At Home in Solidarity

Photo: Billy

By Billy, April 2018

Since Syria took down the Israeli fighter jet in early February, the F16s have been circling more frequently overhead. Their droning sounds distinct as they drop light flares and play war games in the sky. I get lost looking up, forget where I am, retrace my steps and find myself on our rooftop in Palestine. I lose track of time and realize counting back, I’ve been here for two months…

The days were stunning, it seemed the sky got bluer the longer I stayed. The almond trees bloomed and budded before my eyes, I remember the air heavy and sweet with the smell of them.

As an international visitor of the West Bank, specifically al Khalil/Hebron, I grappled with many aspects of Palestinian life. The grave poverty, the apartheid roads, the military checkpoints, the child arrests and the constant presence of soldiers and weaponry — all of this shocked me. What was even more shocking, was the normalization of it all.  On the other hand and despite being from the United States, the people of Palestine welcomed me wholeheartedly.

Al Khalil is unique; only there are illegal settlements within the heart of the city side-by-side Palestinian homes. This lends itself to immense harassment and tension. At the same time, the vibe is ghostly and desolate. Shops closed, demolished abandoned homes, chipped paint, trash everywhere, cats and kittens amuck and empty streets. It feels like there are three different dimensions of this city: Palestinians, illegal settlers, and military. All existing in the same place, yet invisible to each other, but when the three groups materialize and interact, problems arise. Otherwise, they ghost along in denial of the others’ existence and accustomed to 70 years of occupational life.

I never looked forward to Fridays. It was as if space and time collided. Aliens descended. Earth flipped upside down. Young demonstrators peacefully protesting the occupation that strips them of basic human rights, while soldiers retaliate with ambushes, tear gas, stun grenades, live ammunition and rubber coated steel bullets. As ISM-ers, we document the violence, the arrests and the human rights abuses.

I decided to go to Palestine after Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thereby claiming Jerusalem the capital of Israel. As US citizens who oppose social injustice, we have a responsibility to be allies with Palestinians. Solidarity can take many shapes. Not only is now a call to action to travel to Palestine and work on the ground with ISM, but also to put pressure on our local congress people and senators to constantly call out the human rights abuses and the plight of Palestinians under a continuing military occupation.

The people of Palestine are strong and not going anywhere despite systematic racial and ethnic cleansing. My cheeks remain rosy with adrenaline and gratitude to have shared space with such resistance. The Israeli occupation is powerful but the resistance is more powerful and full-hearted and I feel at home in solidarity with Palestine.

Billy spent two months in the West Bank in early 2018, her experience working in solidarity with Palestinians has pushed her to further pursue working within the scope of freedom of movement and refugee resettlement in the Bay Area.