The road to Ramallah: toward a dead end (Issa E. Boursheh)

For many years I have attended the annual memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin. I planned to attend this year, too, particularly after hearing that it might be the last one to be held in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, which was called Kings of Israel Square when the late prime minister was assassinated there, at a peace rally, in November 1995. I thought I was willing to make a lot of sacrifices in order to be there, but it turned out I was wrong about that.

On the morning of 30 October, the day the memorial was supposed to take place, my mother asked me to join the family in visiting relatives in Ramallah. October 30 is both my father’s birthday and my 8 year old little cousin’s, and the families wanted to celebrate together.

I was a bit disappointed, but the long, tiring debate over whether the rally should be politicized or not ended up being the deciding factor. I always wanted to hear stronger voices for peace rather than the mainstream voices – mainly the voices of politicians – that have taken over the event.

I was listening to the speeches live on Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) as I drove along the crooked roads to Ramallah; and as I was passing all those settlements I heard the echoing voice of renowned artist Yair Garbuz as he said:

“For fifteen years we have gathered to ensure an end to the occupation and its corruption of our society. But not only have we failed to end the control of another people; we have also lost control of ourselves and our country, which has been conquered from within by our so-called leaders.

“So-called leaders that are nothing more than a bunch of Napoleons – egotistical hedonists disconnected from the people. They have no vision and not even a simple practical plan other than their adherence to populist sentiment and destructive pleasures of power. Fifteen years since we swore: enough to bereavement! And we continue to kill and be killed.”

It was striking to hear those words while driving on the road to Ramallah. We all fail to understand the meaning of occupation until we actually observe it. Even a Palestinian-Arab-Israeli citizen like me fails to see it (God, I need to find a one-word self-definition).

The meaning of the occupation starts with Route 443, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway that was built on expropriated land owned by West Bank Palestinians and then restricted to non-Palestinian cars. It continues through the checkpoints, the soldiers, the neglected Palestinian villages, and even the Ramallah bubble (similar to the Tel Aviv bubble in a sense).

We are slowly heading toward a dead end – attacks on democracy and the rule of law are consistent and well organized, murdering any hope for those seeds of peace Rabin sowed to grow. The voices of sanity are suffering serious losses in the parliament, daily life and even in academia. We are failing on a daily basis to see the grim reality.

I guess Robert Allen Zimmerman (Bob Dylan) says it best with ‘A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall’:

Oh, what did you see, my blue eyed son ?
And what did you see, my darling young one ?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand takers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.