The Ramallah Municipality is fixing my street, so every morning as I head to work, I run into a number of construction workers who’ve been digging up the road since the break of dawn.
Yesterday was one of those days when you could clearly see the horizon, the sky was a desert-y blue and the sun hadn’t yet come up entirely. As I gazed in a semi romantic manner I heard one of the construction workers say, “Look, from here you can see Tel Aviv’s sea, Israel’s sea.”
“Look, from here you can see Tel Aviv’s sea, Israel’s sea.”
I’ve never thought of the Mediterranean as Israel’s sea, but as mine. Not just as a Palestinian, but simply as my personal sea. I was offended when I heard that man, how could he say that? Isn’t it enough that we’re occupied?
It’s hard for me to imagine our culture without a sea. The idea of a body of water surging through a wounded land is not only poetic, but also healing. Nobody owns water; it slides between the tracks and is wide enough to be for us all, or for none at all. Despite any country’s best security efforts, people still manage to flee through the sea. What would we do without the sea?
It’s hard for me to imagine our culture without a sea.
My grandmother used to tell me the story of my grandfather selling oranges by the sea in Yaffa. I still imagine him walking along the beach pushing a cart with oranges so bright and clean. He would gaze at the sea while wiping each orange to make it sparkle in the morning sun. He would walk along the rocks while water splashed against his torn sandals. What would my grandfather be without his oranges and the sea?
A few years ago, I got on a bus to go from DC to New York City. Needless to say, the idea of traveling between two cities without having to pass a checkpoint was mind blowing, but what I remember the most was how I gasped like a little child when my bus drove near a river. We were driving by water!
What would my grandfather be without his oranges and the sea?
When I think of the future, I wonder if I’m ever going to live near a sea or an ocean. It strikes me that it’s easier for me to move to California than it is to Yaffa. I imagine porches and iced tea as waves draw near, then shy away. I think of the sounds and the smell of salt. I feel little wounds on my knee stinging, then magically shrinking.
In my government’s quest for a state, how much water are we going to have to give up, and what will we have to stop considering our own? I wonder.
Photo by ST McNeil.