Ok, so after 4 days of trying to fit in with the wimmin/womben/wimbinyomen,I gave up. I decided to come to Nablus, where I'm staying with the family of an activist from Najah university. I've been meeting some amazing people who are doing important work here, including familiar stuff like the Right to Education Campaign and Israeli Apartheid Week. It was great to swap stories of fighting administrations and creative actions. The OCAP wall was especially well received.
It's hard to explain Nablus really. There is a bustling downtown and a university campus that, besides the intense security (I needed a professor to vouch for me to get in as a non-student), could be any campus I've been too. It was on the way from the university to the Old City that Nablus really hit me. We stopped in the cemetery, which is the burial place of many of the martyrs from the recent intifada. I was told stories of people who had been killed - babies who had been shot, people assassinated in their homes, fighters killed in battle and, perhaps the most difficult grave to visit was that of a whole family that had been crushed when the army bulldozed their house to make way for the tanks. The grave was marked April 9-15th because nobody knows when the family died - they were trapped for so long. The man taking me on this trip - a professor whose mother was killed in the invasion and who is suing the Israelis for her death - put it simply: this is the end result of the occupation.
We then went to the Old City, one of the oldest in the world. I had known that Nablus had been invaded and had been under siege, but when I pictured the fighting, it wasn't in such narrow streets. I can't really explain how tight these spaces are, but the narrowness of the streets insured that the injured had no way to escape or be rescued. It also meant massive house demolitions as the Israelis bulldozed houses near the entrance so their tanks could enter this ancient city. They also cleared many homes, including one area home to 13 families, just to create areas where they could store their equipment. The bullet holes, martyr posters/monuments and houses yet to be rebuilt are constant reminders of the intifada. Not that reminders are really needed in a city that is still surrounded by 7 checkpoints, sees almost nightly incursions for arrests and that has F16s flying overhead all the time, breaking the sound barrier just to terrorize the people living here.
The people I've met are mostly younger than me, in their early 20s, which means they were really young teenagers during the siege and invasion. They tell terrible stories of closure, curfew, bombings and attacks. But they are also here, living their lives and working to organize in their university to keep the resistance alive. It's been an incredible experience here in Nablus.
I also went to Balata refugee camp near Nablus and will be volunteering there at the Jaffa Cultural Centre. I've just started there and will post more soon about all that.