On the eve of ceasefire

Palestinians demonstrate in front of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the West Bank city of Jenin, 3 August 2006. (MaanImages/Raed Abu Baker)

This morning, I woke up with a smile on my face. My husband had jumped on top of me, kissing me all over my face, saying that the war was going to end, that the UN voted, that things were going to get better now. I had only fallen asleep two hours earlier, but jumped out of bed with a kind of energy I hadn’t had in over a month. It was a good morning.

Everything changes this weekend.

Things are supposed to come to some kind of end. One way or another.

On the eve of ceasefire, I have mixed emotions.

I am grateful that things are coming to and end.

However, the real work now lies ahead of us. It’s not just about rebuilding — lives, country and morale. It’s also about moving forward positively on all sides.

War instils hatred in people. We as human beings have to make sure that we don’t fall into the vicious cycle of hate.

We have to rise above the politics and speak as citizens of beautiful Mother Earth.

I don’t believe that we are born to hate. I believe that it is conditioned through things like fear, violence, oppression and misunderstanding.

One should not have to live in fear. One should not have to be subjected to violence.

It seems these days that violence and fear govern our lives. It is all over the tv and in the news. But we should not let it. It is a disguise people use for their own selfish gains. The reality of life is love not fear. We have to remember that.

Life is beautiful … it is like the never ending possibilities of youth. It is like the first kiss …

Remember that scene in The Matrix (the third one), right at the end, when Neo and Trinity enter the Machine World — they are flying their plane, holding hands … love is guiding them through the war zone. Then they shoot up into the sky, cutting away from the darkness, into the electric clouds, fighting for their life — then suddenly they get through it and they see Earth for what it really is: beautiful clear skies. And then Trinity says, “Beautiful.”

I wonder if we can do that too.

If there is one thing I have learned this past month, it is that life is so precious. In one second, your whole life could change. One day I was taking artwork down from a gallery, about to send the paintings to their new respective owners. The next morning, our airport was bombed and we were at war. Just like that.

My life had been so hectic at the start of the year. I was busy preparing for my first solo exhibit in Lebanon to take place in May. I was working hard in my studio every day. Simultaneously, I was organizing an exhibit to take place in June. It was a big one. Twenty-one artists and a whole month of events to go with it. I put so many things in my life on hold. I kept saying to myself and everyone else around me (including my husband), “In July, I will take a vacation. In July I will have my old life back. We will hang out in July. We will go to the beach in July. Yeah, maybe I might even finally decide to get pregnant! I just can’t do anything until July …”

And look what happened in July. I certainly don’t think I will get to go to the beach again for a long long time. Several years, at least.

Life is so so precious.

Zena el-Khalil is an installation artist, painter, curator, and cultural activist. She is the co-founder of the art collective, xanadu*, that is based in NYC and Beirut. Her blog, documenting her writing from Beirut, is located at http://beirutupdate.blogspot.com/.

Related Links