“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it.” -- Mark Twain
When I arrived at the border into Israel the first thing I noticed was how young the border police looked. They looked exactly like the people I had gone to school with at Indiana University. Same angst, the same look of "I’d rather be drinking," even down to the clothing and hair styles. Second, most of them were women.
It was strange. I immediately felt a sort of kinship and fear because of some of the horror stories I have heard about Palestinians being interrogated and made to feel like terrorists. So I kept breathing and envisioning an easy passage into Israel and then the West Bank.
I walked up to the first woman and gave her my passport. She looked at it and asked me where I am from. I told her my mother is from Jordan and my father was born in Israel (I decided not to say Palestine because this seems to make some Israelis mad, and I wanted to make my passage as simple as possible). She asked me where my father is from and I told her Zababda (a small town in the West Bank).
"It has been a dream and a vision of mine to bring fire dancing to my ancestral homeland."
From there I was immediately tagged, my very existence as a Palestinian was a potential security threat to the state of Israel. My luggage was scanned and all taken away from me, and I was politely asked to sit on a nearby bench.
From there a woman came to ask me questions. It was the friendliest interrogation I’ve ever experienced. Where are you from? What are you doing here? Will you go to the West Bank? Who do you know here? What are their numbers? Where is your mother from? What is your grandfather's name? What do you do in Los Angeles?
I answered all of her questions, and it was as if we were two random strangers meeting each other for the first time.
Also, I was instructed not to tell them I was going to the West Bank (more interrogation), so I told them I would be staying with my Jewish Israeli roommate in Tel Aviv. They asked me for her number and address, gave me back my luggage and sent me to passport check. Later I found out they actually called her to make sure I wasn’t lying.
From there a woman took my passport and asked me the same questions. This woman looked a bit younger than the first. She kept fidgeting with her feet and hands. After going through all the same questions, she asked me to sit down. So I did.
"My very existence as a Palestinian was a potential security threat to the state of Israel."
As I sat there, all sorts of internationals passed me by. There were people from all over the world, Arabs of other nationalities, Israelis, Americans, British, Portuguese, all coming to visit this place. I seemed to be the only Palestinian.
The reason I know this is because if you’re a Palestinian who was born in the West Bank, you can only pass through one border crossing from Jordan. I have an American passport and was born in the United States, so I can go through any crossing I want. But being that my ancestors are from this land, I had to be thoroughly checked as a “security measure.”
They held me for four hours. The funny thing is, people had kept telling me to perhaps rethink taking in my fire equipment because it might be perceived as a weapon. I didn’t have a single problem with it. But my ancestral background seemed to be enough fire to hold me for four hours.
While I sat there I had a lot of time to think. There was something strangely familial about the relationship I had with those women at the border. When I asked them for water they took care of me like a relative would. They even asked me if I was hungry.
One girl kept looking at me curiously and smiling when I would catch her glance. It was as if the Israelis and the Palestinians are relatives having a horrible quarrel with each other but still love each other like family does despite the terror and the bloodshed.
Furthermore, what I experienced was an inconvenience, and I must say it doesn’t feel good to be viewed as a potential “security threat” simply for being of a certain race, but this is miniscule in comparison to stories I have heard.
So I made my way into the country and met my sister in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is a big city, a strange mix of the Middle East meets New York meets Los Angeles. I was only there briefly, so I don’t really have any other observations about it. My sister and I made our way to Jerusalem and spoke of this strange family squabble. And then we were in Jerusalem.
"Being that my ancestors are from this land, I had to be thoroughly checked as a 'security measure.'"
Jerusalem is a whole other universe. Completely different from Tel Aviv. The streets are old and uneven. The roads are windy and narrow. The tint is yellow and black. And the vibe is tense and pious. It is hilly and beautiful and mystical.
The next day I made my way to Beit Sahour, a small village next to Bethlehem. Beit Sahour means the Shepards Field. I met the circus at our residence for the coming two weeks at a beautiful farm called Bustan Qaraqa (BQ), which means the Tortoise Garden. BQ is led by a group of internationals working to create a permaculture farm and is built upon the site of a Palace built by King Herod over 2,000 years ago.
One of the main goals is to create an ecologically self-sustaining community with the hope of helping the Palestinian people become less reliant on Israel for water, food and power, as well as more environmentally friendly.
One day we were given a tour of the farm and a nearby placed called Ush Ghrab (you can Google it on YouTube if you like). This is an abandoned military base (first Jordanian, then Israeli). Now some Jewish settlers want to build a Jewish-only colony here and often come on Jewish holidays to hold celebrations and talk about potential development.
"There was something strangely familial about the relationship I had with those women at the border."
What this means for the Palestinians is that land they want to use to build a hospital will be taken away and made inaccessible to them. It chops into their farmland, creates more tension and separation between the people. There was a large amount of graffitti on the walls, and I took many pictures of it and will post them when I have a chance.
The graffitti was done by Israeli Jews and local Palestinians and had mixed messages on them. A lot of it was in Hebrew and Arabic, so I couldn’t understand it, but some of it was in English or in universal symbols. Examples of what was said include: “All Arabs to the gas chambers,” “Hugs are free, “No peace just Israel” and “Coexistence.”
We have spent the past couple of days touring the area and preparing skits for our coming shows. We plan to stir up such magic as turning bullets into bubbles; breaking down barriers, checkpoints and walls; and helping everyone understand that we are the light we want to see in the world.
It has been a dream and a vision of mine to bring fire dancing to my ancestral homeland. I once read that the poi symbolizes a woman’s volatile emotions. And that when she can learn to master the instrument, then she can have mastery over herself. I hope to bring this to the community here as much as possible.
I continue to contemplate what it means to be at peace from the inside out. It baffles me what I see here. A place where three religions originated, a place where such peace was spoken of, a place where blood has been shed for centuries. There seem to be very important lessons to learn here. So I shall continue to remain open, loving and aware.
Deema Dabis can be reached at . Visit her Web blog or the Olive Tree Circus Web page.