What do you call homesickness when you miss a place that is not your home? Being away from the U.S. has never been difficult for me. I never miss it and frankly would be happy never to return, except that there are many people I love who live there. But it is difficult for me to explain, and even more difficult for people to understand, I imagine, the deep feeling of pain that I experience when I’m not in Phalasteen. It feels like what I imagine homesickness might feel like, except it’s not my home. Of course, like the U.S., there are many people there whom I love and miss when I’m not there. But it’s more than that. It’s the feeling like so much is happening every day and that I’m only an hour away (sans checkpoints and borders) and I can’t do anything about it. Not that I can single-handedly change anything if I’m there either, but at least I know that I’m there supporting people, standing with them in solidarity. People here, Palestinian or otherwise, live their lives and can’t or don’t want to think about al alwda (right of return) or they go back and visit family and friends and then return to their life here. But given that this is a big city it’s easy to get lost in work, life, family just as one would in any big city. It makes me really sad. I don’t expect everyone to run their lives based on what is happening to people in Palestine, but I honestly have difficulty not thinking about it from moment to moment.
And there are so many reminders every day. Today some of my cohorts from ISM were on Democracy Now! talking about the occupation of Palestine. Then I watched a brief film clip of an ISM demonstration that I couldn’t attend, but I did go to the court hearing for the three women who were arrested. And then there are those news stories that both break my heart and make me angry beyond belief when I hear things like a solider is acquitted after shooting a thirteen-year-old Palestinian girl 30 times. Or hearing about a new film playing in Europe and the U.S. that actually represents a Palestinian family and humanizes them. It’s called Private, but I don’t know much more about it.
But all of these things that I am deeply concerned about slip away from reality when I see what Jordan is becoming. At first there were guards and metal detectors only in hotels, government buildings, malls, banks and places like that. Now you find this in regular restaurants as well as the French Cultural Center, where I take my Arabic classes. Not metal detectors everywhere, but certainly guards who look through all of your bags and things. Of course, it is not as ominous as it is in the U.S. and Israel where they target specific groups of people based on their ethnicity and/or religion. But I wonder whether that will happen here. Many people can tell who an Iraqi is by the accent. I’ve already heard one friend say to me that she hates Iraqis and she wants them all to leave or die. The pattern that is so familiar to me in the U.S.–of government policy creating an environment where racism and hatred flourish–and I don’t want to see it here. It is utterly depressing.