Narrative, Reflection, Uncategorized

Borderlands: The Tabernacle Police

These scenes have to ferment for at least a week before the bouquet of poetic humor can mature. Last week I left the sanctuary of the Wi’am office at 4 PM and walked around an amoeboid scab of dividing barrier. I went to and through the Bethlehem check-point so I could attend a meeting at Tantur Ecumenical Institute; I nearly sent the meeting organizers an excuse, instead. As I went through the check-point and absorbed its routine again, gaining my grip, I located the source of my dread. On an unconscious level, I expected the lazing draftee-soldiers to transform into airport or bridge guards who would detain and search me. Instead, I felt like I was in a dystopian mosque: removing my shoes and placing my black, white, green, and red prayer-bead string on the x-ray’s conveyor belt.

I passed Bethlehem check-point easily, as ever, but walked directly into the sites of a Jerusalem PD squad-car, prowling for trouble on Sukkot. They accused me of coming through a nearby orchard, though I explained I had just left the check-point. They searched my bag and demanded I empty my pockets. The cop shoved my passport in his butt-pocket while he spat interrogatives in sub-par English. When I emptied my left pocket, I placed my prayer-beads in his hand with some relish. He handed them back, apathetically. Asked where I was staying, I showed him on my passport: “Haifa”.

I found myself distilling my resentments as I ascended the hill to Tantur. My mood was low, so I started to load my proverbial quiver with more darts, explaining to imaginary co-workers why I stay in Bethlehem. Now I know how many black people feel, traveling certain white neighborhoods. For no salient reason, one feels like they are being watched, profiled; just because my visa gives me the privilege of passing does not mean I feel comfortable. The next night, I found a place of refuge as I gazed from the patio of the Scottish church. Lacquered generously in night’s coolness, Jerusalem looked and felt like a convergence zone in time – the uncanny modernity of its West side juxtaposed against the giant, stone chest that is the old city: filled with secret places, with people who were once nearly one and the same with Bethlehemites. The dividing wall has impeded, has annexed, and has fractured — in the name of security — but has yet to engender anything like peace. To the contrary, it has done so many more, disgusting things than those who built it will live long enough to comprehend.

I now have walls inside my soul. I cannot properly have PTSD but I feel confident coining a new acronym for the world: OASD – Ongoing Ambient Stress Disorder. The stress is ubiquitous and subtle. None can live here without feeling muted trauma seeping from person to person, direct victims diffusing their tensions into us despite their good intentions. Added to that are everyone’s experiences with Israel’s matrix of control. It is girded with power and sophistication but filled with ambivalence, blindness, and insanity. The same is true of Zionism’s tentacles in the media, conflating everything Jewish with this horrifying apartheid regime.

So, I have reached the point where I know that it is alright to appreciate and admire things that are Jewish but in my guts I want to find reasons to complicate them or push them away. It’s as if I could not be happy with this metaphorical ‘house’ of Judaism unless I smeared all of its sewage onto the front picture window for everyone to see. I want to see a level of contrition from public Jewish figures that, quite frankly, is not only improbable but is askew of the many other issues in life. A friend sent me an article about self-forgiveness, written by a Jewish author, and instead of tapping into her words of self-healing I found myself tripping over the words “Yom Kippur”. There was no atonement for me; I have OASD and it makes me sick. I am unhappy to have these feelings because, according to my reasoning, Israel is simply conflated with Judaism, not synonymous with it. There is still a choice. I am being unfair, never expecting Buddhists to account for Myanmar or every Muslim to account for Jihad yet, still, expecting the Nakba to be on the end of everyone’s tongue.

Yet, sitting at my computer after writing all this, I have the sense that we all deserve better than what we are entitled to because, really, we are entitled to nothing but we deserve to make a better life with our neighbors because that is the only Way. At some point, in some way, with some help, the wall erected in my attitude must come down or else I will thwart my own goals for peace. The first step for me is not to alter my beliefs, or to reframe them in ways that make sense to the world I left behind in the United States. That is self-deceit. What I want to do is uncover a different deceit: the attitudes that attach to my beliefs and the deep sense that, because I believe a certain thing, I have to feel a certain way and then behave the way my feeling dictates. That is fundamentally untrue, though I know disentangling my attitudes will not happen so quickly because I have allowed my attitudes to drive me without questioning their necessity or even if they are helping me in my mission of awareness.

That must change…

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