After one of the longest semesters I have ever had at Birzeit finished, my parents decided it was time to visit our family back in Tulkarm. So, this Friday was spent in my father’s parents’ house in the village Ateel. It started off like it always does. I wake up, go down stairs and help my aunt around the house, and we make breakfast, eat and clean. The men attend Friday prayer at one of the local mosques, and as soon as they get back, my family packs up our belongings and go to my mother’s side of the family. This time, a delightful phone call interrupted the mundane Friday schedule. It was my mom’s sister, my beautiful aunt who was inviting us to Al-Ahrash, which is a terraced hill terrain in a village called Qaffin (22 km northeast of Tulkarm), where a lot of people like to go with their family and friends to enjoy the beautiful scenery that Palestine has to offer. We accepted her invitation and after an hour or so, we were off.
One thing I have noticed while being in Palestine, is that we like big numbers of everything, especially children. Bless our mothers, the fact that their bodies are still intact is beyond me. The group I went with consisted of only three families, yet we had over 20 people, half of which are still children. The other families we passed by on our way up the hill seemed even larger than ours, too!
As soon as we found the right spot for us, we laid down our blankets, got out our sunflower seeds, and started a fire for tea and coffee. After our cup of tea, we all decided to walk around and observe the stunning terrain. There were beautiful flowers, almond and pine trees, and intriguing insects (most of which scared the bajeezus out of me). We got back and decided it was time for some coffee and once the caffeine got into our systems, we began to play one of my favorite games ever!
The game is called Seven Stones, but my Palestinian friends in America that I grew up playing it with called it Ambar. The game originates from India, but it managed to find its way around the world. Pretty much, the whole game revolves around seven stones that are piled on top of each other. The players divide themselves into two teams, and each team has one of their members try to knock down the stones with the ball. The first team that knocks down the stones automatically becomes on offense, and the other on defense. Now, the objective of the offensive team is to stack the seven stones back on top of each other, while the defensive team have to prevent that from happening by tagging them out with the ball. If the offensive team stack the stones, then they win and if the defensive team tags everyone from the offensive team out before they stack the stones, then they win. It is very simple, but very intense!
My team lost the first round and thought that we would be able to redeem ourselves in the second one, which we were. Half way through it though, we were interrupted. Who interrupted us, you ask? Well, the IOF, of course! Apparently, they were watching the surveillance cameras that they have implanted around the area when suddenly there were a few loud noises that echoed in the sky. (If the cameras surprise you, it really should not. Consider the IOF to be the non-fiction equivalent to INGSOC. They have got microphones and cameras everywhere, even in the places you would least expect, say for instance, a place where people go to simply relax with their family and friends.) It was probably some of the teenage boys messing around with fire-crackers or something which definitely was not the smartest thing to do on their part considering we were technically in a forest, but anyways, the IOF were “alarmed” and started to patrol the area in their Jeep. Out of nowhere though, they decided to arrest someone for some reason that is unknown to me, and a large group of Palestinians surrounded the Jeep and started protesting against them, demanding that they release the boy. After around 20 minutes, the IOF gave in and the boy was set free. On their way back to wherever it was they were, they stopped by our spot and asked my dad a few questions. In the end, they tried to act as though they were our friends who were trying to protect us, then they jokingly asked if we had any coffee we would be willing to offer them, and left. The answer to their question would be: No, you cannot have some of our coffee. Have you not taken enough from us? And you, our enemy, our occupiers, are not our friends. The thought alone sets the fire in me blazing with intense fury!
There you go! What was once a simple gathering with my family suddenly turned into an arrest of a fellow Palestinian. One thing that is beautiful though, is that the Palestinians refused to let the IOF take yet another one of our people into their miserable prisons, where torture is inevitable. We stood together, we protested, and we fought for what was right. This proves one thing, one very important thing: We have it in us to resist this occupation and that means that we have it in us to be free. We can liberate the country its intruders that believe they have the right to steal our land, our culture, our heritage, our history, our people, and our freedom. We can do this and never should we doubt our abilities and our strength.