saying goodbye to bethlehem bound

•February 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

when i started this blog before my departure for bethlehem, wordpress cautioned me to think wisely about the title and username of my blog. they couldn’t change, i was informed, so i need to exercise some deep thought so that i could stick with what i picked. i knew that my blog was going to be about bethlehem so i ignored the advice and made the title something that related to my time in the west bank. i also figured that upon returning to the us i would promptly shut down the blog, as i really am not good with keeping up with them. i don’t know if i’ve just been hit with a temporary itch to blog, but for whatever reason i am going to try to start a new blog and see where it goes.

i could continue to use this blog, but i think it will be better to start fresh. i’ve mentioned this earlier, but i do feel that the title is still accurate. though miles separate me from my former life in bethlehem, i am still bound to the land i called home for almost a year. my time in bethlehem ended considerably more abruptly than i hoped and in many ways im still mourning a rather less than ideal exit. the people i met during my journey comprised of some of the most important people i have ever met. some because they have become valued, trusted friends, who continue to journey with me. others, because they helped me to learn that i can learn from relationships that our less than ideal. perhaps that’s just a politically correct way of saying, that it’s stupid for me to just take the good and forget about the bad. forget about the people who made my time in palestine-israel incredibly difficult.

with all that said, i’m going to move to a yet to be determined blog address, though im still going to stay with wordpress, which in my opinion, is the best blogging format, at least of the ones i’ve examined. be on the lookout for the new blog.

until next time, even if it’s at a different location,

 

knc

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bethlehem bound… in atlanta

•September 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

several unfinished entries sit rather comfortably in my draft folder. each represent my very unsuccessful attempts to keep my blogging career afloat. they also represent how my penchant for perfectionism and profundity makes blogging more of a chore than a liberating and mutually beneficial process. Luckily for everyone involved, i am determined to make it through this entry. most of what i was going to write about before will probably be lost. the crux was that i was working furiously to feel better before i left for atlanta. i was also trying to prepare for atlanta and not think about the fact that i wouldn’t be returning to palestine.

august continues to be a month of transition in my life. though the markers have changed, from secondary school, to college, to moving abroad, etc, august remains a month where i sit on an edge wondering if the steps before me are worth what i will lose. with doctors still not quite sure as to what was causing the months long continuation of mystery problem and the comfortable feel of new york, for a moment i wondered if it made sense to leave once again. i never actually doubted whether or not i should leave new york; moving 1,000 miles away paled in comparison to the move i made around the same time last year. atlanta is full of good doctors so the quest to become healthy can continue. despite not knowing exactly why, atlanta is a place where i wanted to live.

after a short visit with good friends from sweden, who i met in palestine, i boarded a plane for minnesota. training was held at luther seminary in st. paul and i went a week early to meet up with friends before the craziness of orientation commenced. it was great to see old friends, meet some new, and attend a wedding of one of my old flatmates from mesp. i was able to see some friends who i figured i would not be able to see in a while. surprises of this sort are al(l)ways most welcome. orientation was long and intense, but also interesting. there was a lot of positive energy around, which makes sense since there were a lot of people dedicated to social justice work gathered in one place. i also got to see some good friends from messiah who were also embarking upon the lvc journey.

i’ve been in atlanta for a little over 2 weeks now. i live in a simple, but nice and comfortable, four bedroom home with 5 other people. if you, like me, were not given the gift of math or numbers, this means that two people share a room. it was originally the suggestion of some of the people who worked incredibly hard to get our place ready for us, that the two guys share a room. for the time being we’ve decided to change things around and i am left with my own room. which is nice, because i was used to having my own room in palestine. i was also used to living alone in palestine, but that was only because i had no other option. i am very grateful to have housemates, even if community can prove to be a fickle and difficult thing to work through.

palestine continues to remain on my mind. facebook newsfeeds alert me of the new faces who are now gracing the streets of israel and palestine. i get a little jealous as i think of the wonderful community they are entering. i am especially jealous on wednesdays, when i think of the new faces spiking volleyballs; those trying to entice the cats onto their laps and off of the courts; and the not so new faces continuing to navigate the holy, but troubled, land, and trying to continue to foster a community that serves as such an important place for so many people. as i was riding marta (atlanta’s public transit system) to church this sunday at lutheran church of the redeemer, i smiled as i thought of the difficult route i took almost every sunday so that i could worship in a church that provided me with the necessary juice to continue the work to which i was assigned.  i also think of this time last year, when i was the newbie volunteer, waiting for my boss to arrive, trying to figure out how i would pass the hours and if i would be a volunteer that was actually helpful. again, i can’t help but laugh as i find myself in almost the exact same situation this year. last year worked out pretty well and i try to reassure myself that this year will work out as well.

right now i’m trying to live in the present as much as i can. i’m trying to hold on to the memories and lessons of palestine and not focus on the fact that my palestine chapter has now closed. that new people populate the volleyball courts on wednesdays. that monday night dinners will no longer continue. that new yagms and mccers will come and i will not know their names. the lectures and rallies will happen and i will forget of organizations. and streets and sections of palestine where the occupation bears the most weight. that i will remain silent. wishing to close the palestine chapter and not continue to let it live in a new and vibrant form.

well, it’s pretty late (at least for me) and i think i’m rambling. and probably a bit too nostalgic. i will try to update this gain sometime soon with more atlanta updates, but for now this will have to suffice.

until next time,

knc

spoke too soon

•June 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

i ended my last entry by saying it was more than likely my final one. obviously, my statement was a bit too premature.

several people have asked me lately how i’ve been adjusting back to life in the states. for the most part my transition has been eerily smooth. perhaps since i’ve been focusing primarily on my health and i’m looking towards august when i make my next move, i haven’t really had time to think about what being home looks like. perhaps since i know that two months remain on my original contract, i feel like i’m not yet at the point of return.

i woke up to the news that israel had murdered at least 10 international humanitarian activists en route to gaza on a boat with aid in tow for the besieged and oft forgotten about part of palestine. of course they spun it to say that the boat was armed with weapons that would wind up in the hands of hamas. the israelis, masterful in spinning things so that they  always come off on top, immediately linked the activists to “islamic terror organizations.” Unsurprisingly, Israel has claimed that the soldiers acted in self-defense (a claim heard before) and that those aboard the flotilla repeatedly failed to head warnings to turn around.  Since all of my information is coming from second hand sources, I don’t feel comfortable placing all of the blame on one side. Israeli Defense Force soldiers were hurt and so sadly violence, in some form, must have been employed by at least some of the activists. The response by the Israelis, however, underscores their commitment to linking anything concerning the west bank and gaza with terrorism. international aid workers who speak out against the illegal occupation of palestine are supporters of terrorist organizations. anyone who criticizes israel and her actions must somehow be connected with extremists who seek to annihilate israel. there’s never any middle ground. you’re either with israel, or against her.

of course what gets lost in this all is what always get lost: the sheer amount of suffering and the incredible human rights violations that continue to occur against the people in gaza. most of the coverage i have read has focused on the spats between israel and foreign states that are understandably upset. you can only justify millions of dollars in aid for so long.  I hope that President Obama has some harsh words for Prime Minister Netanyahu (of course money speaks much louder than words and Obama, for all you skeptics out there, asked Congress to give Israel an additional 205 million dollars on top of the unprecedented 3 billion dollars for military aid) especially since an american activists, protesting the deaths on the flotilla was brutally hit by a tear gas canister in the eye by the idf. she’s currently in surgery to have the eye removed. i wonder if the tear gas canister was funded by the us government… but all of this has taken the attention off of gaza, a besieged community, full of people refusing to lose their self dignity in midst of an increasingly hopeless situation. israel continues to deny that gaza is in a humanitarian crisis. of course sine israel was the to bomb the hell out of gaza, i’m not quite sure that we should take her word on that…

watching the live cnn broadcast from jerusalem brought me back immediately. the connection was so strong that if i closed my eyes i just might have been able to convince myself that i was back. but the reality is that i’m not. instead i’m in new york. far away from any checkpoint or concrete wall. from and demonstration or demolition order. i’m left to live vicariously through facebook messages and muddled live news broadcasts. perhaps it’s time that i realize i’m home and that returning, for now at least, is only a dream.

knc

it never ends the way we had it planned.

•May 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

i home. in fact, i’ve been home for a little over a week now. i’m assuming that most people know this already. those in palestine know i have left. many from home have seen me. a quick trip to my alma matter means that professors, friends, and others i knew from college also know that i am home.

when this was all new and i was going to write this immediately, i had a different entry planned. i guess i could still share that, but it seems like it’s no longer appropriate. it was meant for a certain time and that time has now passed.  i also can’t seem to find where i saved it, so perhaps it’s better to start fresh anyway.

i was hoping to post this before i left palestine. i wanted to share about my transition in a way other than facebook or a “hey i’m home phone call,” unfortunately, since i made the final decision to leave on a sunday and left palestine on the following thursday, i was left with a mere four days to pack, say goodbye, wrap stuff up at work, process everything that was happening, etc. i started to pack on friday, the day i made the final decision in my head but it was still a mad dash to finish everything in time. i was foolish to think it was possible to finish “everything” in four days. how could i wrap up nine months of my life in just four short days? how i could i find the time to see everything/one i needed to? do everything i wanted to? of course, it was impossible. i knew i would leave palestine without making it to many of the places i wanted to see. without having two more months to learn more about myself and the crazy place i called home. i left with  memories never made and plans left painfully unplanned. i left palestine without the chance to say the goodbye i would have liked. but i also left palestine incredibly richer (in experiences only, i dont think i’ll ever be materially rich) i left having made some of the strongest friendships i’ve ever had the chance of making. i left with an increased knowledge not only of the history of the place i called home, but also of myself. i learned that im capable of living alone in a place far away from the states. i learned that struggling through bouts of loneliness and depression are just that: struggles. and that we’re not marked by whether or not we have them, but how we respond. there’s more i could write, like how inshallah (god willing) i will return to palestine one day. how i hope to be involved in palestinian advocacy in the future and may very well have found that impossible to identify vocational l

bethlehem will forever be an important marker on my life journey. in one way or another, i will always be bound to it. perhaps the title of my blog is considerably more fitting than i originally intended.

this is more than likely my last entry for this blog. something i’ve learned over the course of this year (really, i knew it before) is that blogging just isn’t for me. i like the idea of blogging and i enjoy reading several blogs, but i’m not sure i’m cut out for the blogging world. plus, at current, my life consists of going from doctor to doctor in the wild pursuit of getting my health on track. not entirely exciting. and i’m almost certain that no one wants the intimate details. i don’t even want them, but it’s my body.

for anyone interested i have accepted an assignment with the lutheran volunteer corps in atlanta, georgia. i’ll be working with the lutheran theological center and i’ll get the chance to do some organizing as it relates to care for creation and economic justice. i’ll also get to do some anti-racism work, something i did a lot of during my time at messiah. there is a small chance that i may start a new blog in the fall. i know that is a contradictory statement given what i just wrote, but i’m an incredibly stubborn person.

signing off,

knc

finally turned back

•April 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

on thursday i joined the the elite club of internationals who have been turned away from entering jerusalem using the 21 bus. i have been having some health issues for the past month and after an initial doctors appointment and medication seemed to not improve the problem, i decided to get another opinion. i headed to the walking checkpoint after i finished some stuff at work to find a long line of both palestinians and internationals. after about 15 minutes it became clear that we weren’t moving and that we probably wouldn’t move anytime soon. I waited for about another 45 minutes and we did not budge an inch. I went to talk to the guards at the driving checkpoint who only pointed me in the direction of the walking checkpoint. i tried to tell them that we weren’t moving but it didn’t seem to do anything. not feeling well, and wanting to get to the doctor as soon as possible, i took a risk and headed to take the 21 bus into jerusalem. i knew that internationals had had trouble entering jerusalem via the 21 bus in the past, but since i had been in cars entering jerusalem via the tunnel road i thought it might work. unfortunately, i was wrong. when i got out of the bus to show my passport i was told by a soldier that i couldn’t pass through the road. he asked me if i was a citizen of israel (though it was pretty clear i wasn’t since i was using an arab bus) when i said i wasn’t he told me i couldn’t use the road. it was only open to israeli citizens. i tried to point out that none of the palestinians using the bus were citizens of israel, that i use this same road in a car all the time and am never turned back, that i work in israel and i am not a tourist, that i had to go to the hospital, but nothing worked. i tried for about 10 minutes but it was clear that he wasn’t changing his mind. apparently even with a work permit i am a tourist. a tourist with working privileges. it doesn’t make sense to me, but i guess that doesn’t really matter. a lot of things here don’t make sense to me.  it was frustrating, on many levels, but i suppose it is relatively small in comparison to what palestinians have to deal with daily. not letting this defeat me, i returned to the walking checkpoint, went through in about 25 minutes and made my way to the doctor. in all it took about 2- 2 and 1/2 hours to get into jerusalem, but i was still able to do it.  this isn’t always the case for palestinians who’s travel plans can often be interrupted by an unplanned closure or by a checkpoint line that simply won’t move. even if the line is moving, palestinians are still forced to endure the dehumanizing conditions that the checkpoints bring.

the checkpoint was closed today when i tried to pass through. needing once again to return to jerusalem i made my way back to the 21 bus. i didn’t know if i could pass through, but i went anyway, hoping that today would be different. it was. the soldier glanced at my passport and let me go.

remembering rachel

•March 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

note: this was supposed to be posted yesterday. my internet cut out and yesterday wordpress decided the post was not worthy of being accepted.

i know that i posted yesterday, and i’m generally incapable of updating this regularly, but sometimes certain events merit mentioning. today, seven years ago, Rachel Corrie was violently murdered by an israeli bulldozer as she attempted to defend a palestinian home minutes away from an unlawful destruction. rachel gave her life for palestine and for the cause of peace and justice in this holy, but most troubled land. i don’t know what was going through her mind as she stood in front of the bulldozer. it’s a common non-violent technique used to stop the unjust practice of demolishing homes. i also don’t want to get into the controversy as to whether or not the person operating the bulldozer saw rachel or not. i have my opinions on this matter, and you’re free to have yours as well.

even though we have a similar passion for palestine, our stories are incredibly different. the palestine she saw is considerably different than the one i see today. but it is also the same. it continues to be occupied. settlements continue to expand. palestinians continue to be denied basic rights. residents of gaza continue to suffer, if not in ways unimaginable seven years ago.

earlier this year i read the book “Let me stand alone: the journals of rachel corrie” it was a compilation of her journals over the years. it was a bit awkward to read at times, as i’m sure she never imagined that her high school and college writings would be published, but it was also incredibly insightful. it came at a time when i was questioning my work and wondering what, if any, good i was contributing to the movement for justice and peace. reading someone else struggle with the same topics and be so passionate about peace, helped me tremendously.

rachel was committed to the people of gaza. i’m sure that she would not want the attention to be on her, as she struggled to understand what her role in the peace for justice in palestine was and how to balance her privilege as U.S. Citizen. She wrote specifically about how it was impossible to understand the complexities of the reality of palestine without visiting her land. and yet, it was on a much deeper level, impossible for anyone who held another passport to really understand what was happening because we possess a passport which permits us to leave at anytime. to a home or an apartment where checkpoints and soldiers are not commonplace. where we can take trips to the beach, or walk in a park, or along a river, and not need special permission. or have to fear that our homes may be in shambles when we return. internationals working in any area where oppression is the law of the land cannot fully fathom what is happening and yet the should not stop us from working on the side of justice. it’s something i think about daily. especially when i find myself complaining.

things are quite crazy in jerusalem right now. east jerusalem is bustling with protest and clashes from both “sides.” numerous people have been injured and more is promised for the days to follow. the west bank is under complete closure. the old city of jerusalem is effectively closed to all palestinian arabs who don’t live inside the walls.

seven years ago the world lost a bright young woman who possessed the ability to bring about much positive change. but the reality is the everyday another palestinian is either killed, wounded, imprisoned. a home may be demolished or an eviction order posted. the day after rachel was murdered several palestinian children were killed and wounded. it didn’t make the headlines, not in the states, at least. u.s. media was more interested in the death of one of their own. i think rachel would have been upset with such neglect; she dedicated her life to making sure that U.S. citizens understood what was going on in palestine. it is our duty, all of us as humans, to endeavor to honor the memories of rachel corrie, and everyone else who is a victim of oppression, whether by choice or by circumstance, by working actively for a just and peaceful world. nothing can bring back rachel, not in her physical form at least. but if we view each day as a new chance to make the conscious decision to embody peace in every action we undertake, the memory and work of rachel (and all those who have lost their lives, both israeli and palestinian) will remain alive and well. perhaps that’s something we need to consider more seriously. perhaps we don’t need to mourn the fallen as much as making sure that their passions and the good work they began, continues in and through those of us remaining.

it’s easy to be bitter here. in fact, it’s considerably easier to be bitter and angry than it is to chose the path of love. a path that doesn’t gloss over the injustice but commits to the serious work of reconciliation. it’s also easy to forget that israelis are hurting as well. not just because occupation hurts the occupier too, but because they have rightful concerns and justifiable fears. suffering isn’t a game. it’s pointless to try to keep score. just like it’s pointless to argue that both suffer equally.  i hope that we can all heed the advice of Martin Luther King Jr. and  “decide to stick with love. [because]  hate is too great a burden to bear.”

here’s a link to a poem, on rachel corrie, written by a palestinian-american poet named suheir hammad. she’s a spoken word artist, so i suggest you listen to the link! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m19D8dP2gA4

where have you been? where are you going?

•March 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I apologize that it’s been so long since the last time i’ve posted. things have been extremely crazy here (on about 1345 levels) but I am continuing to press on determined as usual to make sure I soak up as much as possible. i received an e-mail just about a week or so ago going over my flight itinerary for leaving and then my arrangements for leaving the re-entry retreat in akron. I have about four or so months left and I’m expecting it to go by incredibly quickly and profoundly slow. nothing can be clear cut here.

In that light last weekend I went on what I hope will be many adventures. Saturday I ventured, with a few friends, into Tel Aviv. Our first stop was the modern art museum, which was interesting, and followed by some time walking around the beach, eating a nice lunch, and exploring jaffa. the weather was amazing and i am glad i had at least a day to escape the madness that is Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The next day after church a bunch of us went on a trip to nablus. one of my good palestinian friends went with us and acted as our guide. We walked through one of the last Samaritan communities in the region. It was interesting to walk through and see the blend of culture. We finished by going by some water and incredible spaces of greenery. a bunch of us commented on how it really didn’t look like we were in palestine anymore. i’ve been missing nature, and specific anything green, so it was nice to see it.

I wanted to go on a trip every weekend, but perhaps that’s a bit too ambitious. The Bible College is also having a huge international conference so i’ve had to be around to help work with that. It started on Friday and things are going very well. Several of the scholars I used the most for my honors project are giving lectures and I even had the chance to pick one of them up from the airport. It was really cool getting to talk to him and I am hoping to be able to speak to a few more before the conference ends on Wednesday. I’ve been working on the conference extensively these past few weeks and it will be weird once it is finally over. I’m sure i’ll have plenty of work to do.

i still haven’t figured out what next year will look like but monday marks the due date of the only two programs i’m applying to. On many levels I wish i would be staying in Bethlehem for another year but I know that I need to return to the states. staying in bethlehem would be the easy way out ( never would i have imagined that staying in bethlehem, a place under military occupation, would be the safe option, or the easy way out, funny how things work) For better or worse I am called to be rooted in my home country. it wont be easy put these roots down, but it’s necessary and so i’m going to embrace whatever happens and work on weaving my current work into whatever comes next.

until next time,

knc