Ma’a salama

by startle10

We’re home. I’m sitting in my office – spare bedroom – with a mug of Yorkshire tea and the promise of a bacon sandwich. It was lovely stepping through the front door, finding that my parents had stocked the fridge ready for our return. Home is such a place of comfort for us; I had no concerns that settlers would have taken up residence in our living room. We spent our last night of ISM work shivering under blankets outside the Al-Kurd family home in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem.This is a Palestinian home, except a few years ago a group of Zionist settlers occupied their extension. It’s a bafflingly bizarre situation, with much written about it online. In solidarity with the Al-Kurds – and to offer them some protection – international volunteers spend each night camped on the driveway between their part of the house, and its illegally occupied extension.

I say, ‘camped’. A few weeks ago the tent was attacked and burnt down, so now we sit on chairs beneath an awning. It’s not unheard of for the settlers to throw buckets of shit and vomit on volunteers, or on one occasion some bleach. Beth and I spent two nights here during our stay and thankfully the worst we had to contend with was a very creepy, weird guy staring and singing at us. I have some video, which I’ll upload when my camera’s SD card follows us home in the post.

We were advised to send it ahead of us rather than face difficult questions at the airport. At passport control we were singled out for interrogation, anyway. During our time in Hebron we both had our passports taken and the details recorded by soldiers, so perhaps there was a note on their system? Told to go and sit in a waiting area, we played the part of incredulous tourists. Many ISM volunteers face hours of questioning. Again – we got off lightly. After 45 minutes and a handful of suspicious queries, our passports were stamped and we were permitted to the departure lounge. I’m still none the wiser.

I spent much of the flight from Tel Aviv thinking about the things we did that never made it onto this blog. I didn’t write about the fantastic group of young people that Beth and I gave English lessons to at Hebron university (they’re planning to give political tours of Hebron). I never recorded many, many of the small – and not so small – acts of kindness shown to us by our Palestinian hosts and fellow activists that kept our spirits lifted even when events seemed intent on sinking them.

The writer in me wants to wrap this all up neatly with some brilliantly recondite paragraph, encapsulating the entire struggle. But I wouldn’t know where to start. And anyway, this isn’t the end. Now we’re home we have a responsibility to continue raising awareness; we want to talk about what we saw, we want to bore your arses off at dinner parties. The apartheid in Palestine will only be beaten by international pressure, the pressure that we can put on our own MPs. The Israeli government will not self-regulate.

I’m very thankful to those of you who have been following these entries, and for the many emails and comments we’ve received. These too have been a real source of strength. Please do forward this blog (and our contact details) to anyone who might be interested.

Love, Startle10 and Beth.

P.S. Better to go out with a bang, eh?

We’ll be going back. Insha’Allah