When refugees seek refuge with refugees – Mondoweiss


The Israeli occupation has dumped about 5,000 workers from Gaza into the West Bank–men who were working on the Israeli side on October 7th. The Bethlehem area is hosting about 400 workers, mostly in community centers in Bethlehem refugee camps–Dheisheh, Beit Jibrin, and Aida, where I am from, in addition to the YMCA in Beit Sahour. 

Since the beginning of the war and the blockade around Bethlehem and the West Bank, Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society, a youth arts organization I founded in 1998, has opened its guesthouse to whoever was being prevented from returning to their homes outside Bethlehem and especially those without any possibility of returning to Gaza where they would, in any case, encounter death.

There are also men, women, and children from Gaza under medical treatment in the West Bank. The ones who need continuous care are in the hospitals, and the rest are being hosted in the community.

Meanwhile, incursions continue, as well as a blockade on the West Bank and Palestinian cities. They are arresting people for posting on Facebook or suspected of doing so or without reason whatsoever. In Aida camp, many Israeli incursions happened, with many arrested and many injured. Last night, four people were arrested, and many others in the nights before.

A few days ago, as I was about to leave Alrowwad, a rocket intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome exploded over Aida camp. Fragments were falling. Many of our solar panels exploded. I felt our building and the floor under me shaking. We are all safe, but what is it like when the bombs hit houses, explode buildings, and unearth the earth under you? 

During the night between October 18th and 19th, until 4:00 a.m., Israeli forces made a wide incursion into Bethlehem with a focus on capturing workers from Gaza. They managed to capture 60 people, though many others were smuggled to various hiding places for safety. Yesterday morning, they gathered at the Church of the Nativity, feeling that this might be the most secure place in Bethlehem. The last two workers from Gaza that we had hosted at Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society joined the others at the Church after the invasion.

With so many emotions about our terrible situation, I wrote these poems.

Over-Lived and Outlived

Huge anger in the hearts

Huge pain in the spirit

Frustration in the minds

There is shortage in our imaginations:

How can hatred consume humanity

and how can darkness beyond any candles so completely suffocate the light?

Justice plays with us games of hide and seek 

But it remains hidden regardless of all efforts to find it

Why does humanity fail us, while we continue to defend what remains of it inside of us?

Let your hatred blind you? Our hearts will remain open with love

Let your reprisal consume you…

We will embellish with forgiveness when you ask for it

Do you think bombing us will erase us? We are the phoenix that rises from the ashes for centuries….

You bombard us with white phosphorus so we can shine in such darkness?

Indeed, we do and we over-live and outlive.

You bombard us with depleted uranium so we can radiate? Indeed, we do and we over-live and outlive.

You experiment with all your weapons to test our resistance? Indeed, we resist… and we over-live and outlive.

You can continue to kill, smear, lie, misinform, manipulate

But the smothered light will diffuse through the cracks you leave in everything you do

Let our light shine, friends

Should I Condemn?

Media journalists, TV interviewers come to us, pointing fingers at us and asking this endless question: Do you condemn Palestinian terrorism? Do you condemn Hamas?

Should I:

condemn myself, condemn my whole existence?

condemn my own birth in a refugee camp in my own country?  How dare I be a refugee burdening to question your own humanity?

condemn myself for a being Palestinian, while according to many Palestine does not exist?

condemn my parents, who were uprooted from their destroyed villages and brought me to life, and thought it was good to be born in a refugee camp?

Should I:

condemn my own life, growing up, pursuing an education, having hopes and dreams to be a great biologist and researcher who would save lives, an amazing painter and a marvelous photographer and a fantastic actor and talented writer who would inspire the whole world? (I didn’t end up becoming famous for anything I have done.)

condemn myself, for claiming and continuing to claim that I am a human being, defending my humanity and dignity and those of others? It seems that I am only a human animal, or even less, that I am an alien who imagines that he has a place on this earth. How do I dare to even think that I am a human being like all of you?

condemn myself for being a believer that human rights and values include us aliens? How dare I think that we are even part of these values?

Should I:

condemn myself for believing in international law and UN resolutions and all these declarations that people under occupation have the legitimate right to resist by ALL MEANS? How dare I consider that we are under occupation, even under an illegal entity that is represented as the only democracy in the Middle East? I ask for your forgiveness.

condemn myself for talking about this occupation as an entity? I read that what defines a state is having a constitution, defined borders, and nationality…. And since what you call a state of Israel is a country for Jews only…. But apparently you can just claim yourself as a state without any of these things… So please forgive my ignorance….What can I say? I am so ignorant!

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