San Francisco, California 1 April 2002
I sit here trying to write the novel about my experiences in Palestine. I went there in August 2000, right before the beginning of the Intifada, searching for some way of aligning my identity.
It’s important, I keep telling myself, for the world to hear this perspective. But everyday I find myself reading words I can make no sense of, because everyday the world seems increasingly senseless.
Yesterday, Israeli soldiers occupied the homes of three friends of mine. But with all the terrible news I’ve read in the past two hours, that already seems like an eternity ago.
I keep seeing my friends referred to in this diary section—defined perhaps by a first name, an alias, a nationality, a code-word, a description of a neighborhood. I want to find some way for them to know how much I miss them.
How can I have so many conflicting thoughts about each word I read in the e-mails and updates—I’m glad I’m not there, I wish I was there. What could I do? I could do so much, I couldn’t do anything. Would I have money, food, water, courage? Would I have the courage to go out into the streets to make sure my friends were ok, to help people, to peer out the window, to think the right things, to sit for days on the floor with nothing to do?
I wish there were a happy ending to look forward to in the novel I am writing, but I must constantly rewrite my chapters to include new and unwelcome perspectives on life and humanity created by ever-escalating Israeli barabarism. Its a strange feeling.
You hear of devastation in the world everyday, of course. There are places that are “worse”, if you can use such a word to describe situations of human suffering without losing your humanity; still, I lived in Ramallah.
When I thought of home for nearly two years, it was in that same 5 mile radius of stone and sidewalk which I now watch being shredded up by Israeli tank-treads. When I hear about the Natsheh building attacked, I remember the place where I wrote my first e-mail message to friends about how beautiful my village was.
When I hear of troops denying entrance to Arab Care Hospital, I remember the operation I had there when my lung collapsed. I remember the nurse who smiled down at me in her white uniform and matching white hijab and how she held my hand when they inserted a tube in my chest.
I remember that my cousin works there in the infant ward. I wonder about her, I wonder about those babies, I wonder about her apartment just across the way from the muqataa. Like a rosary, bead to bead, each name leads to another place and to another person to say a prayer for. And I wonder if I will be writing this novel about the awful things that happened once upon a time in Palestine for the rest of my life.