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September 20, 2016

I waited in the parking lot, inside Kalandia roadblock, on the road to Ramallah. I had gotten lost in Aram, also beyond the barrier wall, in heavy Palestinian traffic, and I was a bit nervous, wondered how I had gotten myself into this position. In Aram, with the help of a young Palestinian that my intuition selected from the folks by the road, I found Kalandia. As I sped off, he shouted, “Hey this is the territories, man!” seeming worried about me. Through the fear, however, here and there I was able to clear away the conflict-dominated way I was seeing this scene, and for a moment they were just some tired laborers at the end of a long hot day. Hurting the likes of me was the last thing on their mind. As I got to the parking lot beside the 10 meter watchtower, I relaxed some, but Said was not there yet, and I locked the car doors. I was waiting for the permits he had finally obtained from the army offices. He will distribute the Ramallah and Jenin ones, but I needed the Bethlehem and Hebron permits so I could ferry them over to the folks there. Said arrived, looking weary, not jubilant after our two-day struggle to get his permit arranged. The occupation grinds us down.

Such a drag there in the smelly parking lot. It’s the occupation. Otherwise, I could have just come straight to Ramallah instead of driving triple the distance in order to come in from the Palestine side of the roadblock. Yet were it not for the occupation, Said wouldn’t have had to go to get permits at all. If it were not for the occupation, these streets wouldn’t be so filthy, trumpeting the hopelessness of the folks surviving here. Were it not for the occupation, I wouldn’t have spent two days begging dead-voiced 19 year old soldiers at the permit office, when I could get them on the phone, to let my people go. My people. The ones who will be at the Sulha gathering tomorrow night.

Tomorrow at the Tribal Fire, we will gather to confront the horror of nine knifing attacks in five days, most of the “neutralized” young terrorists now dead. Making our way through this forest, together finding the fallen, decayed tree-trunks that still bridge the chasm of violence. Before supper, we will learn together about each other’s September holidays, we’ll drink inspiration from the stream of our traditions. Islam and Judaism in their essential human-loving truth, wetting our parched lips.

In quiet circles, we’ll talk, translating Hebrew, Arabic, and English, so we all understand. We’ll sit close on the mats, the bubbling human stew noisy and even laced with laughter. There will be some tears, as people pass the speaking stick, not interrupting each other, even here in the heart of the intrusive middle east, listening.

We’ll rekindle the embers of our hearts’ longing, finding in each others’ faces the determination, born in the ashes of loss, that keeps us going.

Yoav Peck


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