Insightful Note from my Palestinian Student

One of the joys of teaching is interacting with remarkable young people.  I have an outstanding Palestinian student, who just returned from his country.  He sent me this note about an incident that reflected the subtle changes over and above the more obvious hardships and degradation associated with occupation.

It was at about 12:30pm during a busy day in Ramallah when I accompanied a father’s friend in a trip to the Islamic Palestinian Bank.  Sounds of horns are buzzing everywhere under a glazing sun.  Standing fifteen or twenty feet away from the ATM machine, a reversing Peugeot slammed a relatively new vehicle parked behind it, causing considerable damage.  The seemingly careless driver hurried to escape the scene under great pressure from the traffic he interrupted for moments.

I was frustrated.  I felt angry, and I felt lonely.  Where is common courtesy?  Where is integrity and honesty?  Two years have passed since I have set foot in these lands, when did this change come about?  My sense of helplessness made me more anxious, and I was growing more furious than earlier.

A minute or two later, the driver of the victim vehicle arrived and sat behind the wheel without noticing his car’s front.  He was perhaps fifty or fifty five years old.  Short, and completely bald if it wasn’t for the few trickles of white hair that surround the bottom back of his head.  With a sense of righteousness, I rushed to the car and knuckled on his window.  Before the electric-powered glass finished sliding down, I reported to him that a white Peugeot slammed his car and immediately escaped.  He leaned a few inches to my side as if to give me a secret, flashed a gentle yet pompous smile, and then said: “The Land is gone, and you’re talking about a car?”  Before uttering the last words of his sentence, the car was already moving.  I was more humbled than ever.

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