Editor's note: Deema Dabis has moved to Bethlehem and is now a resident of the occupied West Bank.
“Asks the Possible of the Impossible, ‘Where is your dwelling-place?’ ‘In the dreams of the Impotent,’ comes the answer.” -- Rabindranth Tagore
On the eve of the six-year anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie, I am reminded of the importance of re-membering! Rachel Corrie stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer in a civil disobedience attempt to prevent yet another demolition of a Palesitnian home in Gaza. She was wearing a bright orange vest, and she had blond hair and blue eyes.
She was confident that the driver of the bulldozer would stop. To the horror of all eyewitnesses, the soldier drove forward and crushed her with his CAT bulldozer, reversed and then drove over her again.
This past Friday, Tristan Anderson, an American, was hit in the head with a canister of tear gas and is in critical condition. He was part of a peaceful demonstration in the West Bank village of Ni’lin to protest the construction of the Separation Wall that will break up the village and take away land from the Palestinian population that lives there.
"It is such a normal thing here, to have family members in prison or dead, or to have been shot or beaten."
Being here in the West Bank, trauma speaks to you in so many ways and is most visible in the body language of the people you see. Oftentimes it is as obvious as missing limbs or crippled bodies, at other times in haunted and sunken eyes and hunched shoulders.
As a Palestinian American who has been mostly disconnected from this land, I often find myself wanting to discuss what is happening with the locals. I am met with various responses. For some it is a desire to not want to talk politics, because the political has been way too intimate and personal for comfort. Others will tell you their traumas as if you are engaged in small talk.
It is such a normal thing here, to have family members in prison or dead, or to have been shot or beaten.
Currently in East Jerusalem 1,700 homes, including a school, are slated to be demolished under Israeli orders. If the plan is executed, 17,000 Palestinians will be homeless. Refugees become refugees again and again.
The supposed reason for the demolition is that the properties do not have the proper Israeli permits to be there, yet many of these houses have been there since before such a thing as an Israeli permit existed. Home demolitions have been a trademark of the Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land. In the place of some of these demolished homes and buildings are plans to build a park.
Recently I have been contemplating the refugees of Palestine a lot, both within the state of Israel, in the Occupied Territories and all over the world. The number is currently around 6 million.
"As a Palestinian American who has been mostly disconnected from this land, I often find myself wanting to discuss what is happening with the locals."
Their stories haunt me. My father, for instance, was studying in Egypt when Israel took over the West Bank, and he automatically took on refugee status simply because he was not physically in the country. Overnight he became homeless, stateless, no country, no place of origin to return to.
I can only imagine how traumatizing that must have been for him! Now, to re-enter his ancestral homeland, he must endure being questioned and interrogated by Israeli airport and border police.
A week ago I came into the country through the Israeli airport, and the second the woman at customs looked at my passport (without even asking me anything) she gave my passport to a security official, and I was taken away to a “special” room. I was questioned for two hours as to why I was in the country, what would I do, where would I stay, and my bags were scanned separate from everyone else’s.
In addition to all of this, it turns out that my entire family is in their database, pictures and everything! I saw pictures of my grandfather and pictures of my uncle. In fact, they seemed to know more about my family than I did. One of the airport security asked me my grandmother’s name -- I was very young when she died, and accidentally told him the wrong name. He kindly corrected me. I found it strange that my whole family would be in their records like that, as no one in my family has ever hurt a Jewish person.
"This past Friday, Tristan Anderson, an American, was hit in the head with a canister of tear gas and is in critical condition."
Growing up I always felt as if I did not belong anywhere, as if I did not fit in. I can look back on that now and see that some of its roots come from being the daughter of a refugee. And in the midst of all of this, I am contemplating two things: What is home, and why do traumas continue to haunt and repeat themselves?
It still baffles me to think that the Jewish people once suffered such horrors, and yet some people from this lineage carry out and support the displacement, murder and traumatizing of another group of people. It reminds me of the importance of acknowledging the displaced and mutilated parts of myself.
I am learning how to sit with all these traumas, how to love their disfigured faces, how to hold and nurture them unabashedly without fear.
Deema Dabis can be reached at .
For more information
- Rachel Corrie
- Tristan Anderson