2 November 2007...11:36 pm

Someone To Whom A Moment Whatever Moment It May Be Has Come

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A Contemporary Absurdity
by Ariel Kouvaras

Last night, I was watching Law & Order and channel surfing during the commercials. My mind was impatient, and my body too lethargic to do anything else but dissolve, willingly, into a sedated gawk. This contented apathy lasted until I clicked onto a channel that was showing an exposé about an Israeli woman whose 17-year-old daughter died in a suicide bombing attack in Israel by a Palestinian Muslim girl.

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I do not have all the facts; furthermore, this is not a piece of fact. I cannot remember the channel the show was on, or the names of the people involved in the situation. What I can relay to you is this: an Israeli woman sought out the family of the Muslim martyr who killed her daughter. She was angry, yes, but more than that, she wanted answers. In her quest, she talked to two Palestinian Muslim girls being held in a prison for planning a suicide bombing of their own. Needless to say, their plan was foiled before any action could be carried out.

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They, the three of them, sat in a tiny prison bedroom—a tiny prison cell—that belonged to one of the girls. One of the walls in the cell was adorned with photos of half-naked Arab men modeling clothing: Abercrombie & Fitch advertisements for the Middle East.

The three women looked in each others’ eyes and had a tête-à-tête with the arid desert sun blazing outside the yellow-ochre colored prison walls. A scene so contrary to everything we, Occidentals, expect to see was surreal. It was almost ineffable. There were no bombs present, no stones to throw, no machine gun to hide behind. The only weapon at hand was rhetoric and emotion. Both sides were pleading their case to the other and asking: can you understand me?

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Well? Can you?

The Israeli woman demanded to know how a person could justify taking a life. One of the imprisoned girls asked if the woman’s daughter had really been killed, or was it just a ploy for the cameras. The Israeli woman responded yes by showing them a locket that she wore around her neck with a minute portrait of her dead daughter in it. The two girls’ faces went from grimacing looks of defense to softened, less threatened ones. Tense muscles relaxed themselves, and the conversation began.

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The Palestinian Muslim girl said that she sympathized with the Israeli woman as only a mother who has lost a child could. Sadly, neither the Israeli woman nor the Palestinian Muslim girls had a shred of empathy; this seemed to be an emotion that had been suppressed by an unfathomable number of years of hatred and war.

The Palestinian Muslim girl spoke again and said the Jews should go back to the various countries that they came from. The Israeli woman said definitively that she was not from another country. She was born and raised in Israel. She was undeniably Israeli.

And just like in a sword fight, where one opponent blocks and the other attacks, they continued to skirt around each others statements, questions, and responses. It was a beautiful modern dance of minds. And then, the prisoner spoke again, saying that there is no Israel. Israel does not exist; therefore, this woman could not be Israeli, and history deems this land the land of Palestine.This, this conundrum, is the nucleus of the conflict. I could see no enemy present.

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The scene cut, and short clips filmed in a Palestinian holding camp outside of Israel flashed onto the screen in my TV room; I think the camp was called Dheisheh. This was the camp where the family of the martyred girl who killed the Israeli woman’s daughter, lived. Just before I switched off the TV to go to bed, they were making arrangements for the Israeli woman to have coffee with the family. Imagine: coffee.

At breakfast this morning, I buttered and ate my homemade banana-bread and sipped milky coffee. There was no imminent threat of death looming as I read The New York Times.

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While I was living in Aix last year, I read The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus. In this story Camus makes a comparison between the human condition and Sisyphus, a man who is condemned to pushing a large (very large) rock up a hill. When Sisyphus reaches the top of the hill the rock inevitably rolls back down, and he must continue for eternity in this manner.

As the sun shone through the paned-window, and the steam hissed from the radiator at 9am this morning, it became clear to me that Camus would have marked the Israelis and Palestinians the Absurd Heroes. Each group, the Israelis and the Palestinians, at the same time, is pushing the other up the hill for eternity. It is a damned fate, and I hope that I will be proved wrong.

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