“Palestinian inhibition in the Walled City of Bethlehem”

I’ve been the Writer-in-Residence in Birzeit for a couple weeks now, and have yet to post about my experiences here. I have plenty to write about – excellent sessions with the workshop participants, interviews with Palestinian circus artists, a tour of a library housing ancient texts in Jerusalem’s Old City, a visit to the grave of Mahmoud Darwish – but I haven’t found the time to write about them here.

Posts are coming. I promise.

In the meantime, here is a story by Leila Sansour from a recent issue of Haaretz that reveals life within a wall-enclosed Bethlehem. I was particularly struck by the following observation:

Sadly, this also means that, unlike me, the latest generation of Palestinians will grow up with no real experience of their occupiers, rendering them even less capable of imagining how to act as with a real political agency.

In addition to all other range of misery the Wall imposes on Palestinians is the fact that the occupied never even see their occupiers. They never come face to face. Without contact, each side portrays the other as an enemy in only one dimension. The Other is not a human in all the fullness and nuance that the word should possess, but a hand-drawn construction. Not a person, but an idea. An unseen villain used to warn a misbehaving child: “Be good or the monster on the other side will come and get you.”

You cannot negotiate with an idea. You cannot engage with an myth. And so the side with power holds its power while the side without grows cold in the shadows of the Wall.