Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Dear Diary:

Today, I kept forgetting what day of the week it is. In the morning I thought it was Tuesday and in the afternoon I couldn't believe that tomorrow will be Thursday already....marking exactly two weeks since Ariel Sharon decided to arrogantly challenge all Palestinian Muslims, walk into the grounds of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and start yet another massacre of the Palestinian people.

Well Ariel, I'm sure you're gloating about the fact that your visit has resulted in nearly 100 Palestinian deaths and nearly 3000 injuries....just as you gloated after the massacre of Palestinian men, women and children in Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982. You'd be ranting and raving if we had done this to your people. So where are you hiding now? Speak up.....why are you so silent?

Has it really been 13 days since the start of this latest massacre ??? I have lost every sense of time. And I know, yes I know, that we are now just beginning to go in a state of shock....or rather, to suffer from the psychological scars.

Um Ra'ed, Marianna's grandmother, refuses to change the channel whenever graphic scenes of the clashes are played over and over and over again. She just sits there and stares at the screen, her face looking thinner and paler with the passage of each day. She is haunted by terrible nightmares and worries about her sons. She keeps seeing these dreams where lots of people are mourn someone!! And today, she asked a friend to see her fortune in a coffee cup, and it was more of the same. To divert her attention from her bad dreams, she complains of pain in her back...or her arms...or her neck.

Marianna's mother, Muyasar, on the other hand, can't stop talking about the politics of the situation. The guys in the family tease her about it all the time. But I admire her so.... Muyasar, the mother of six, who never has time to lift her head from all the cooking, washing and cleaning, articulates her views so well and none of us ever knew. As we gathered around the succulent platter of stuffed grape leaves she cooked yesterday, she kept going on and on about Kofi Anan, and Albright, and news of Clinton possibly meeting with Arafat and Barak. I was too embarrassed to give her a big hug and kiss, so I just squeezed her shoulder and smiled. "Three Israeli soldiers are captured and the whole world starts descending on Damascus to try to save the day. We've been getting massacred for nearly two weeks and no one gives a damn," she says passionately. Oh yes! And Muyasar just started to pray, for the first time ever.... everyone needs a way to cope.

I, on the other hand, need to find a way to concentrate on my work. Palestinian universities re-opened two days ago (Monday, October 9), and even without physically getting to the office in Ramallah, I still have tons to do. Just like that, we are supposed to make a mental switch from the mode of devastation and depression, to the mode of tending to business and getting things if we operate by remote control.

There is no rest and relaxation...there are no trauma therapists, and no psychologists to talk to us about the scars, and about how to cope with all the bloody scenes that have left their mark.....and continue to leave their more red.

I felt restless and depressed all day. I couldn't concentrate and kept walking away form the computer and sitting back down again. The radio announced the death of two more Palestinians today, one in Nablus and one in Gaza. Palestine TV was broadcasting live coverage of a huge march in Gaza....and the commercial breaks were scenes from the clashes, the massacres, and a re-play of Mohammed "Rami" al-Dura's murder, and the voice of his father, Jamal, screaming "the boy is dead....the boy is dead."

By 5 p.m., my depression starts getting the better of me and I can't stop to cry. I force myself to get dressed and leave the house. I take Marianna and her eldest sister, Malak (Arabic for angel) for a walk. Along the way, I buy her a large pink balloon and tie it to her back. "It is flying auntie, it is flying," she giggles as she tries to bounce it with her fist. An hour with her clears the dark clouds and I see the sun shining again.......

But the moment I get home, the phone rings. It is my friend Hourieh a few blocks away. "The settlers have attacked my family's home in Nablus, Muna. My aunt and two of my brothers were hit by stones in their heads....They've smashed their house and their cars. I'm scared....I'm so stomach hurts....I'm sorry to bother you but I needed to talk to you about it."

How did you find out?" I asked, trying to calm her down.

"I was watching local news and they had these scenes from the funeral of a settler in the Nablus area who was run over by a Palestinian car. There were hundreds and hundreds of settlers and then they showed them attacking a Palestinian house on the main road....and to my horror, I realized it was my family's house. So I called my brother, but he couldn't talk much because the situation was barely reaching its end. Israeli soldiers had apparently gone up on the roof of the house and started throwing tear gas at the angry settler mob as they stoned the house. Seeing the soldiers on the roof and thinking that the soldiers were hurting the people inside the house, some Palestinians started shooting from a distance....the settlers ran away and there was a heavy exchange of gunfire with the soldiers....."

I asked Hourieh if she wanted me to walk over and bring her over to my house. "No, that's fine. I just needed to talk to you about it. My family's whole house is in shambles Muna...I'm so scared the settlers will return at night. How am I going to fall sleep?"

Before midnight, there were reports on TV about an Israeli bombardment with LAW missiles of the Palestinian Force 17 offices outside Salfit, near Nablus, where Hourieh's sister-in-law lives....and also reports of a heavy exchange of gunfire in the area. Three more Palestinians were killed by the end of the night, one of them in Tulkarem. Reports of another person tortured to death by settlers....I haven't followed the details yet but will know in the morning...So this brings to five the number of Palestinians killed today. Have we reached the 100 figure yet, or is it 98?

Meanwhile, we all continue to feel a strong sense of despair and anger at world governments as watch in silence while much diplomatic effort is being spent on reaching a deal with Hizbullah regarding the three captured Israeli soldiers.... Their lives always count doe something and gets leaderships around the globe dancing on their toes.

And Israel's closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip continues. We are prisoners in the Bethlehem area.......some things, like my brand of cigarettes, aren't getting delivered.... because of the settlers, it is unsafe to take back roads to travel around the West Bank and therefore many can't get to work. We are cooped up, each in the tiny zone where we live. And Israel may just let the closure extend for a considerable period of collectively punish us all for resisting an ugly and heavily armed occupation.

Meanwhile in some Gulf satellite stations, campaigns to collect donations for the Intifada have started....We sit and watch on TV. Will this mean that the nearly 3000 Palestinians who've been wounded or maimed, will be well-taken of and provided with all the care and rehabilitation they need?

Ask this question around Dheisheh and everyone laughs....and laughs......and laughs.

Why not stop pumping oil to the West for one month as a donation to the Intifada? Why delay holding the Arab Summit till the 20th of the month? Why wasn't it held already as a donation to the Intifada? Why not invest money to buy shares in large western media corporations as a donation to the Intifada?

But then again, why has Israel managed to capture Palestine in 1948, to occupy the rest in 1967, and get away with it all these years if it is a tiny state surrounded by "hostile Arab nations"?


Muna Hamzeh-Muhaisen
Dheisheh Refugee Camp Palestine

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