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Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Dear Diary:

Go away! Stop! Leave us alone! Cease your bombing....enough. How many more seconds, minutes, hours, days, nights and weeks do we have to endure your guns, your helicopters, your tanks, your tear gas, your bullets???? How many more people do you have to kill under the pretext of "defending your security"? What about our security? Who will protect us from your slaughter.....Who?

No one it seems. Absolutely no one. Not the international community, certainly not the United States, and most definitely not the Arab leaders.

Do you detect despair in my voice? Well do you?

What do you expect? I'm tired of feeling like throwing up, tired of the headaches, tired of crying when my friends and neighbors talk about their pain, tired of being so darn tired all the time......tired of feeling so helpless.

It was those damn helicopters flying endlessly overhead the night before last that got me to be in the state I've been in these past two days. They were bombing Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Aida refugee camp and they were flying so low......and then came the sound of the explosions. Was it 9 p.m. when I awoke to the sound of the shelling? Was I fast asleep to begin with? I don't remember anything anymore.

As I lay in bed, trying not to think about the terrible pain I felt in my knees, I realized just how frightened I was. My heartbeat was racing as if I were running in a marathon......The helicopter felt like it was in the room with me....and I felt like I was in a game of Russian Roulette....what is their next target? Will Dheisheh be on their list tonight? Will our house get bombed? Should I get out of bed and try to hide somewhere? Where?

I couldn't think of a safe spot in the house. Perhaps standing next to those two book shelves in the study would be a good place. No windows near and perhaps the bombs won't find me there. Or should I hide under the bed???

Silly thought. Only children hide under beds, and as a child in the 1967 War, I hid under the bed. I'm too old for that now.....and we've been through too many wars already. Enough.....enough world. Why don't you step in and put an end....just end the occupation, that's all that has to be done.....end the frigging occupation that won't leave us alone...that chases us around more closely than our own shadows, relentlessly crowding in our little space.... and killing us.

10 Palestinians were killed by Israeli army gunfire this last Friday, then five were killed on Saturday, then four on Sunday, and I don't remember how many on Monday, and the number is 3 so far today. It is only around 10 p.m...the night, as they say, is still young. If you live under occupation in Palestine, it means that anything can happen.

Today can be the very last day of our lives. This is the persisting thought on everyone's mind. We think about death, about dying, about not being alive, about getting killed, about ceasing to exist......and we think about it all the time.

Yesterday afternoon, I went with some Swedish journalists to Beit Jala to look at the homes that Israeli tanks had shelled the night before. As we stood out on the street and it started to rain, Mia urged me to seek shelter from the rain. I grinned idiotically and told her: But it is nice to feel the rain on my face. This could be the last time that I stand in the rain.

Everything we do each day feels like it is being done for the last time. It is a game of Russian Roulette I tell you!!!! Do you know how to play, or would you like me to show you how? Answer you want me to show you how?

It is easy really. Oh yeah! so very easy. Ask the 3 and 2 year old Nazzal brothers in Beit Jala, and they'll tell you how to play. They'll tell you how they were in their bedroom playing with their toys one minute and the next minute, the room was wrecked by an Israeli shell. The bomb came right into the bedroom and exploded. Just like that. But the Nazzal brothers have a smart mommy who's pretty good at the game of Russian Roulette. She intuitively took them out of the room a spilt second before the shell came tumbling in.

The foreign press descended on Beit Jala like kids descending on......oh what is it called? Why can't I remember things anymore? I'm talking about that place in California ...... what's it called? Oh it comes to me now.....Disney Land. The press came to Beit Jala en masse just like kids going to Disney Land. They stuck their cameras, and mics, and note books in everyone's face and asked: The Israelis say that they've been shelling Beit Jala because armed Palestinians fire shots at Gilo Settlement across the hill from in between the houses in Beit Jala. What is your reaction?

Excuse us.....say that again. Ask us again. What was your question?

How many Israeli civilians have been killed since the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada? how many Israeli civilians have been wounded? How many Israeli homes were shelled? How many Israeli civilians have been attacked by Palestinian missiles, rockets, shells, bullets?

How many? Answer me you objective guys who are so interested in covering "both sides" of the story. For that's what we are to you, another news today, gone tomorrow.

We are the nameless, faceless, ageless Arabs who are easy gazelles during hunting season. Oh boy! Is it that time of year again? But the world doesn't shake from our death. No threats to boycott Israel.....who would dare?

Oh dear me. Here I am being silly all over again. Who cares if the Israelis bomb the hell out of us Palestinian niggers. We deserve it, don't we? This, after all, is what happens to those seeking freedom and independence......someone has to step in and grind their noses to the ground, show them who's master.....

The problem is that we refuse to die. Even in our death, we are still alive. Mohammed and Rufaida and Mustafa and Mahmoud, and the thousands others who've died for the sake of Palestine in these past 52 years, all live on.....they live in the hearts and minds of their children and their grand children and their great grandchildren.....they live in the air, in the soil, on the trees, in the sky, in the clouds......and always in our hearts and minds.

Type my fingers, type. Think my brain,, think. Hurt my heart, hurt. Throw up my stomach, throw up. Throb my head, throb. And get used to it. This is only the beginning of more days and more weeks to come. They are definitely not done with us yet.

I cheat just now. I can't stand keeping my ears out for the sound the helicopters and get tired of running to the window whenever I hear a sound. So I put the headphones on and play some gay music really loud......oh hello gay music! It has been a very long time. I've missed you. You resemble a normalcy I no longer know. You resemble what real life should be like but is no more.

A few songs is all I get to listen to before my husband taps me on the shoulder. I remove one ear phone from my ear and listen to what he has to say. They're bombing al-Bireh next to Ramallah right now.

And here I thought he wanted to ask me if I wanted to go out to dinner, or go for a walk and sniff the roses, or catch a late night movie.......or go listen to some jazz!!!

Ooops! Excuse the slip. For a moment, I forgot that I am in Palestine. We don't do these kinds of stupid things here. Rather, we wait to see if we are going to die. That's the sort of serious stuff we're into. Bombing, shelling, more names of the dead....someone who's 22 now, then someone who is 12; a human being from Gaza now, and then a human being from Tulkarem. Count Muna.....always count. Count so you don't forget how to add the numbers. Soon you may not know what one plus one adds to....

Count and throw up.......throw up and count. Lose weight, that's O.K. Lose your mind too if you dare.....this is just the beginning. They haven't killed enough of us already. The blood of the dead and the wounded doesn't even fill someone's swimming pool yet. Not yet!

Tomorrow is another day. Will we wake up or won't we? Will we live or won't we? Will we lose an eye, an arm, a kidney? Will we be part of the survivors? Will we live to talk about it?

And if we do, will anyone listen......will they?

Hello......are you there? This is Palestine calling. P-A-L-E-S-T-I-N-E you people out there.

Muna Hamzeh-Muhaisen
Dheisheh Refugee Camp

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