|Muawya and son Adam
A few weeks ago, Muawya, our beloved driver-translator in Tulkarm, posted on Facebook that the Tulkarm EA office would be closed when Team 50 (then in residence) left. I read that post in disbelief – and shed tears. I was crying not only for the end of an era, and for all the memories I had left in Tulkarm, but for the people I had known and loved there!
I cried for Muawya – who would go back to driving his taxi without knowing that his customers included a group of internationals who cared passionately about the well-being of his family and his nation. I cried for the women of Shufa, with whom I’drunk tea and eaten fabulous Palestinian cuisine, while they practiced their English and we all laughed together. I cried for Ahmed, whose village of Sabastiya was but one of many villages plagued by settler violence, yet who always had a ready smile and time to show off the historical beauty of his community.
|Agricultural gate through which farmers and shepherds must pass
I cried for the farmers and shepherds, forced to spend countless hours in long lines to cross through agricultural gates so they could tend their crops – and for school children whose education was routinely interrupted by the time they spent going through the checkpoints between their homes and their schools. And I cried for the workers, who had to swallow their pride to pass through the inhuman Taybe/Ephraim checkpoint daily – and then to further subjugate themselves to Israeli employers on the “other side,” who treated them almost as badly as the soldiers at the checkpoints.
The “official” announcement of the Tulkarm closing from the EAPPI office stressed that the placement was NOT being closed, but that the Jayyus team would “now be responsible for Tulkarm priority areas.” The announcement went on to explain that, “This shift is the result of several years of feedback from EAs and beneficiaries, and discussions with EAPPI’s National Coordinators and Local Reference Group.”
I understand the office’s position – I really do. There are only so many people who are willing to take three months out of their lives and live side-by-side with the Palestinians, with the physical and emotional hardships that are part of the “job description.” And I understand that EAPPI wants to put a team in the Jordan Valley – where anyone who reads even American media knows that serious problems have been brewing for quite a while.
|Soldiers detain a young boy
Still, I wonder. When I was there – less than a year ago – both the Jayyus team and the Tulkarm team (not to mention the other five teams!) were pretty busy – and I understand that things have “heated up” in the time since. More settler violence, more destruction of homes and crops, more soldier harassment – including of children – more human rights violations to observe and report on, more “accompanying” needed all around!
Sometimes there are no answers. Sometimes, I just put words on paper to more clearly express the questions – and my feelings about them! I understand that Team 50, the last team to serve Tulkarm (on a full-time basis, anyway), has had their farewell party – and that Team 51 will be heading in different directions. And, although my “farewell party” was last April, I haven’t yet truly said “goodbye” to Tulkarm.
|Sunset over the Tulkarm mosque near where I lived
It will remain in my heart – and in my soul. And when next I return to Palestine, I will go back and visit the friends I made there – and the places that I loved! Pray for them – and for all the Palestinians who continue to suffer!!