Monday, July 21, 2008

another kind of human interaction

In 1948, Hana's family fled to Nablus and then moved to Kuwait where they lived until 1993. When the first Gulf War began they moved to Amman, Jordan where many of them remain today. Hana moved to back to Palestine to study Physics. She now lives in the village of Kufrein in the Salfit region of Palestine in the West Bank. Hana lives with her husband and three daughters- Leila (they call her Lulush) is 5 and a half, Sara (they call her Susu) is 4 years old, and Yara (they call her Yuyu) is 11 months. Hana teaches physics to 11th and 12th graders.

Today, Hana took a driving test in Ramallah and was picking her children up at the home of her neighbor, Eman, who runs a daycare. This is where we met- I was there with the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS) to take down a report from Eman about the troubles she's been having in getting permits to visit her husband and brother in Israeli prisons. The man who was scheduled to translate for us was in Ramallah, so luckily Hana speaks English and agreed to translate. Throughout the meeting- Sara smiled shyly as she took new hair ribbons and a headband out of a shopping bag and put them in and out of her pony-tail. And Yuyu grabbed Hana's light pink hijab playfully. Hana said she can't believe Eman takes care of her 5 children plus those in the daycare all by herself. Angelica from IWPS asked if Hana plans to have more children. Hana said no, and with a smile, told us that Yuyu was in fact a "mistake".

After we finished taking the report, we thanked Hana for translating and she in turn thanked us. We told her there isn't that much we can do about Eman's situation, but Hana said it is enough that we came and showed that we care, "it's about the human interaction." When she sees soldiers who are hot and tired in the sun and rain- she said she feels for them too. She knows it is not the people, it is the politicians who bring the occupation.

Then: "So many people think Palestinians are terrorists- but we just want to raise our children in peace. " Reflecting on this, she added: "even we start thinking there really is something wrong with us, just for being who we are" as she said this, she lightly touched her hijab. Hana then told us she heard a report by Diane Sawyer on the BBC and in it Sawyer asked a Muslim woman if she felt humiliated wearing the hijab. Sawyer asserted that hair is so beautiful and questioned why women wouldn't want to show it. Hana explained to us that what Sawyer didn't understand is that for her and many women who wear the hijab, it is because hair is beautiful that they cover it- and in this way recognize its beauty.

* the are not direct quotes but paraphrased from my memory

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