I feel like I should write something political after yesterday's post. More strongly, though, I feel I need to clear something up. Please forgive me for dealing with such a topic in my first real post, but this issue has made up a huge percentage of my experience here.

I think I may have been a bit disingenuous and too optimistic yesterday. Some days I really hate living here. This frustration is sometimes not caused by the actions of the Israeli army or even the settlers. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the wall, the forced familial separation, or even the control of Palestine's borders. Some days it has ntohing to do with the occupation at all...at least not directly.

I believe that when "internationals" (the common name for foreigners in Palestine, never to be used in quotes again) come here for the first time, for only a short time, or eve over the course of many years for only short periods each time, they are able to maintan a honeymoon feeling of complete love of Palestinian culture. Palestinians are, in my somewhat broad experience, hands-down the most hospitable and welcoming people on earth. This is always the first thing people love and often the first thing their stomach's hate. If you plan to visit a Palestinian family in its home, you can expect to consume the following, without debate: tea, coffee, cookie, juice, a huge meal (if there are 10 people, they'll cook for 20), coffee, a beautiful selection of seasonal fruits, tea, cookies, coffee, tea, cola, popcorn, coffee, tea. Yes, I did mean to write coffee four times. I hope you are hungry and have a high tolerance for caffeine.

This process still succeeds in both amazing and pleasing me very mcuh. I can eat quite a bit and I love the lazy afternoons that merge into evening and into dark while people sit talking as the world goes on outside. The especially warm thing about them are Palestinians' openness during these times. They will quickly open up to you and tell you about their sons in Israeli prisons, their stolen land, their favorite foods, their murdered farm animals (and family members), how they look forward to the coming summer fruits, their own time spent in prison, thier opinion of Obama, where their mother was born inside " '48", and how thier sons like to bring home stray cats and give them baths.

The longer you are here, the less endearing and more almost torturous this all is and the less frequently it happens. I've now been here for almost two years. I am usually only reminded of this feeling when I go visit my husband's family (where it still is amazing) or go somehwere with other internationals and then it often seems a bit superficial.

The reason I can tell you that those things will be served it because they are always served. No matter what day of the week it is, what time of the year it is, what city you are in, how rich or poor the family is, the experience is constantly repeated. Palestinian society is very much a monoculture. Yes, there are Muslims and Christians, but socially they differ very little. I came to realize very quickly that no matter how long I stay here, I will always be an outsider. Politically, this is fine: I know the imporantace of Palestinians leading their own struggle and thier own destiny. Socially, it is a much harder thing to deal with.

I am isolated for the obvious reasons, but I feel that many Palestinians are isolated even within their own culture, if they don't fit a certain mold. Ash is from a very small, conservative village and often doesn't enjoy visiting because other people in the village (with the exception of his immediate family) feel put-off, offended even, by how he has chosen to live his life. This was true long before he met me and has only been enhanced by my presence. When we returned from a visit to the states last year, many people made uninformed comments to him about what life is like in American, though he had just been there and they've maybe seen American movies, maybe not. His response to this was usually a somewhat bitter, "Honestly, I'd rather be a Muslim there than here."

For me, the most annoying and constantly painful experience of isolation is my walk home from work. I walk past the same faces and the same places every day. These people see me, too, and must know that I've been here for some time. They've seen me with my husband. Yet they never cease to stare, to comment, to whisper. In a multi-cultural society I can usually chalk this up to either actually looking really cute that day or the guy simply being a jerk. Here, it is a constant reminder to me that no matter how long I stay, no matter how well I speak Arabic, no matter how I dress or walk, I will never belong.

This is further disempowering because when I am with Ash, this hardly ever happens. The result is a total feeling of dependency , something I would never accept for myself somewhere else.


  1. First,Congratulations for the nice simple and meaningful blog and design. Secondly, you are a great writer.. clear, concise and to the point. Thirly,I wish Palestinians who stare and whisper when they see "international" read this article and mend theier manners. Fourthly, Cultural barriers are like walls but, to an intelligent human being like you, they can be brought down with patience and time. Finally, I wish you all the best. (Majeed Al-Barghouthi- majeedb)

  2. I may add this: Grow wherever God has planted you, wishing you all success and happinness...

  3. Sara as a Palestinian American I always felt like an outsider in my 2 years of living there. I share your sentiment entirely and only wish you the strength to accept and handle it. Good luck sweety and congrats on the blog.

  4. Hi Iman, Thanks so much for your encouragement and support. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels this way here. I hope your life there is going well and I must say, your baby is beautiful!

  5. Mabrook :)Definitely you are a good writer. Your words are touching. The gap is huge, and it needs more work from all of us to make at least slight change. Writing is the beginning. Wish you luck :)

  6. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes. You're inspiring.