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bethlehem hailstorms

February 26, 2010

the skies all day today were pavement in color; heavy with storm and hail and thunder and lightning that cracked just overhead. torrents. torrents and wind and hail and it was friday prayers today so people clustered around the mosques and barely anywhere else. shadi — one of my very first friends here — and i went to lunch and caught up. mapped out some story ideas for the month, and refilled both the propane heater in the apartment and the electricity card so i wouldn’t run out of light and internet for at least a few weeks. i spent most of the day carefully driving around bethlehem, avoiding massive lakes (shadi called one “the dead sea”) that pooled in the middle of busy intersections with water as high as three feet, while people in their little diesel-engine FIATs and long Mercedes taxis slogged through the ponds that form when there is no drainage on the pot-holed streets and water continues to pour from above like we’re all standing underneath Niagara falls.

the jewish holiday of purim began, and as is the usual case during major jewish holidays, israel sealed the borders of the west bank and added another layer of sealant to the gaza strip. that means that thousands and thousands of palestinians with west bank IDs and permission from the israeli administration to enter jerusalem for regular friday prayers at the al-aqsa mosque could not do so. throngs of people, many elderly men and women, were stuck at the massive checkpoint terminal between bethlehem and jerusalem for hours, in the pouring, freezing rain and hail only to be told that the borders were closed during the entire festival of purim, and therefore their prior approvals for permission to enter their holy sites — and hospitals, and clinics, and jobs — were null and void.

tomorrow, if the rain lets up, i have a date with a potentially astonishing story. we’ll see how the weather cooperates. if it doesn’t, at least i’ve got a heater, a full container of coffee, a phone for interviewing people from the comfort of the sofa and my little group of dynamite friends. fuel to begin a month of spectacular reporting on this toxic spectacle of a settler-colonial-apartheid military occupation.

love & fight


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