When I worked in Stroud Brewery, I am sure my friends and family had an image of me sat in a deckchair supping a pint, only occasionally giving something a quick stir before returning my attention to the pint in hand. Of course, the reality of brewing is very different to that. It is repetitive and physically hard work – you don’t start brewing for the fame or for the money.
Equally then, I wonder what friends, family and readers of this blog imagine when they picture me in Israel/Palestine with EAPPI. I am sure some picture me running around the countryside in a cape and leggings trying to right (write?) the wrongs of the world – “look, its human rights boy”.
Sadly I don’t own any leggings.
I thought now, with just a few weeks left before I (momentarily?) return to old blighty, it would be as good a time as ever to set the record straight. The reality of what I am doing here mainly involves me sweating on plastic chairs with very little else happening around me.
When this happens though, it is a good day. Today is a good day. A day when nothing really happens. My phone hasn’t beeped telling me there has been a demolition. One of our local contacts hasn’t called to say the army has raided his village. We haven’t received messages about violence, burning and looting. Today has been a day which has mainly involved sorting photo albums on my computer whilst I sit sweating on my plastic chairs.
This sort of activity, the paper work, the filing and the organising of stuff takes up most of my time but has so far not, until now, made it into an article. Why?
There are very good reasons why I don’t normally write about me sweating on plastic chairs while nothing happens around me. These include:
- It’s a disgusting image that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy
- The UN doesn’t consider it a human rights violation (yet)
- It happens a lot, which means by definition, it is not newsworthy
I thought it important however, to try and reflect the reality of day to day life here.
I pass the time on my plastic chair doing ‘stuff’ on my computer. Equally, most of the time, most people, are just trying to get on with their lives, with their own ‘stuff’. In the fields below me farmers are bringing in their wheat harvest. Two women a couple of houses down are wrapping cheese. On the hillside opposite a Sheppard is sat on a rock looking over his sheep. In Ramallah and other big cities people will be making their ways back to their families after a day at work, probably stuck in traffic with their fist pressed permanently to the horn.
All the time though the military occupation here casts its shadows onto the corners of these activities. Just as the illegal settlements sit in the corner of my eye on the hilltops opposite, so the occupation lurks close to people’s day to day life. For example, most people here are mourning the loss of friends, family or loved ones. Almost everybody is mourning the loss of freedoms, of income, or of opportunities in one way or another.
When land gets burnt, or a man gets shot it is easy to report. I can tell you what I saw happen. How do I tell you about the thoughts and feelings that I speculate may be going through other’s minds though? My evidence is simply the distant stares and glazed looks, of half smiles and looks of loss.
This isn’t news to anyone but it is what defines life here. It is what I find myself thinking about as I stick to my plastic chair as nothing really happens.
2 responses to “The reality of living in the occupied Palestinian Territory”
Great article, especially the last two paragraphs – you very effectively convey the difficulty of trying to describe an “uneasy normality”. You’re right, the mundane isn’t newsworthy; and yet the very fact that it is a contrast to the more graphic events which you have documented demonstrates that it is worthy of note. Great observations and great writing. A fair bit of me doesn’t want you to come home as I will have to go back to reading Pistonheads.
P.S. That is exactly the image I had of you working at Stroud Brewery.
This is a really good article Steve. It’s so important to get across the mundane reality as well as the more shocking episodes. Thanks for sharing.