MUNA'S DIARY
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Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Dear Diary:

I'm beginning to enjoy the evenings at our house. Friends, neighbors and relatives drop by to drink coffee, watch the news, analyze the latest developments, watch more news, and share the impact that the Intifada and the siege has had on their lives....having people around helps ease the pressure...or share it, at least.

Firas, my neighbor, looks thinner and more restless than usual. The father of two very young blind children, he worries about not having any income at the end of this month. He works with Adeeb and Naim, both from Dheisheh, in construction in Bethlehem but with the siege, there have been no shipments of cement, and therefore no work.

Since there are no social security benefits and no un-employment benefits available to anyone in Palestine, Firas, his wife and children will have to eat their meals with his brother's family until the situation improves......as if it is only by food alone that man survives.

Wajieh, my husband's cousin, is luckier. He has an office job and will have a salary at the end of the month. But after three weeks of not being able to go to work in Ramallah, he is besides himself with boredom. "I can't concentrate enough to read or to putter around the house....all I can do is just sit there and watch the news all day.....I feel like such a wreck."

The phone keeps ringing. Friends call from Nablus, Ramallah and France to check on us and make sure we're O.K. We call friends in Rafah, Gaza and in Salem, Nablus to make sure they're O.K.

We hear on the news that starting tomorrow morning, Israel will lift the "internal" siege in the West Bank. We all start to laugh. All what this "internal" lifting means is that people who live in Bethlehem's Zone C will be able to travel to Zone A. All the villages surrounding the town of Bethlehem are in Zone C and therefore under full Israeli control. As a result of the siege, they have not been able to leave their villages - only minutes away from downtown Bethlehem - and drive to town. Now they can. Big frigging deal!!!!

And even if we can now take back roads to get from Bethlehem to Ramallah or from Bethlehem to Hebron, we know how the Israelis operate....we've lived through sieges before. There'll be so many checkpoints on the roads, and cars will be held up for extended periods of time while identification papers will be checked, that we'll have the Israeli military there again to remind us that we still live under occupation....

And of course, we are still under siege in that we are still not allowed to travel from the West Bank to Jerusalem, or to Israel, or to Gaza. That siege, you see, has not been lifted. This means that doctors, nurses, teachers, university students, employees, construction workers, patients, and many more, who need to get to Jerusalem or to their jobs inside Israel remain unable to do so......

Good morning occupation......and a very good morning to you too Sharm il-Sheikh!!!!!

Are we supposed to be happy that the resistance of our people is being squashed so we can go back to life under occupation??? Just like that.....

I ask Wajieh if he plans to take the back roads to get to his office in Ramallah tomorrow and he says no. There are settlements on the way and he can't be sure what the situation will be like. I tell him I don't plan to go to my office in Ramallah either until I was absolutely sure that it is safe....

We switch the channel to Israel TV. A smiling presenter is telling her audience about the newest movies being shown at Israeli movie theatres......this is a must see film, she says sweetly.

Wajieh and I look at one another and laugh. We live in such a crazy, crazy world.....Life goes on in Israel.....it is as if it is a nation on the other end of the earth that has nothing to do with what happens in the Palestinian Territories. It is as if the Israeli soldiers who've been bombarding, shooting, killing and maiming Palestinians these past three weeks are some mercenaries from Planet Venus......and not part of the nation that occupies us with such brutal force.

Hourieh calls in the afternoon to complain of headaches, nightmares and pains in her stomach. I ask her to bring along her three kids so we can go for a walk. Maybe some exercise will help clear our heads. We walk for nearly an hour and a half and the whole while, a small, pilotless reconnaissance plane flies around.....reminding us......reminding us....reminding us. And on the way, there are no trees and no flowers to look at.....just litter, building debris and garbage strewn everywhere......I don't know why we can't clean up Palestine.....We take Marianna with us.....she runs around, giggling and having the time of her life. At the end of the walk, we go to Hourieh's house for tea. Marianne climbs up my chair, throws her small head on chest and immediately falls asleep......I stroke her hair and struggle not to cry, deeply touched by just how much she feels safe with me...Oh Marianna!!

Hourieh tells me that the settlers' attack on her family's house the week before has resulted in damages worth 30,000 shekels (about US $7,500). There is no insurance of course and no government funds to compensate people for any damages done to their homes or to their cars.

But then material loss seems so insignificant. A doctor interviewed on the radio says that of the more than 3000 Palestinians injured in al-Aqsa Intifada, 400 are permanently handicapped and will need years of rehabilitation. We know of only two Rehab centers in the West Bank......only two.

When I turn on the computer to check email in the evening, I do a quick chat with Iyad over at Khan Younis refugee camp. How are things over there? I type. 48 injured today, 8 in critical condition, 4 clinically dead....and 2 paralyzed after being shot in their spinal cord....writes Iyad. After a brief silence, he writes: this is what they want at Sharm il-Sheikh...

When will the "external" siege be lifted and when will people be able to move between Gaza, Jerusalem and Israel, no one knows. Even when it is, everyone has to re-apply for Israeli-issued permits, and everyone suspects that the list of those who will be considered a "security risk" and denied permits will be in the thousands......

Another Intifada, more mothers with dead sons, more wives without husbands....more kids without fathers, and they want us to return to where we were......a herd of quiet sheep, grateful to live under occupation because the alternative could be the slaughter house....and nothing else.

-Muna Hamzeh-Muhaisen
Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine


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