AL BIREH, Ramallah – Here are my eyes wandering in a country with wonderful clean streets, where there are no signs of burned tires or broken stones! The sky is pure without the impact of smoke bombs or rocket shells. No barriers, separation walls, or checkpoints. Markets, roads, parks, schools, workplaces are filled up with people. I no longer see the fear reflected on the faces of people or the anxiety in their eyes...
I shut my eyes, time carries me to a past that I do not want to recall: the sound of shelling and screams. Suffering from poor economic conditions; the political situation is worse still—the scenes of murder, mayhem, destruction, the stinking smell of bombs and blood, and the taste of oppression, bitterness, and anguish.
I quickly open my eyes to push back the past, which is it still pursuing me. I am tired of hearing cannons and screams. I want to feel something new and beautiful other than pain and suffering. I do not want such alien smells to enter my body. I no longer want to taste oppression, bitterness, and anguish.
I am still impacted by this surprise. Is this Palestine? I want to scream: Is this Palestine? But my voice can not get out... I feel a strong voice in my body...
I shake and return to the present, which I do not want to lose. My eyes want to reach the farthest point to explore the progress of the new world. My feet begin walking, eager to discover it. I feel a strange thing—a mix of joy and longing...
I see families together in front of their homes, which seem to be built anew; they share conversations, laugh, laugh from the depths, but this giggle is tainted with a touch of melancholy. I share with them the moment, and laugh. But I am forced to follow my feet and move despite the fact that I wish to share the occasion with them.
Why is it that I no longer see vendors sitting in front of their shops counting the people who pass by? Their minds got tired of simply counting, of leaving the people out on the roads. They work, their goods are unloaded. They no sooner put them on shelves than they get purchased. But their longing for work is tainted with a touch of sadness. I want to enter and work with them, but I continue my walk.
My body, stop: I want to reflect on the children playing, jumping, laughing, but there is still sadness there. I want to participate with them.
I continue walking and I see more and more employees and workers returning to their homes. I am astonished by the activity in their bodies, no signs of fatigue—however I still see the signs of sadness on their faces. I want to share in their feeling and activity.
I continue to walk until the sunlight fades away and my feet lose the ability to continue their trip. I sit on one of the benches, thinking about this new life. I stay here for many long days, feeling this new world and the sadness which still occupies part of it. I want to remove this grief.
I have eliminated it and removed its traces; I feel I am a new person with a new heart, a new sense; I wiped the past off my life, expelled the grief and anxieties from my days...
I have resolved to live the moment. The question in my mind is: Is this Palestine? Has the occupation ended? Is it real? Have the two peoples agreed to no longer be at war?
* Zeinab Mohammed Abdel Salam M’ali is a 10th grade student at Deir Jareer Secondary Girls School, in Ramallah/Al-Bireh. This article was written for the "Imagine 2018" essay competition (www.imagine2018.org), and is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) in collaboration with One Voice (www.onevoicemovement.org). It can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.
Source: One Voice "Imagine 2018" essay competition and Common Ground News, 28 August 2008, www.commongorundnews.org.
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