I scratched off my lesson plan and gave in to the students' demand to
talk about the situation. They demanded to know whether my loyalty
to them was genuine. I gave in again, and asked them to look around
the room, there was a PALESTINIAN flag hanging in the room. They
weren't satisfied. The bell rang and class was over. Another
class came into
my room. Feeda shared that her cousin was shot while inside his house, her uncle got shot and died. These relatives live near the Israeli settlement and the settlers killed them. Feeda no longer sleeps on her bed, she puts her mattress on the floor, away from the window. Perhaps this is the reason that Palestinians throw rocks, their loved ones are dying and no one seems to
Oct. 10 (Tuesday)
I asked Mohannad, how are you? And his answer was depressing. "Not so good Miss Yi, my mother's cousin's husband died yesterday". And again, I cried, "Lord, now I'm afraid to ask a simple greeting question..." I tried to get classes to get back to school work. Collected the due book reports, continued the prepared lessons and gave them a special bonus homework: Letter to President Clinton. Some students were excited about the homework, although Hikmat complained that he did not want to waste his time with such frivolous activity... "nobody listens to us anyways" was his attitude.
Oct. 11 (Wednesday)
Mohammad showed off his bandaged body. It was his first day of school since the conflict. He went out to protest and got hit by several rubber bullets. When he showed me his wounds the class cheered...This is too bizzare, yet I found the strength to ask whether all in his family members were all right, he said yes. At 11:30 there was a funeral procession. The school became chaotic. Students wanted to attend the funeral and later join the protestors and go to the checkpoints where Israeli soldiers are prepared to "calm" any protest at whatever cost... All the teachers prevented the students from leaving the campus. Later that day I met George who skipped my class. He shared that he had to go to Jerusalem, to his old school, to get his transcripts for college. Seven Israeli police stopped him to interrogate him, even though he was wearing the school uniform, has a Jerusalem ID and even an American passport, so the trip to Jerusalem took a little bit longer than he expected. He was sorry to have missed my class, or so he said.
Oct. 12, 2000
I went to school early. I needed to make photo copies of my letter to President Clinton--a good teacher should try to offer examples :) Classes went well. The students were much better behaved. At the end of our morning break, a teacher ran into the teacher's lounge and announced, "two Israeli soldiers were arrested". Everyone panicked; the police station is right next to the school. I didn't understand the extremity of the problem.
I went up to my room and got ready for the quiz. My students were
waiting for me, handed out the quiz, there was a lot of noise outside.
Two gunshots. The bell rang. I started grading the quizzes.
Too much commotion in the hall. The students were being evacuated.
"Go down to the cellar," all the teachers were screaming. They killed
the Israeli soldiers. Israel will retaliate. The cellar was too small
for 450 students. Cell phones started coming out, frantic calls to
parents to come quickly to pick up the children. The older students
directed the show. Several cried. Several lived too far away
to make it home so
they went to friends' homes in Ramallah--we were hearing that the roads were being blocked by Israeli soldiers... I was so proud of the students. Within two hours the entire school was evacuated. The director of Friends, his wife, the principle and I were the only ones left. We locked up the school and decided to have a cup of tea--as if this could solve all of our problems. As we were drinking our tea, the principle, a Palestinian, assured us that Israel will never bomb Ramallah because that would be a declaration of war. Meanwhile we saw Palestinian civilians with their guns roaming around the school. They were looking
for two more Israeli soldiers. As I looked at these men I became increasingly scared. I knew I could not stay home alone. My roomate had gone to work in Jerusalem and she was not going to come back home for the evening: Ramallah was sealed. Decided to spend the night with my director and his wife. I crossed the street to pack an evening bag (my flat is across the school and the director's home is inside the school). Tons of reporters were on our street. They asked whether I was an eyewitness and I directed them to my director. When i came back with my bag we heard that the Canadians were being evacuated... should we leave? The director was being interviewed. We waited. After approximately 3 hours from the killing of the two Israeli soldiers, we heard and felt the first bomb. It was dropped at the police station, right next to the school, about 50 yards from where I was. As we sat by the stair, we prayed and all I could say were the words from Isaiah, "no weapon formed against you shall prosper" And indeed, no weapon formed against us prospered. After the 8th. bomb was dropped in Ramallah, the news crew that interviewed my director called and asked whether we were all right. They were coming our way because they saw the bomb drop. They offered to evacuate us in their convoy car, we didn't refuse.
Now my students are e-mailing me. I'm in Cyprus, enjoying the sun, the beach, the beautiful flowers and yet my heart and spirit is with my students. My e-mails range from students saying they do not blame me for having run away to those who are glad I'm gone from the craziness of Palestine. In all of them, however, I sense the deep care that they have shared with me from the first day of school. Here's a sample of one of the e-mails I've received.
don't worry I wrote CNN many times already and got their facts straight! They probably blocked me from their website. anyway what is the presidents e-mail address......well, if you leave i hope you have a safe trip back to America and i hope you
visit us soon! well i hope i will see you tomorrow at school before you leave.
PS history class won't be the same without you
PSS i hope we stay in touch
My hope is to go back to Ramallah. Please continue to pray with
me, that peace may reign in Palestine and Israel. I do not know how
CNN or any other news agency is portraying my Palestinian friends.
I can assure you, they are not terrorists. They are people who long
for dignity and independence. Palestine is besieged. Indeed,
if Israel doesn't encroach in Palestinian territory there will not be anymore
stone throwing. Ariel Sharon went to the Temple Mount surrounded
by over 1000 soldiers with a very attractive statement, "Anyone should
be able to visit the Temple Mount". Friends, did you know that Palestinians
without a Jerusalem ID (80%+) cannot go visit the 3rd holiest Muslim sight
without a special "permission slip" because it is
located in Jerusalem? Even Mr. Arafat cannot go to the Temple Mount because Jerusalem (East and West) is still very much controlled by Israel. Refugee camps reek poverty beyond description and human rights violation is a daily activity. The present day conflict is more than a religious war, it is a refusal of one group of powerful people to follow the teachings of our Lord, to feed the hungry and seek righteousness. Perhaps I am biased, but it is hard not to be biased when I must be afraid to ask, "how are you?" to my Palestinian friends because death is everywhere. So, I urge you to continue to pray and I urge you to write to your representatives, the president and other leaders and let them know that Palestinians are suffering terrible
injustices. Life is harsh, but if we can help it become less harsher, shouldn't we try our best? I came to Palestine not knowing what to expect, but increasingly i'm holding on to the promises that God has given to us, that salvation belongs to CHRIST, we are only vessels...