Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On the Other Side of the Wall

"You were in Jordan? Jordan is trash, King Abdullah is trash! Egypt is trashier, and Syria is even worse!" said Abdullah as he lounged against the 5 meter wall of graffiti covered concrete. "Lebanon is alright, but only because they support Hezbullah."

I point to the wall behind him which is being constructed illegally by Israel (according to the International Court of Justice, because it crosses the Green Line), "That's trash."

"This? No, this is good. This means that they're finished."

I had this conversation in Arabic about a week ago as I was traveling from Ramallah to Jerusalem (only a 30 minute trip) through a checkpoint in Israel's West-Bank Barrier. Abdullah went on to list all of the heroes he had which included Hezbullah (written above his head on the left), Hamas, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida. And although most Israelis and Americans would be scared of a youth with such role-models, Abdullah was a really nice guy, and his opinions make sense given his situation.

Besides his support of everyone on the US's list of terrorist organizations, what struck me most about the conversation was the blunt acceptance of reality that his opinion about the wall portrayed. I wrote a research paper about the economic effects of this barrier for a class this spring, and I must say I'm not a big fan of the way that Israel has constructed it, although the case for some sort of border fence may be legitimate. However, for someone who has grown up in the West Bank and had to live in "the world's biggest prison" (as a bit of graffiti on the wall put it), I suppose that it is logical that you would put up with one last injustice if it means that your enemy is finally going to stop advancing and leave you alone.

The wall may be a land grab, but if a just solution can actually come from it, then maybe it is in fact a better step than separate peaces. I don't really agree with Abdullah, but it has been awesome just being here and being able to talk to people like him who you meet on the street. His view isn't representative of anyone in particular, but that is his opinion, and one that is rarely heard in the media.

Also, it is a view that I would be completely unable to hear if I didn't speak Arabic. So that has been a really amazing part of my 7 months here, being able to communicate with people who just two years ago were completely beyond my ability to interact with beyond pantomime and the occasional "Hello, how are you?" I still have a heck of a long way to go with my Arabic, but it is enough to get my point across, and that can go a heck of a long way.

Well, my next post should be about the rest of my trip on the other side of the barrier. Don't worry, much more to come - pictures, stories, and hopefully a video soon. Right now I'm saying goodbye to Amman, and I'll be back home just in time for Christmas, so I hope to see everyone in Chapel Hill soon! (and to any SIT people who may be reading this, I miss you guys and hope you all have a great break before jumping back into school back in the States, or wherever you are).

1 comment:

Lori said...

I just read your past 3 entries and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. I am (selfishly) sad that you are going back home because it means that I won't have any more of your stories to read (and it was nice having a fellow ex-pat). BUT know that I have loved your stories, writing, and conversations (especially this recent one: "I don't love any army"). Take care, traveler.