Discovering Palestine

An enormous title such as this allows a private destiny to appear to be an essential and remote sanctuary from the public's influence and commands. Therein. I will choose only a narrow path, one that incorporates a private destination into a private memory, a path within a very personal era and vision.

The proposed route takes me to the border crossing Rafah, my entrance to Palestine in the summer of 1994, where I must now rebuild my always-changing and ambiguous relations with the nation surrounded by the past and conflicted by it . A past emerging as a subject to be remembered and protected simultaneously. A traditional desire for comfort, a yearning and a hope for things to occur along safe and consciously chosen routes, without any fear of change. Nonetheless, the future gathers like a flood from beneath the floors of a room, a hallway and the streets which we must go through, and which do not enjoy the past's protection and its selections.

Here the present appears to be more limited than in any other place and in any other language, here where the place spreads its totality over the dead and the missing, on an apparently escalating march towards the graves and their visitors.

Palestine is the nation I return to now; or rather, it is the other story of the place or of the precision-fixated geography in the division of the political world overwhelmed by events, by ignorance, by silence, as well as by other interests and their interpretations ... I return to depict a hill .. a hill and a tree .. a tree as an obstinate and living island trying to balance its position, one which will not become free from the confusion of those trying to remember.

Now the actual return to Palestine is the departure from the story of banishment, and the beginning of the personal era of the banished, in this land whose past is always its essence, which is inhabited and governed by that past with all its references, facts and the various stories it reveres. Those which were carved by usage and those which carried on this sculpturing and shadowing till it reached this point where we stand now, closer to interpretation than to reality.

So this is how I believe the new era was formed: the place came first. Here the spontaneous and harsh history, its unique formation on this exceptional land, does not go directly to a reality or to a truth as much as to where its roads, words and hopes are diverted. The result is that a sacred story is fabricated from this formulation, one that cannot be either proved or refuted, and one which does not permit playing with its contents without a direct confrontation with the gods.

Here it is hard to conceive the origin of something, or to follow the first route along which then moved whatever lead to the script. The key issue in all of this is the astonishing duel between place and mythology--the spectral duel without human interference. The division of the land between reward and punishment, the force which directs the geography between the invading lake-- similar to a decision that does not cease moving --and between Jerusalem on the top, the only agreed-upon station for communicating with the gods on this planet.

Between these two poles, you must locate a special light which expresses you individually as a "returnee" to the incomplete place, a place that you are accustomed to in its completeness, or in the habit of renovating it in a long speech trick

Those entering here are usually invaders: they take their needs from history, from the story, take what concerns them and disregard the rest. Then they build a complete world from their scarce belongings, ready for the other struggle which is here, ready for all but itself and all that is external to the body as a group. A struggle thus built on the many deficiencies which are at hand, making it compensate, close the gaps in their stories of it.

In Palestine place remains inadequate and incomplete, and this is the obstacle in the “sacred story"-- a story built, without any doubt, on refuting the other, as well as on the other’s refusal and absence. This lack, always "compensated by sacredness," does not require any fabrication of proof other than a good speech.

The banished returns to the nation full of experience, full of knowledge, and full also of the memory of the banished people. This is the role of the situated returnee, to wait and to furnish what is absent from the dream by adding to the idea of the banished place; loosening it, combining with it memory, yearning and the experience of desire, in order to convert it to a near-reality.

That is how the banished people penetrated Palestine in great numbers, and with many desires, for each "new" banished campaign always arrived from a place of wealth; in their return they were always reassured by a glance which is all that governs the relation of Palestine to the other place. However, profound doubts exist. Holding on to these glances so that the other place will be close enough for the look of the exile, the immigrant .. .and close enough to the other which is also there, with the imagined project of invading and raiding…

Among such private and distrustful interferences you must build your individual knowledge and vision as well as your personal relationships.

At the same time, you must join the story and continue resisting the other colonization in the story, and its various aspects. "Colonization" not only in its astonishing current political meaning, but its initial prominence and its first roots, and the different levels of colonization in the mythology, all the way to the "colonization of Mount Abu Ghaneim ... near Jerusalem."

You must continue your renovation of the destroyed and wounded story, and give it protection by closing the many gaps in its walls, rooms and dome…thus removing the shadow of the other’s urgent story, the ghosts of its characters and of their destiny, all of whom are waiting as sins in your story.