Where Do We Go From Here?

Recognition of the past is important, but I’m not willing to be stuck with it all my life, to collapse under its weight and become its victim.

Mira Awad
Mira Awad
A Palestinian youth sporting a bandolier of spent IDF bullets, Beit Hanun, August 14, 2014.
A Palestinian youth sporting a bandolier of spent IDF bullets, Beit Hanun, August 14, 2014.Credit: AP
Mira Awad
Mira Awad

According to Israel, justice will triumph, the home front is strong, the front line is heroic, the world is anti-Semitic, and hands are patting backs. According to Hamas, Allah is great, the human price is small, Gaza is a symbol of sumud (steadfastness), heads are held high, and hands are still at the ready. According to the world, there’s a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, destruction and ruin, tents instead of houses, bodies of children, and hands are being wrung in helplessness. According to the Palestinian people, not much has changed, and they’re still waiting – for an end to the blockade, an opening of the border crossings, recognition of their pain, declaration of a state. They’re waiting for Godot but now, almost 2,000 fewer of them are waiting, and hands are caressing new keys. According to the United States, Israel is right; according to the United States, Israel is wrong. And its hands? One is funding Israel, the other is funding Hamas.

According to the generals, the cost was low; according to economists, the cost was high. According to the left, the people are divided; according to the right, the people are united. According to one television commentator, it’s over; according to another, it will never end. According to the ultra-Orthodox, the Jewish people’s secret weapon is prayer; according to cartoon character Tilly the Missile, it’s the Iron Dome antimissile system. The “bro” Naftali Bennett is hoping for an upgrade; the “Big Brother” television series is hoping for good ratings. According to the nutritionists, we’ve all gained weight; according to the restaurateurs, we haven’t eaten anything.

Judging by the army, Israel is Goliath; judging by public relations, Israel is David. According to astrologists, this is a good time for soul-searching; according to psychologists, we’re all posttraumatic. Judging by WhatsApp, we’re getting back to normal; judging by our empty appointment books, getting back to normal will take time. Our conscience tells us we must cry out; our doctor tells us we must stop watching the news.

My head says I’m dying to get out of here; my heart says I have no other country. The Tourism Ministry says this is the perfect time to take a vacation in Israel; the Environmental Protection Ministry says: Did you drink? Did you enjoy? Now recycle! And according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, diplomatic strategies should also be recycled.

So where to now? Where do we go from here?

According to the optimists, we’re headed for negotiations; according to the pessimists, we’re headed for another lull before the next round of fighting. According to the left, we must strengthen democracy; according to the right, we must strengthen unity. Judging by the state of our bank accounts, we should tighten our belts; judging by our emotional state, we should embark on a shopping spree. And judging by the circles under our eyes, we should go to bed.

Enough! I’m tired. Someone should silence all the prattle. Please stop this battered merry-go-round, with its blind war horses and screeching music that plays in an endless loop, and let me get off.

Here in this place, tomorrow refuses to come. Every day, I feel anew as if we are reliving yesterday. We, as an Israeli and Palestinian collective, cling tightly to this nightmarish yesterday of injustice and revenge, and refuse to let go until we have finished autopsying its rotten corpse, until we have proven who is right and who is wrong, who began it and who ended it, who is guilty and who is the victim. But we will never agree on these things, and, meanwhile, the stench of the corpse fills our nostrils and poisons our lives.

And is it really important who was right yesterday? Isn’t it more important who is smart today?

Don’t misunderstand me: Recognition of the past, of history, of suffering and loss, is important to me. I, in my naïveté, thought my whole life long that the day would come when the Jewish public would see that I understand and accept its narrative, and then it would be willing to accept and recognize my narrative.

I, in my innocence, saw in my mind’s eye the government of Israel establishing an official Nakba Day so that its Palestinian citizens could remember and grieve without violating any laws. Not out of worship of the past, but out of a need to remove its weight from our shoulders and place it in a museum. For as long as your past receives no recognition, you carry it about like a hump, like a precious burden that you can’t set aside even for a moment, lest someone come and sweep it under the carpet and make it disappear forever. Nevertheless, with all due respect to the past, I’m not willing to be stuck with it all my life, to collapse under its weight and become its victim.

It’s not out of contempt for the past that I want to move forward, but out of yearning for the future.

So where to now? Back to yesterday once again? Or will someone finally navigate us toward tomorrow?

Unfortunately, I don’t see navigators on the horizon. So I’ll put a clothespin on my nose and prepare myself to continue wallowing in the stench of yesterday.

Mira Awad is a musician.

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