Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Just Another Day In Palestine

"Just Another Day In Palestine

Breakfast with my mother then reading the news over the internet (Netanyahu aid says a focus on two states is silly, accusations against Hizballah to try and influence Lebanon elections, another child dies in besieged Gaza for lack of medical care, head of the Israeli Intelligence services tells Knesset the wall is not necessary to protect against Palestinian resistance etc). Answering emails and doing some work at home (chromosomes and reading student reports).

In the afternoon meet with a good friend I have not seen in years (now married and with two young kids). Then we get dressed for a baptism of my sister's fourth grandson (see attached photo). Over 100 relatives and a few curious tourists attend the joyous baptism in the Church of Nativity (where tradition holds that Jesus was born). Then we go to Oush Ghrab in Beit Sahour (an area threatened by settlers) for an outdoor performance by Garth Hewitt. Over 200 town people and nearly 50 Internationals are having a good time. We newtork, talk, drink, clap, and sway. On the way back, we pass by a funeral tent so I ask my mother who it is for, and she tells me it is a school principal that I worked under briefly in 1978.

I am saddened and I feel guilty that I don't remember the guy well. But then we get home we face even more sad news that my school teacher/pricipal, good friend, author, and mentor Yaqoub AlAtrash (74 year old) has just passed away. In my elementary and middle school years I always loved "Ustaz Yaqoub" for his spirit and his educational style. He was a towering man with a gentle smile and a kind spirit (I never heard him raise his voice). Each morning we lined up to hear him speak a few words to us and he always had an anecdote to relay. I recall one morning when Ustaz Yaqoub began by telling us that in walking to school he stopped to observe an ant. The ant was carrying food that must have been five times its weight and was trying to cross up a dirt mound. When half way it would tumble back and try again.

It must have done it at least 20 times before it finally was able to cross with sheer determination (and the fact that each time it tumbled, some of the mound soil tumbled with it). He said that is what life is about, trials, tribulations, failures, success but most importantly "never giving up". He leaves us with so many memories and a few books he authored (including a biography of my late grandfather). The last time I saw him was about a month ago when I visited him in his home. He was in severe pain but insisted to spend a lot of time with me to tell me about the 1987-1991 uprising and how students and teachers adapted and resisted the frequent curfews and school closings. I interviewed him about his just released second part of his memoires.

We talked about his teachers and he especially talked fondly about a devout Muslim teacher who taught them Arabic in Jaffa and made learning such an exciting thing. That chain of influence from teacher to student to a new generation of students makes one think.

To go from a baptism through a music of life to a knowledge of the inevitability of death with the continiuty of good deeds over generations is humbling. I am renewed in a sense of purpose and thus glad to have just finished another semester teaching at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. I know what Ustaz Yaqoub and Ustaz Zaki (a Christian and a Muslim) and the generations before them and after them would want us to intensify our efforts for peace with justice and especially to take care of the new generations (future teachers).

I download and arrange a series of pictures I took yesterday along the way to Birzeit University. I arrange a depressing series of signs to the ever growing settlements (and clear absence of signs to the Palestinian villages and towns barely clinging to life especially around Jerusalem). But I am encouraged by the growing awareness and civil resistance and most of all by the energy of the young students. So I write to you as always in hope you continue to take action....

[The change that is not] Obama offers little new: what the vast majority of Palestinians would view as a horrifying plan to legitimize their dispossession, grant Israel a perpetual license to be racist and turn the apartheid regime set up by the Oslo accords into a permanent prison, is now viewed as bold and far-reaching thinking that threatens to rupture American-Israeli bonds.

ACTION: You can join PalFest physically in Palestine or over the internet

ACTION: The Palestinian Summer Celebration 2009
Come and celebrate Palestine! The Palestinian Summer Celebration is a unique annual program that gives people from all over the world the chance to encounter the life, culture, and politics of Palestine. Learn Arabic and study Palestinian history at Bethlehem University, spend time with local families and volunteer with a community organization.
14 June 2009 – 16 August 2009
June 14th – July 12th 2009 (first month)
July 13th – August 16th 2009 (second month)
For more information:

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home

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