Monday, February 21, 2011


I’m going to just run a bunch of ideas and connections that I’ve seen here in the course of my adventures…I hope they’re not too disorganized.

            Some of the language and motifs here are so incredibly unified. The Hebrew word “Adam” means “man” (the species, not the gender). “Adama” means “ground/earth”, thus connecting man to the earth. “Adom” means red, both the general color of the dirt here and the color of blood. “Dama” coincidentally means blood—the life force of humans, and the fluid that is ultimately required as payment to cover over human shortcomings for Jews and Christians alike.
Thus when Paul writes that Jesus is a “new ‘Adam’” (1 Corinthians 15), he is connecting all these ideas—of blood, of mankind, of the earthen Man vs. the heavenly Man. Jesus essentially restarted creation; he is the first of a completely new race of beings. This concept is so much more powerful now that I am aware of the connections in the Hebrew language.

            I was thinking about the color red last weekend too as I witnessed a rally in Ramallah. There, Palestinians celebrated the fall of the dictator Mubarak and connected it to their hopes for freedom too. Red flags, shirts, scarves (some with Che Guevara on them) covered the square. It was very powerful—these people were drawing upon the symbols and colors of Communism. Because the major complaint at this point in time of the Palestinians is economic. They are hindered from jobs by checkpoints that take hours to get through. Additionally, in Israel, jobs are preferentially given out to soldiers—which Palestinians are not allowed to be (as a side note, there’s also no room for Israeli pacifists-if you refuse to serve in the Army you have to sit in jail for all 3 years). Bureaucratic hurdles are also much more difficult for Palestinians than Israelis—for example, building permits are much more difficult for them than for Jews in Jerusalem, forcing more and more Palestinians out. The largely middle class Palestinian Christian population has been able to leave, and all that are left are the poor Muslims.
The rally in Ramallah's main square
            So it was impressive to me to see the unity and hope at this protest that they, too, could free themselves like the Cubans and Egyptians had from their economic chains. Whether that would translate into true freedom or just a different form of tyranny (like we saw in Cuba) is yet to be seen. I was able to take home a red flag with “Palestinian People’s Party” written on it in Arabic. It now hangs in my room-a reminder of the economic justice that so many long for around the world. As citizens in nation after nation in the Middle East rise up demanding freedom, I feel that I am present in the making of history.

             Thirdly, I’m realizing how near, local, and dynamic politics are here. Today, I ate lunch in a cafeteria that less than ten years ago was a bloody mess from a suicide bomber. The road on which I walk to school was subject to attacks from Arab snipers during the War for Israeli Independence. One professor recalled being subject to random beatings by British soldiers before Israel existed (yet is grateful because he knows any other colonial power would have been much more harsh).
            How things have changed—barely 65 years ago, it was the Israelis who essentially were terrorists against the British in their fight for independence. Afterwards, they were to wage small-scale battles against Arabs where the results could hinge on things as minor as a couple radio lines being or a well-placed artillery hit or Molotov cocktail. It’s interesting to compare the wars here to the massive ones I’ve learned about in Europe—they’re so small but had such a huge impact. Like Mount Zion, which is a hill by American (and certainly Ecuadorian) standards, everything in Israel exerts a paradoxically large influence that is belied by its size.

            One last story based on the theme of red. My favorite professor here, Alick, as a teen was horribly beat up by some neo-Nazi skinheads. Five years later, he was in the Israeli army and present during the First Intifada (Palestinian uprising). To crush the rebels, someone had the idea of waking up every Palestinian male that night, transporting them to a stadium, keeping them awake, and sending them back home “too tired” to protest and fight the next day. Yeah right.
            Anyway, the next morning as they released the detainees back home, Alick was ordered to beat them each as they left, sort of a warning: “Don’t go and join the Intifada now!” He was being nice and barely tapping them with his truncheon, and so his commander showed him how—viciously the commander smacked a few up and kicked them as they lay on the ground. Alick, having to try to make it look good, stepped up the blows upon their backs as they ran past him, but one youth got scared and hesitated just as Alick’s truncheon was raised. Misplacing the blow, Alick smashed the baton into the Palestinian’s face. As the blood pooled on the ground, Alick recalled his own experience scarcely five years earlier, and wondered at how he could have fallen so far.
            He is now my professor of peace studies. 

1 comment: