‘If I believed in hell, this would be it’

Day sixteen of the siege. The phone and this internet connection are my keys to the outside world. They are my grasp on sanity at this point. My body aches from lack of movement and my soul aches from so many images of carnage and destruction.

I have lived here for three years straight. Six years have passed since my first trip to Palestine, and I have been an activist around Palestinian issues for nine. Yet, I am still having difficulty comprehending what is happening here. My brain has shut down. I think if I processed what is happening, I would become completely immobilized. At this point, busying oneself with work is the only thing that helps. And at least I have that.

No human being should be forced to try and process the killing of hundreds of people, of children tortured, of bodies being found in the rubble of their deliberately destroyed houses, or of corpses rotting in the streets of I don’t know how many neighborhoods. If I believed in hell, this would be it.

Even leaving the house during the sporadic lifting of the curfew has become a nightmare. It is the ultimate sick joke. The Israeli military has dug up most of the roads around town, so getting from one place to another is like going through a maze. It takes around 45 minutes for us to travel two blocks by car. No one knows for sure which roads are dug up, so you end up going down road after road and then having to turn around because a bulldozer has either dug a big hole in the road or placed huge mounds of dirt on it…either way they are impassable.

What makes the situation even more frustrating is that all the people living on my side of town who want to go to the other side are forced to travel through the same curvy path. The one road out is now a very steep hill which a lot of cars can’t make it up. They get half-way up, their wheels spin, they roll back down for another try, all of this creating longer delays.

So, you end up sitting in your car, surrounded by hundreds of people, all in the same situation, all who have been stuck in their houses for days on end, trying to make your way through this maze, and you feel like a rat in a trap.

Walking is another option. I tried this approach during the last lifting. Though walking for me is scarier. You know that you have become a much nicer, slower target for the Israeli snipers that are posted all over the city. And then you get to town and are confronted by hundreds of people scurrying about to stock up on whatever they can in their few hours of freedom before they are forced back to their homes, their cells.

Climbing over two dirt barricades and walking up hill into Ramallah, I remembered again that I am lucky. I have only myself to look after. But there are others, with more people in the house, who have run out of supplies. Or people who need to see a doctor, run important errands, etc. They have a few hours to do this in and they waste precious time trying to find a road that is passable and then they have to wait because of traffic.

What I find absolutely amazing is the fact that daily life has completely stopped. The State of Israel has the ability to literally bring a halt to daily life…every aspect of it. It’s like a voiding of time. Time means nothing. Everyone I know has lost track of the date, the day of the week. Each day is the same with little to distinguish them. The news is the same and the international community continues to fail to intervene and end this madness. How many times will we hear another talking head call for an end to the ‘violence’ without lifting a finger to do so? And I find myself unbelievably angry at the thought of having lost these days. And then I wonder how many days Palestinians who have been born and raised here have lost? This is the reality of the Israeli occupation, the ability to void life, in every way. This is its essence.