Nablus wakes this morning with new excitement, I feel. Tony Blair, the ex-prime minister, is visiting, so the city is alive and filled with policemen. When we entered Nablus yesterday at dusk, I was under the impression that little eisted here – that I would walk among downcast prisoners and closed shops. But I am pleasantly surprised today by the smiles, open shops, and constant bustle. These people are not defeated.
I cannot even fathom the reality of this city. Bullet holes litter walls, even the walls of the hotel we are staying in. Israeli soldiers guard the entrances at night. Guns are held to held, and bodies are used as shields. Families live in fear at night. I live so comfortably… so safe. Observing these people and hearing their stories breaks me because they are so incredibly resilient and determined. I am unsure I would prove to be courageous or hopeful in such circumstances.
As we walk through the city, I hear a sweet song erupt from the walls of one shop. It is a small, yellow bird singing in its cage. I am reminded of the poem “I know why the caged bird sings” by Maya Angelou. Alicia Keyes answers, “…only joy comes from song.” In Nablus, the cage is occupation. But, the cage does not rob the beauty of the bird’s color or its sweet song. If it did not sing, this bird, I would never have known it was there, sitting in the cage in a tiny space in a wall.
We leave Nablus through the checkpoint. After standing a while, we are ushered through ahead of the rest of the crowd of men, women, and children. I feel awful, squeezing past the people who had been waiting. I cannot look them in the eyes. It does not take them too much longer than us to get through, but it does not change the fact that we went through differently. I feel ashamed. I feel foreign emotions I cannot even explain.