A Student in the Midst of an Intifada

This is one of a series of blogs by Asma’ Jawabreh about her life as a student.

What an extremely tiring semester. Finally, I am done.

This semester, when I returned to my studies in the West Bank, was different than all the others I’ve experienced, for two reasons: First, this semester came after studying in Berlin. Germany was a breather from the politics and terrible situation in Palestine. I avoided talk about Palestine there. The only time I was forced to talk about the conflict with Israel was during a brief conversation when another college student studying abroad, a German woman, asked me where I was from.

“Palestine,” I answered.

She replied: “Pakistan?”

I said, “No, Palestine!”

She said, “I don’t know Palestine.”

“It is occupied by Israel,” I said.

“Oh yes, Israel,” she said. “I know Israel.”

I didn’t respond.

The second reason this semester was different was the renewed violence in Israel and Palestine that has been called the Third Intifada.

I spent too much of time on my cell phone following the news. I spent about six to seven hours checking on events. I grew worried each time I heard that someone was killed. They could be anyone I knew.

Then one day it happened. In late November, my dad came home after work saying that Khalid Jawabreh, my 19-year-old cousin who lived on our street, had been seriously wounded. I kept my eyes on my cell phone, praying to God to protect him. Photos of him in the hospital appeared on Facebook. He had died.

I tried to lie to myself. I went into denial. But all the mosques in my camp started calling him a martyr. I grew speechless, incapable of doing anything except crying. I cried for him, for his wasted youth and his heartbroken mother. Khalid left high school after his father passed away to earn money for his family. He was a construction worker and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a political party. He frequently protested against Israeli policies toward Palestine.

Photos of Khalid was everywhere on Facebook and other social media. It was impossible to get them out of my mind, even for a moment.

At the time, I was preparing for my mid-semester board meeting to discuss my senior project, a film about changes in Palestinian media after the Fatah-Hamas conflict in 2007. The board meeting was my chance to hear input for the project due in April.

I was exhausted with politics: the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Hamas-Fatah conflict. I was exhausted of hearing news, watching videos, seeing photos of dead people and their sad loved ones. I was exhausted with the smell of tear gas lingering from the clashes between students and Israeli soldiers.

I performed poorly at my board. Rather participating in the discussion, I stayed silent for most of it. When they asked me questions, I fumbled while answering.

Later, depressed by my performance, I decided to deactivate my Facebook account to get away from the news.

It didn’t work. The killings, tear gas and crying weren’t virtual. They were occurring at my school and in my community, in my backyard. I didn’t need the news to tell me things were bad. I couldn’t detach myself from reality.

In a world where college students don’t know anything about Palestine, where they know the occupiers but not the occupied country, I survive emotionally by repeating a line by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “We have on this Earth what makes life worth living, and we love life whenever we can.”
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