Some months ago, in a dark classroom at the University of Jordan, I sat in a class with many other Americans, looking down at my hands. The program coordinators had forbade us from going downtown where there were large protests, so instead after classes ended, we were here. The professor, a graying man I recognized from another politics lecture, was speaking to us in English about a Syrian family of refugees he had recently invited to his home, “They jump at slight sounds. They fear airplanes and street cats. In Syria, the cats have grown fat from the bodies. They have nowhere to go or return to.” His voice broke and he stopped speaking. We all sat in silence. I didn’t want to look anywhere but my hands.
One evening, a friend had me visualize a knot. Every day that week had begun with a body count of those killed by rockets during Pillar of Defense. She told me to imagine a knot, like imagining the many mixed up problems in world that needed sorting. She advised I focus on a single knot. I imagined the crowded aerial view of Gaza and wondered if people were hiding and how many people were longing for the aroma of coffee. How many had given up, leaving the forecast of the skies to fate? Comfortably away from harm, close enough to feel uncomfortable, I began to imagine myself as a cog, a grain of sand, a single knot sorter. Choosing my words carefully, I wanted each my actions to be part of the solution, part of a world in personal accountability reigned. Our visions often fall short. Opening doors for strangers and signing online petitions, I spend a lot of time thinking about my hair and my carbon footprint.
But resistance is not just waiting for the blows to come. Resistance is working proactively. It’s acknowledging that there is injustice and it is manifold and complex and requires solutions of the same caliber. Burning tires, protesting walls and tossing stones cannot get us there alone. The most threatening forms of resistance will be based in civic engagement and empowerment of vulnerable communities. There will be no rewards for passivity.
In my last few weeks in Palestine, I am so excited and grateful to be getting an education in a different kind of resistance; to take these skills and use them to work for peace and justice long after I have passed through customs. Being away from home during the past few months has made me realized how the same forms of resistance being used here could be used to address similar problems where I grew up or in Middletown. I arrived in Palestine hoping that this time I wouldn’t become jaded and worn-out. Now, more than ever, I am hopeful. cool.