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Mustafa is a 29 year old film maker, graduate of Al Najah University, resident of the old city of Nablus where he lives in a house hundreds of years old. We went to a coffee and hookah shop overlooking the demonstration that was taking place in Nablus’ city center and had an intense conversation in light of the relatively festive event in support of Palestinian rights taking place below. These were some of Mustafa’s observations.
”The recognition that most people desire is not so much about statehood. It is a way to express to the world what we want them to know and understand: we are human beings. We just want a normal life. We want to give a normal life to our children. No one living in Palestine believes their will be a Palestinian State. Just look around. Really. Settlements are everywhere. Exactly where would this Palestinian State exist? Anyway, does statehood mean we have to give up the right of return? People think it is good to receive recognition from the United Nations, but not at the cost of the right of refugees to return home.
Meanwhile our everyday life is very difficult. I have so many friends who died in the Intifada, friends who were simply civilians caught in the city. My brother is in and out of prison. I have to endure many strip searches. I am constantly humiliated at checkpoints. Every time I want to travel to Ramallah I have to leave a day in advance, even though it is not even two hours from here. To Jordan is an ordeal. My house has been destroyed and destroyed and destroyed again. For what? The soldiers tell me, I don’t want to do this, but it’s an order. I say, so what. Refuse your orders. Look at what you are doing. How can we trust Israelis when they treat us so cruelly? Periods of relative calm come and go, but everyone is waiting for the next explosion. What’s left for them to do to us? Transfer. Someday they will try to force us all to go to Jordan in order to be done with us.”
That morning, Mustafa and I sat drinking coffee (my third cup of the morning) in the women’s center in Balata before going to the small impromptu playground where we are going to paint a mural of the sea. The picture below of women and children was taken in only the tiny open space in Balata. The 14,000 children of Balata have never seen the sea even though it is only one hour away. But they want to be reminded that the sea exists. For these children, the right of return is the right to swim in the sea. Mustafa tells me, “In Palestine we drink tea in the morning while we listen to the music of Farouz and at 4PM we drink coffee and smoke nargila to Oum Kalthoum. The older men don’t put any fruit flavor in their tobacco. They smoke it straight up to compliment the strength of Oum. These customs are precious to me. I just want a normal life where I can enjoy the beauty of my culture and pass it on to my children.” Inshallah. Blog written by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb