoon/early evening, casting a dark shadow on them!
And so, my friend says that he will no longer sit on his porch, much as had done for many years, enjoying the sunsets. All he sees nowadays when he looks out his windows or doors are the accursed Wall. He no longer sees “wijih rabbou” (the face of his God) when he looks out his door. Instead he sees “wijih althulum” (the face of oppression) and the ugly shadow that it casts… God’s beauty, replaced by the ugliness of man!
Mike Odetalla was born in Beit Hanina. His website can be found at www.hanini.org.