report from purgatory (Palestine)

Well, if it's not total hell for everyone, it's still a very long way from the promise of this beautiful land, and it's very much a purgatory for all. Even if you don't believe in the concept of expiation, it's certainly going to be a long wait.

Anees, a dear friend of ours, recently flew from his home in New York to visit his Palestinian family in Jerusalem, where he remains at this time. When I asked for his permission, he said I could log this email report, and I expect there will be others. I believe that his account will at least fill some of the blanks left by our media's coverage, and that it succeeds in humanizing the consequences of our society's politics of indifference.

It is quiet and safe here in East Jerusalem. in fact, it is almost like living in an illusion since all the hell is happening elsewhere, just a few kilometers away. Here people stay home after work, if they can get to work at all, and watch a lot of satellite television. I like the Hair Bear Bunch on the Cartoon Network. My sister is coming tomorrow and my brother's wedding is on Tuesday. (There are so many people getting hitched. It is marriage season here.)

The other day my brother's friends arranged a very nice dinner for him and his wife-to-be and I came along. It was in a Maronite Christian monastery in the middle of the old city. Those Lebanese sisters sure know how to cook. Everything was scrumptious. I went up to the roof of the monastery before eating, and the view was just amazing. It showed everything inside the walls, yet was not so high up that you couldn;t see the details. It was as if I was seeing something with fresh eyes. Strange this time; as if I have been sufficiently 'away', mentally as well as geographically, to see things differently now. I notice more keenly the graceful old white-stone Arab houses. Even the men I find somehow more attractive than before. (Perhaps the arabophile homos I befriended last year have rubbed off on me.) But the rest I complain endlessly about: the bagel seller who touches the bagels and money with his bare hands; the vulgar signage on stores; the total lack of order in queues. Third-worlditis.

A couple weeks ago my parents and I went up to a panoramic look-out area on Mount Scopus, overlooking the walled old city. That was the day before the Hamas shithead blew himself up to kill the more enlightened of people--students, just a few minutes' distance away on the same hill. All around Jerusalem Israelis continue to seize key hills, key buildings. The nicer hills and the nicer old buildings. We later went to the old city to grab some Armenian pizza. As we were walking around, the muezzin started the melodic call for prayer. My dad, an atheist, smirked; he said something like, 'At least they can't do anything about the muezzins; they must get so pissed every time they hear it'. 'They' meaning the Israelis that are agressively judaizing the city, leaving us with bitterness and disappointment.

I might be stuck here for a while since the US consulate has changed rules. For Palestinians the INS will take 45 days or more to process the request, they said. Probably I will miss the beginning of the semester. Meanwhile, my parents are stuffing me silly with food hoping to fatten me up. little do they know of my hyper metabolism. It is the new yorker in me.