Somehow, I slept through the entire two-hour taxi ride back to Nablus. I think some part of me figured it was better to be unconscious rather than freak out every time the driver almost hit an oncoming car, or took a sharp curve at 120 kph. I get that the police have bigger things to worry about than traffic violations, but seriously, it’s worse than LA over here.
Then again, I was grateful for the haste. Giulia had received a text from Nidal a few hours ago telling us that we needed to make it back to Nablus before dark. The city was shutting down, and the IDF would be manning the checkpoints. We weren’t given a reason, but we did know that soldiers had burst into classrooms earlier that day to arrest children, some of which may have been our students. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence here.
That’s the eerie thing about living in Palestine: the occupation seeps into every aspect of everyday life so that it becomes perfectly unavoidable in the minds of the occupied. Had I only come to Palestine for a short visit, I might have missed all but the most blatant symptoms of occupation, and mistaken the day-to-day business of Nablus as an indicator of a healthy society that just happens to be under foreign political control. Now, after a month in Palestine, I find that I am constantly thinking about “politics” for one reason or another:
Should I go outside on Friday, or will there be protests?
Can I buy this product, or was it made in Israel and therefore detracting from the local economy?
Is it okay to travel to Ramallah today, or has the army blockaded the roads?
Can I mention my Arabic teacher’s name online, or is there a chance I’ll get him in trouble by associating him with this blog, because of his politically active past?
Why didn’t Mohammed come to class today? Does it have anything to do with the soldiers who were here last night?
If I’m feeling the pressures of the occupation as a foreigner, then the locals are being absolutely crushed by it. Ahmad, our neighbor, recently graduated university with a degree in IT, but he can’t find a job that pays more than minimum wage. Most people leave the country for 10, 20, or even 30 years to work, before finally returning to their families. One in four Palestinian citizens have been arrested by the Israeli government, making Palestinians “the most imprisoned people in the world.” I found out yesterday that one of our translators, who grew up in Nablus, applied and was accepted to Harvard for computer engineering. But apparently Israel is more selective with their visas than Harvard is with its applicant pool, because when he applied for permission to leave the country, he received an unexplained rejection letter. No wonder the youth are so politically active, and no wonder the Palestinian people as a whole are so relentless in their protest against Israeli control: they never have the chance to forget about it. In America, being politically informed is a choice (sadly, one that too many people choose to ignore). In Palestine, you couldn’t avoid politics even if you wanted to. The occupation is ubiquitous, and to avoid it would mean escaping the country itself.