A mourning-evening in ghost-town Jaffa

Gepostet von am Apr 15, 2013


What was there more to say, than to say nothing? 

It was a stunning applause that filled the Tel Aviv hall when the Palestinian-Israeli artist Mira Awad announced that dozens of Palestinians were granted entry permits at last minute, were allowed to attend the alternative memorial day in Tel Aviv. Organized by the group Combatants for Peace for the 8th time, this years estimated 2400 visitors topped previous events considerably. But is was not the neatly organized and scheduled memorial event that stunned me most this Sunday evening, when Israelis elsewhere commemorated their own victims, leaving some 20 percent of the Israeli population – who tend to relate closer to Palestinian narratives of vtictimhood – with a weird feeling of uneasyness during a national holiday that once again does not include them.

What stunned me was the aftermath of the event. Some of the attending Palestinians came from towns in the West Bank, like Tulkarem and Nablus. It would not have been nice to let them go home before they could at least touch ground in Jaffa, in the historic epicentre of Palestinian cultural life in pre-Israel Palestine. We drove in cars from the Convention Center through the deserted streets of Tel Aviv, which were totally emptied of cars as the whole city seemed to have been fallen into a quiet state of painful equilibrium – bouncing in the hammock of collective memory between present, past and future. The eyes of the two elderly men from Nablus who where in the same car as me on the way to Jaffa seemed reluctant to glance at the passing landscape, until the Palestinian Israeli woman who drove the car said to them: this is Sheikh Munis over there. Slow nodding followed by the elderly Palestinian men. But today, she said, it’s University of Tel Aviv. Silence.

It could not have been a less appropriate day to look for food or tea in Jaffa. It was 12 at night and it seemed that also Palestinian life came to a standstill on this Yom HaZikaron – the Israeli memorial day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. Imagine a crowd of some 40 Palestinians arriving hungry to Jaffa, the old glorious city of Palestinian pride, only to find it completely closed because of an Israeli national memorial day that does not even aim to include their own mourning, their own painful memories of lost family members and friends. While it is not the point here to deny Israelis their right to mourn, it is disturbing that simultaneously Palestinians are denied their offocial right to do so.

Once we arrived at the seashor of Jaffa, one of the elderly men walked silently away from the crowd, smoked his cigarette and seemed to contemplate the difficut junction of place, memory and present he found himself in at this moment. I wanted to ask him, how it feels to be here, whether he is sad, and had he known Jaffa before it got transformed by Israeli bars and restaurants and an over-polished artist colony that inhabits the old property of expelled families. But I did not dare to ask, to approach him; I felt like I knew the answer. And after a night of story telling, grieving and remembering the losses of the past, on this late night evening in Jaffa, without a trace of tea and food, without life and noise, what was there more to say, than to say nothing?

It was for those few Palestinians present who had never seen the sea before in their whole life, that all these complicated thoughts might have not mattered at all. The mediterranean sea, the distant hope of Palestinian childhoods otherwise confined to narrow occupied space in the West Bank, was fulfilling enough for them it seemed. But only the previous wish for shared mourning of both Israelis and Palestinians made this meeting possible, made understanding possible, and opened windows to experiences that woould have remained in the black box of nationalist self-sustaining rehtorics without these efforts.

I had to think, once again, about what Mira Awad told me in an interview before the memorial day. „I am me, I am what I am. Everybody should be what they are. Without the hatred.“

But at last, it is not only hatred, for that hatred is easy to spot and to criticize. It is ingorance that invades the souls of people unnoticed, unspotted by themselves and others. 

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