Saturday, May 24, 2008

The difference between night and day

This is the first of (hopefully) several posts from Palestine during May and June, 2008.

Daytime in Nablus hides its nightly war games fairly well. Markets bustle, children play, horns honk, trucks belch. The signs of conflict are easy enough to spot—buildings destroyed or damaged (by Israeli shelling, bulldozers and tanks), ubiquitous martyr posters, stone shrines to the fallen—but people here, like other peoples in crisis, have an uncanny capacity to project a sense of normalcy. Maybe they do it for the kids. Maybe for their own sanity.

This evening, our walk in the Old City spanned that perfect time of day when the waning sun paints the world in amber hues. Everything, even rubble and garbage, takes on an exquisite glow. In that light we threaded through Ottoman alleyways, toured an aging soap factory, greeted friends in the street and stopped for kanafeh at a small shop. Children giggled “how are you?” or wanted their picture taken. For a brief, sun-drenched moment all was right with the world.

But, of course, it isn’t. Earlier today I sat on the small balcony of our 2nd floor apartment. Just minutes from the Old City, it’s a flat for Project Hope volunteers like us. From our lookout I watched the city’s white stone buildings cascade down the valley and climb the other side—the southern slope of Mount Ebal, one of the highest peaks in Palestine/Israel (3,084 feet). Clearly visible at Ebal’s summit is the silhouette of an Israeli military outpost—reportedly the largest in the West Bank. Military incursions into the city are a nightly routine; last night’s action apparently included an assault on a restaurant with percussion grenades and bullets. Don’t know what the troops were after. Tracking a “fighter,” perhaps, or delivering payback. A restaurant burned to the ground. Here in our apartment we heard nothing. Saw nothing. Felt no threat. My only source is a somewhat confusing report from the Maan News Agency. Whatever happened, you can bet it won’t get picked up by the NYT or BBC. But that too is part of normal over here. “The trouble with normal” is, as Bruce Cockburn says, that “it always gets worse.”

1 comment:

donnjohnson said...

Thanks for the link Bruce. I will follow your observations with eagerness.