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Reflections
By Samah Jabr
1, 2, 2002

I have been writing about my own experiences as a
Palestinian living in East Jerusalem for the last
year. Sometimes, the stories pour from my pen; other
times, I struggle with emotions that tangle my
thoughts in the anger of the moment. My mood, plans,
relationships are dramatic and changeable. There is no
stability in my head as the political turmoil swirls
around me dizzying me as if I were drowning in a
whirlpool bath.

My life in Jerusalem is warm within my family,
stressful at school as I work toward graduation and
overwhelmed by our political climate, conversely a
rushing stream of rhetoric and violence opposed to a
composed desert that the Holy Land is. Though my
region has been a place of tension all through my
life, nothing prepared me for the September 28, 2000
atrocities that began when Mr. Sharon and his Israeli
men of the military came to the Al-Haram Al-Sharif.

I knew this would cause an eruption of chronic
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and would result in
death, strikes that would only delay education,
curfews that would make it difficult to get food or
medicine and general dismay, an escalation of
Palestinian frustration. I knew that my people would
honor our dead as martyrs and heroes. From my
perspective as a young medical student, it is a
horrible consent to loss. But, I know how the people
felt. Our people consider it their duty to redress the
rest of the world's failure to recognize or respect
the pain of our loss. This loss includes not only the
lives of our people, but our land, our homes, our
economic base, our ability to hold our heads high as
productive participants in the world family.

For me, this month of war means numbness. Hope becomes
no more than false expectation, argument fruitless,
losing yet another life no more than an exercise in
indifference. More than twenty thousand Palestinians
are reported injured since [this Intifada began] not
to mention the hundreds dead.

What does that mean here? It means that our parents
beg us not to leave the house and suffer tremendously
when we young people do leave. It means a people
festering with resentment because the West, the
so-called "civilized international community" aids the
Israeli government to kill us. It means anger because
the Zionists all over the world dehumanize the
Palestinians in their media reports. They claim that
the deaths of our children result because of the
deviant behavior of us unsophisticated Muslims. The
Zionists not only misrepresent and slander our dead,
but also our religion and place.
 

In America, the government chooses to interfere in our
struggle, but the people tire of our cries. They have
their own problems. At most, they say, "Isn't it
terrible. They're all bad over there." We, here in
Palestine, who sometimes see things in terms of
conspiracy, wonder if the Presidential election
wrinkles are ironed in order to test which man will
apply the greatest force on behalf of Israel, as if
either man is all that worried about us. This, I fear,
is only our self-centered musing, not the conspiracy
we rather hope it is in our wildest dreams of
intrigue. So, I go to the hospital against my parents'
wish.

There, I am shocked into another kind of
dehumanization. When a disaster happens and we receive
dozens of wounded people, we classify patients into
three categories: green are those who are shot in the
limbs, red are those who are shot in the abdomen or
the chest, and black are those who are severely
injured in the head and/or have little chance of
recovery. Our "efficiency" would amaze Westerners who
think we Palestinians are so backward. We start with
red, the green can wait once bleeding is stopped, and
black we set aside as they die "peacefully".

My fate is to be among the first generation of
students trained to be doctors in Palestine. I am sick
with the horror of it. My father's favorite movie has
always been "Gone with the Wind." I feel as if I am
the character Scarlet O'Hara as she walked through a
train station turned red with the blood of injured in
this epic about America's Civil War. Scarlet heard
moans and groans. The shouts I hear are these; "No
mechanical ventilation for this man," "No
resuscitation for this woman," "no brain left,"
"amputate this limb." Like the heady Scarlet, I simply
want to run away. I do not like the sights before me,
but my supervisor says simply, "Our aim is to prolong
and improve life, not to prolong agony." How can I
disagree?

The woman beaten on the head until she has no vision,
and the man kicked by many soldiers until his spleen
ruptures are mere passers-by in the night compared to
the 5-year old severely burned boy whom the settlers
placed in a burning tire after he was paralyzed with
fear during a demonstration. Seeing this boy loosens
my defensive indifference. Imagine how I feel seeing
this little child and, then, reading in the papers
that Israelis tell the world that the mother of this
child deliberately sent him out to die. I read, also,
that the Zionist settlers tell the world that we
Palestinians are mere animals, not worthy of respect.
Evidently, we lack a human mother's instinct.

As I snuck home from the hospital a couple of days
ago, I passed by a housing complex where little boys
were playing in the dust. I stopped to see why they
were outside. They did not have marbles or coins or
even stones; they had unspent bullets and were pushing
them around as toys. Again, indifference faded, and I
sent them scampering home. My brother is our family
cook and I usually get my delight out of the suppers
he serves. But, now I cannot eat. I miss the "flavor"
of pleasure in my daily life and all I can do is
remember past moments of happiness, humor, love. The
taste of life is gone.

Like the famous fictitious Scarlet in "Gone with the
Wind," vowing to never be hungry again in her native
Georgia, I walk outside and grab up some of our dry
sandy earth in my hand. I will hang on, I vow, until
there really is "another day" in Palestine. The hope I
resurrect in my heart is that moral prerogatives will
take hold and my people and I will not be gone with
the wind.

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Samah Jabr is a seventh year medical student at
Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem. This article was
written with the assistance of Betsy Mayfield who
lives in Ames, Iowa.