what is it like, looking at photos of people you vaguely remember? trying to find young faces in their visages.
there is so much here and I know not what to write.
I go to Jerusalem and I couchsurf at S's house and I meet her groups of friends. I talk. I meet her friend Y, who is firmly warm and studies literature and spent a little while in israeli prisons because he didn't want to go to the military. we talk.
I sleep on her balcony, one of the most comfortable nights I've had in a while, and I wake up to the sun in my eyes. shimshon (samson) the cat rubs his face against my hand, and again it hits me how physically hard animals can be, how solid their existence are, how rooted in the fleshy and bodily they are. they are beings, beings.
while petting shimshon I talk with S in a strangely low whisper about this and that. it's quiet out, it's the shabbat, and nothing is open. israel and palestine. she thinks about it every day, she says seriously, and I believe her. by the way her hand moves in the air I can tell that she's recalling countless conversations she must have had before. she is conscious and careful and I listen to her tease out these dilemmas, and I feel myself bringing these emotions into myself, trying to see what she does, what her friend Y does. it is important for me to do that. it is important for me to wander the streets and the closed-down market, an ultimate sunday morning in new york, sunday morning summer morning -- except here it's saturday, the shabbat, everything winding down, and I feel the city exhale, exhale, exhale.
in tel aviv I wander off with J to look at the city's protests. he's here to talk to some people. we get off a sherut taxi (#4) and walk onto rothschild boulevard and suddenly here it is, rows of tents. here is the critical mass that has made the news. we see people congregating, and we walk towards the northern end.
and then suddenly, we are in this. this is supposedly a silent protest but it has gained momentum and a voice. it is 9pm, and the sky is dark but there are torches lit, candles lit, people walking, showing support for the victims in southern israel (of the recent attack) but most importantly protesting against the israeli government's economic/civic policies. small vocal groups speak out about israel/palestine political issues, but there are small points of friction between these groups and other people, a little yelling, a little anger. one of the hundreds of houses we pass by has signs hanging outside on their balcony that disagree with the protest. someone comes out onto the balcony and yells out the crowd. people boo; immediately a chant forms, apparently something along the lines of: "come down here, your country needs you!"
the protest must be at least ten thousand people at least, maybe fifty thousand people or a hundred thousand people. I realize that I do not know how to gauge large amounts of people. I imagine that this information is written in a police handbook somewhere, something about the 'predictable density of people' and 'average area occupancy' condensing beings into a single formula with a memorizable constant: people = area * density constant, and this mystical constant being some innocuous number like 5.6. somewhere a riot or a protest happens, and the policeman looks at a space and does math in his head. five point six times, five point six times. people are counted. this is where it happens. to engage in this counting mechanism is to position one's self within a specific attitude already, already.
I look at these candle-torches that these people are carrying; they are made out of wax that tapers down to a handle, with an inner core wick. they burn brightly. they are stable. I imagine the industry for these; the industry for protest candles, bullhorns, and other materials. from where do these come from?
but not to trivialize the protest -- it was impressive, and enormous, and the entire crowd culminated into a single rally where the entire crowd sat down on grass to hear the leaders speak. declarative, polite, forceful. all I could hope for was that the sense of change and movement I was feeling would be able to coalesce into organizational change, operational change.
in ramallah I wonder. the day after coming back from tel aviv and jerusalem, a jeep passes me with four guys sitting in it; in the back seat a guy sits sticking the muzzle of a kalashnikov out the window. I am not sure how to evaluate this because I don't think that was the PA or the police and the car wasn't even marked as fatah/hamas/etc, so I shrug and move on. and this is emblematic: I am not sure how to evaluate things. I am not sure how to evaluate things.
the hardest part is this inability, not only the lack of a solid criterion but even the lack of knowledge of what constitutes a solid criterion. what is this? what does this mean? how has this changed? how was this place like ten years ago? is that why these things are like that?
in any case, I am here. I am living here. 'here' seeps into me like raindrops disappearing on a dirt road after a drought. I am sticky, loaded, I feel like an inhabitant.
and most days I think: what it would be like to live here? these skies? one is chopping onions, or putting something on the stove to boil. I think about that. one is putting something on the stove to boil, and the sun is setting, and the kitchen window is open and the breeze comes through, and suddenly one hears the call to prayer ring across the valley, and one smiles, because it is evening, and the skies are deep fuschia and violet with many many layers. olive trees dot the hills in the distance.