Monday, November 14, 2005

Epitaph on the Wrong Side of the River

Was walking through a park, considerably lost ,as has become part of my daily routine, when i came across one of a thousand other slabs of stone, with lots of names scribbled on them and a statute of a struggling soldier untop.
The 'slabs' are usually a sort of monument for all those that died for king and country in different sorts of wars etc.
So anyways, as i rushed passed this one, my eye caught one name; "Rafa".
A few steps away, it suddenly occoured to me that "Rafa" is actually very close to "Rafa7" and could be the name of an Eyptian/Palestinian soldier! So i hopped all the way back.

Reading the names more clearly i found;


Gaza 1
Gaza 2
Beer Sheba
Bir Khu Weilfe
Hill 265

Except for 'hill 265' (they numbered them?!) while reading the other names, immediately the picture of palestinian children sitting on the ground cross legged calling out name and each of these countries came to mind. Taught to name them with precise articulation, they were always ready to indicate the precise location of their homes on an imaginery map, (or even draw one for you) as well as recounting all the landmarks and qualities and fruits each of these places were famous for.

Warmed by the memory but slightly alarmed, i skipped to the very first column that read;


Al Arish

This ofcourse sprung a little chorus of "baladiiii ba7ebaha, kol 7etta fe baladi.. balaadiii ya walllaaa..."
And ofcourse my heart skipped a beat with the memories of the smooth stretching sands of bahariya and dakhla and all the little hills and '3agabat' i had climbed with friends and family as we conquered them as our own..
as well as the sea shells on al arish's beautiful seashores, the spectacular red-cross stitch embroidery on the scarves and gallabeyyat, and the beautifully windy family vacation we spent there.

Reading on next there was;


Jordan Valley
Modawara (Hedjaz)

With this i was catapulted back to teh winding moutenous (or were they actually hilly?) streets of Amman (wonder if they attempted to re-number those!), and the tense yet mind replinishing week i spent in Aqaba with Palestine and the occupied territories only miles away, their lights shining through our view of the sea every night. So silent was the view, and yet so noisy and mind boggling their angry debates and internal struggles as they attempted to create a 'vision for peace' 'reconciliation' or 'co-existance' in the building behind us.
(Slightly daunted, as they were, by the recent events in Amman..)

Warmed by the memories, but chilled by the implications of their engraves on such a slab, i hurried over to the other side;

"To the glorious and immortal memory fo the officers, NCO's adn men of the imperial Camel Corps, British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian, who fell in action/died of wounds and diseases in Egypt, Sinai and Palestine"

Perplexed, I stood there for a long while trying to contemplate how it felt having so much of my warmest memories of a larger, more extended 'home', engraved on the slab, and an epitaph to those who threatened it on the other side..
How did i feel about their deaths?
i had always sympathized powerfully, with those that died in the WTC, the British/American soldiers that may have been brainwashed into fighting in Iraq, those forced to fight and stormed into trauma and PTSD's in Vietnam, even the israeli soldier that swore at me powerfully and threatened to crack my head open with a large stone in an ugly encounter on the borders of southern lebanon, had aroused much of my pity. He could not have been older than his late teens and was so full of anger and aggression towards someone he barely knew.

I could not feel anything human for these. i could not even try. Perhaps it was the sudden rush of warm memories and the (ironic) pride of finding 'names' so personal and close to heart engraved on one side of a stone, and a cold, chilly prospect on the other?

Shaken out of my trance-like daze, i decided to proceed with my treck, and asked a passer-by if she knew the way to my inteded destination.
She cocked her head to one side and squinted, getting her barings straight, then suddenly her face broke into a smile and she said;

"You're on the wrong side of the river luv.."

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