If it were sixty-eight years ago this is what the border would look like between Lebanon and Palestine (at Naqouba). I could hop in a service and arrive in Nablus in about four or five hours I would imagine. Perhaps less. Instead I had to take a service from Beirut, through Damascus, and then to Amman. And then there will be yet another one to the bridge, to Al Quds, then Ramallah, then Nablus. It is so infuriating the ways in which colonialism separates people and I always think about this the most when I am traveling. Especially, when none of my Palestinian friends in Lebanon or Lebanese friends can make this journey at all. Especially when I as a foreigner can make this journey in spite of all the extra mileage I must cover to get to my destination and even still those whose home town I am going to cannot even visit let alone live there. It infuriates me that people I love in Palestine and in Lebanon cannot meet each other, cannot know each other except via the Internet.
I actually thought that my journey would be relatively uneventful. But in fact that was not to be the case. I left Beirut around 8:30 in the morning and we arrived relatively quickly to the Syrian border. When I handed the border guards my passport I discovered that my Syrian visa expired the day before. Thus, I had to wait for a few hours while they applied for my permission to enter via fax. I know why they do this and frankly the way Americans treat Arabs and Muslims at its borders pales in comparison to me having to wait in an air-conditioned arrival terminal for a few hours. But my service to Amman had to leave and so I was stuck without a ride. Fortunately, there was a Lebanese family from Taybe in South Lebanon in somewhat of a similar predicament. Some of them had American passports and so they also had to wait for faxes. It was a really fun group of people–grandmothers, parents, aunts and uncles, small children. They were enjoying their little lay over by cracking jokes, singing songs, imagining that we were in the fabulous Syrian film الحدود and it made the time go by so much faster. Because our faxes came in together they invited me to ride with them to Damascus as they had a minivan. One of the uncles in the family, who was very cute, though I think quite young, heard me complaining about my passport, wishing that I didn’t have an American passport and he offered to marry me. When he handed my passport back to me he saw my age and couldn’t believe that I am 39 years old; but he said “don’t worry, you will have plenty of time for us to produce enough children.” After that every question–“do you know how to dabke”–was answered with, “don’t worry, when we are married I will have lots of time to teach you. They drove me to the service station in Damascus, though they asked me to stay and hang out with them for the day. If I had the time I would have as this was a most delightful family. I wish they had come with me to Amman so I didn’t have to share a backseat with really loud, obnoxious, rude foreigners from England and Canada (Note to self: never again take a long service ride with الأجانب!)
But it was good that I left as when I arrived in Amman–some 12 hours later–I went directly to my friend’s home where I got to spend time with her extended family–her kids, her husband, her teita, her sister and her husband. She made me my favorite dinner–maqlouba–and for dessert kalaj from Irbid. One of my friend’s uncles who was there was telling me about life in Irbid and I heard a most horrifying thing, which I suppose is not unexpected, but shocking nevertheless: Israelis have been coming to Jordan to buy up property (Note to Syria: this is what normalization brings you). This is one reason why I like Lebanon and Syria so much more because you don’t have to see or hear about Israelis in the country. Apparently, these Israelis are finding very poor Palestinians and Jordanians who are given large sums of cash in exchange for their work in buying up property, which is put in the Jordanian or Palestinian’s name, which in turn is handed over to the Israeli property or land buyer through a contract. It instantly reminded me of the Sursuq family (and others) who sold land to Jewish colonists before the Zionists completely confiscated Palestine. And given that Zionists have always held as their mantra “from the Nile to the Euphrates” and given that there are Mossad agents and Israeli businessmen all over Kurdistan in northern Iraq it is particularly horrifying to imagine that there could be some such process in play where they are sneakily, and at times obviously, continuing their process of colonialism through various means.
Perhaps the antidote to all of this, at least in the short term for me, is my friend’s 7 year old son who is endlessly delightful. I’ve watched him over the past three years come into understanding that he is Palestinian and what that means to him. I remember when I was at their house a couple of years ago and I had relayed stories about some horrible things I had seen the Israeli Aggressive Forces (IAF) doing; I hadn’t known he was listening to our conversation and he became very worried that the IAF would come to Jordan and kill young Palestinians here, too. He’s still worried about that, asks about that even now. But I noticed this time his collection of toys has expanded from dinosaurs to various toy weapons. He was asking me questions about what Israelis do, how they behave–“do they say ‘hi’?”–it was so hard for him to imagine that there would be such a people who are not polite, who do not “say hi.” After our conversation he went back into the living room and began his own little intifada game. I think when I left the house he had killed at least a few hundred imaginary Israelis. Somehow this gives me hope.