I’ve reached my final destination – Bethlehem. Where baby Jesus was born as well as my father who took a direct flight from Jerusalem in 1960 something and never came back. I know why he didn’t return. Not only is life very difficult for a Palestinian, restricted in movement between regions inside and outside the country without any proper form of travel documentation, but the Arab natives as opposed to Jewish settlers, especially around the municipality of Hebron where we’re originally from are extremely backwards in their outlook with complete disregard for their neighbours. I took my morning jogs and was constantly harassed by the idle men of the villages, their scruffy faces and smug smiles of seeing someone run for exercise. I partly blame them for the state of the environment with its litter and yards of scrap. I am privileged – I am not living under Ihtilal or Occupation. Maybe if I were living under these conditions, I would be just like them, deprived of the freedom of education and social mobility – condemned to a state of squalor. I felt the palpable fear of an Israeli settler reprisal or an overly aggressive checkpoint – this paranoia crystallized by the media. Vicious acts of kidnapping Palestinians and burning or burying them alive together with the retaliation of Palestinians on Israelis with knifes or drive-through collisions in busy areas were all too fresh in our minds thanks to the repetition of mainstream media channels.
I am originally from the highest point in this region at a height of 1030m above sea level on the hills of Hebron; the region is endowed with a stunning natural landscape of hills and vegetation. Parts of this land designated as Area C – which means ‘no man’s land’ effectively, neither under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian authorities with their small firearms from the 1970’s nor fully under the remit of the Israeli State. It looks like a failed state exacerbated by the neglect from both authorities, no proper roads, infrastructure cobbled together, ramshackle houses surrounded by the often incomplete construction of luxury villas made with the remittances of wealthy Palestinians who managed to travel abroad or find a way to trade the goods of the stone quarries or do business with China. Even the ones with money do not make an attempt to transcend the divide of the occupiers and let their hate of the Jew fester while they indulge in the awkward and aggressively conservative fancies of their own households.
Still, the State of Palestine is one of the biggest scandals of modern history. It is a real life example of Colonialism at work. Israeli media, literature and Evangelical sympathizers as well as the Western World use the same old re-packaged arguments as a ‘Case for Israel’ including improvements in infrastructure, healthcare and frequently cite ancient scripture to justify the militancy to protect Jewish interests. It is not an inclusive society, citizens of this country are not treated the same under the law with every area and race affording different shades of entitlement. Even the Jews themselves are suffering a rift in dominations – Hassidim Orthodox, Jews from Africa and white Ashkenazi or Russian all have their prejudices within the high walls of the Israeli State. I paint a depressive picture of the Holy Land and many ways it is, especially those on the wrong side of the Wall.
I use both names, both Israel and Palestine because the existence of Israel is a political and tangible reality today in the same manner we don’t refer to Zimbabwe as Rhodesia or Istanbul as Constantinople. It is the fate of the conquered and a reality we should learn to accept if we want to make progress for peace. It is difficult for me to judge because I don’t live here permanently, but I am originally from here and I’ve been here enough to know, in areas where the tourist doesn’t tread – cohabited with both Jews and Arabs. I’ve suffered harassment by Israeli border police and have been irked by fellow Palestinians. And I could tell you after all my troubles of crossing borders, that this region is one of the most fascinating countries in the world, it’s scenery, its maniacal attitude, hippies and die-hards. Come see it for yourself and live what’s left of Palestine and experience the multicultural dynamic of the State of Israel. This journey took me from Beirut to Bethlehem via Ukraine, Malta, Turkey and many others for different reasons. I made it in the end – I receive no sponsorship for my travels apart from my work that rotate me from project to project allowing me to travel. I have been working on my fiction in parallel to many other projects of mine and in due course I will be focusing all my spare time on fiction writing ‘Kashichev is King’ with no guarantee of any success. I may have to go to ‘work’ in the meantime – writing is the only long-term plan. It’s a lonely and an unforgiving career and I don’t care if I’ve offended anyone – because if I didn’t I wouldn’t get anything done. Anyway, nobody likes to read anymore, we prefer pictures and videos – so I doubt I have a great audience or ever will. In the end, I do it all for myself.