There is an allure about the seas and oceans that especially draws and exhilarates people who grew up close to them. So it was that the minute my eyes saw that vast blue expanse stretching itself far beyond the horizon my spirits soared and I began to feel the rejuvenation coursing through my veins. The coast of the Atlantic Ocean is certainly unlike that of the Mediterranean Sea; its waves are more robust, its waters murkier and colder, its tides stronger. Nevertheless, my enjoyment was immense as I allowed the strong sun to go deep into my bones and to penetrate my every pore. Oh, what joy!
As I looked around me, I was astounded at the number of people. It seemed as if every inch of that two mile shore was occupied. Children darted in and out of the water, squealing delightfully, building sand castles, digging trenches, and some bawling and clinging to parents who were trying to introduce them to the ocean! Oh, what bliss!
The joyful children prancing around me evoked images of four young boys playing football on another congested beach, Gaza, on the beautiful Mediterranean, where Israeli fighter pilots mowed them down in early July of last year. The four of them perished! It was a deliberate and unconscionable act of terror meant to furthermore intimidate, subjugate and oppress the Palestinian people. Memories like these tarnish the joy that I am feeling. It is such recollections that are etched painfully into my brain, and there seems to be no end anytime soon for their horror.
Later that evening as we sauntered home, the sirens blared and the alert structure was activated with the emergency loudspeaker system urging people to leave the beaches and to take shelter as there was turbulent, stormy weather and lightning expected. In less than twenty minutes, the little town shuttered down and went eerily vacant. Sirens, alerts, alarms bring to mind those terrifying moments in the early years of Lebanon’s civil war and ongoing to date in Gaza and in many other places, before the missiles and bombs race through the skies and swoop down on innocent civilians and their abodes smashing their sense of security, jarring their hopes, threatening their families. How painful it is!
As I sat on a bench enjoying the feel of the crowds walking, shopping and noshing, I looked up and read “Rehoboth Avenue.” Again, thoughts and memories! Won’t they ever give me a reprieve?!?! Rehoboth is the name of that first Jewish settlement in Palestine. The year was 1890 and Palestine was still a part of the Ottoman Empire. Those first Jews who came there were fleeing pogroms in Russia. How tragic that any people should be thus uprooted simply because of their ethnic makeup! They were the first wave of maligned families. Then, more pogroms in Europe and more refugees, followed soon thereafter by those fleeing the Holocaust. How did that whole catastrophe of the Jewish people in Russia and Europe evolve and then sweep the Palestinian people into its tragic orbit creating uprooted refugees out of us and continuing since then to visit more and yet more tragedies upon us who had Nothing to do with the pogroms or the Holocaust!!!? How is it possible that over sixty years after that Palestinian catastrophe humanity has not yet found a solution to this disaster; a peaceful exit strategy for both people?
That evening the highest court in the US, SCOTUS, came down with a decision legalizing marriage for same sex couples who were now to receive the full benefits of matrimony that only heterosexual couples had been entitled to thus far. We were having dinner at a restaurant across the street from a well-known gay restaurant. We all toasted the ruling as we sipped our wine! Rainbow flags seemed to come out of nowhere and flap all over the little town; cheering and merriment flowed out of every nook and cranny! What an event! What justice! I was delighted! If human beings can achieve fair and unbiased decisions such as this milestone of a law, then why can’t we spread our justice all around, to Palestinians, too? If reason prevails, we can certainly do so! However, it is not reason that triumphs in politics. It is the intransigence of the Israeli Government and its extremists; the same as extremists in the US had thus far deprived the LGBT community of recognition, respect and justice. How does one differentiate between justice for one set of humans and not another? Do we, perchance, have a new definition for justice that I am not aware of; a progressive justice and a different conservative one?
On the beach again the next day, I look out at the ocean horizon. A commercial vessel is bobbing its way along. In the Mediterranean Sea a Swedish flotilla is also bobbing its way headed for Gaza with first-aid equipment and solar panels amongst other “non-lethal” products. I wondered if the Israeli Government would allow it in to besieged Gaza, the world’s largest inhumane penal complex where 1.8 million Palestinian men, women and children are oppressed, subjugated, continuously provoked and occupied by a ruthless enemy. (Of course not, as I found out after we returned from the beach.)
Nevertheless, and despite all the ongoing depressing news around our world, I try to think cheerful thoughts as I am laying there on a beautiful shore surrounded by happy people and I allow myself to believe the momentum that seems to be gathering energy all around the world. It has been manifesting itself for a while now, but I have been withholding my hope, terrified of being smacked down again as was so often the case in my life!!
The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement has been gaining traction all over the world and the Israeli Government has been paying attention. It is what ended South African Apartheid. Could it possibly repeat itself here?
Recognition of the Palestinian people, once and not so long ago, was disallowed, almost prohibited, their story untold, repressed. However, recently, it has been permitted it seems, and Palestinians are telling their stories in the hundreds of books, songs, blogs, videos and movies that are being shown and shared all over the world; reclaiming the true history of their existence and not the false one that was rewritten by Israel and believed by the West; celebrating their national dress, their authentic foods, their artwork again, all over the world. It seems as if the planet is waking up and realizing that which it had willfully ignored for all those years.
So before Samantha Power, Marie Harf or Josh Earnest come out and say something that pisses me off again – which they constantly seem to do – I want to say that despite my fears, I do have hope for the future. While Joyful Reality in Rehoboth and Bitter Memories from my Palestinian saga jostle each other, I think of what judicious sages throughout time have told us: we cannot appreciate Joy if we had not known Sadness.
“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word “happy” would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” Carl Jung.
Maybe it is such beliefs that temper both my joy and sadness; that make me appreciate both and that give me the patience and calmness to rise up and face each day with hope that the world will come to its senses one day soon and that freedom and justice will prevail. Or, is it simply my old age that has endowed me with this foolish perception?
Beaches! Some witnessing Joy, others constantly anticipating Terror!
4 thoughts on “The Beaches”
Oh Hala, your pieces are like journeys. With you, we travel through time, to so many places and we experience so many emotions. Thank you for this beautiful piece.
Thank you for once again letting us into your beautiful mind. Always balancing joy and sorrow like a perfect scale…! Jung would have loved to meet you 🙂
Excellent Really enjoyed your latest blog.
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Always insightful and fair!