Israel (Part 1)
Very often people (usually men) tell me I am intense. I’ve never really understood what they mean by it, other than, at best, it is some kind of backhanded compliment. Today, as I sit in my room listening to someone else’s classical music, the sound of my washing machine, and the wind in the ornamental cherry tree, all I can think to say is that this last week of my life has been intense.
I don’t know what I mean by that other than I am tired and exhausted, yet wouldn’t change it for all the world. All I want now, passionately, is for the world to change. This last week has been the strangest, most profound learning experience of my life. That I never knew I would come back feeling this way surprises me and saddens me more than I could have imagined.
There are large gaps in my capacity for speech. I keep holding my mouth and feeling the heaviness of the absence of words. All these silences that need to be told but are covered by a rash of flies laying bitterness upon the places where dialogue might seep forth. But I am going to try to speak because I made a promise to someone that I would tell the truth as I saw it to as many people as I could. So I am going to try to place my mouth around the moments and say something more than, ‘it was intense.’ I am going to try to say something that is fair and honest and not too steeped in anger.
I don’t really know how this is going to come out. Maybe I will just flesh out our itinerary, or maybe I will tell the story more fluidly, mixing the days and the moments. Maybe I’ll start with the death threats and the M16s and the prisons and walls, and finish with the oily sea and her wonderful mud. Or maybe I’ll just talk about the people and their beautiful blinking eyes, spitting mouths, funny anecdotes, angry faces and desperate, desperate lives. Or maybe I’ll just say random words over and over until I feel like I have exhausted their meaning, so as they can be as deflated as I feel. Then I can lay them down next to me, those empty, pointless sacks of reportage, all of us waiting for a touch of hope which is the only breath of life sometimes.
But I will say this – it’s tragic you know, and we are so blessed. As much as I hate this shitey island, I shall not stop feeling grateful that there are not hormone ridden, religiously fanatical teenagers running around with machine guns slung low on their backs with frayed and broken rope, who are throwing petrol bombs, bottles of piss, plates of shit, and bricks at people in the market below them.
Seriously, look around you right now and be grateful that you’re not living in the middle of a war. If you don’t know what it means to be lucky, take a long, good look at your life and allow your face to glow. The world is more infinitely troubling than any of us in our Western paradises can ever really comprehend. And when we do, experience turns to sticky toffee and silence weights the tongue. But I am sticking my fingers in my mouth, coaxing meaning from the cavities, and I am going to try to tell you what I saw and how I felt, so as I can fulfil a promise to someone who doesn’t even know who I am.