This was the first place outside Marda that I explored. It used to be an important junction on the Old Silk Road and was a strong resistance town in the years following the occupation. Nowadays, its very normalised – the occupation. Like the rest of the country, people are just trying to make enough money to survive. Food and drinks, shops and markets are everywhere. Women are covered up, some even more than in Marda wearing full burkhas which you can see also see displayed in shop windows. Lots of women whiten their faces here too. Looks really strange sometimes. On the hilltop behind the city is the largest refugee camp in Palestine – 30,000 refugees packed into ¼ of a sq km. Like the one outside Rammalah they resemble Rio’s hillside favelas. Beautiful backdrop and ugly consequence all at the same time. As we ate a shrawma outside we saw men putting flags up in the main square and cars driving round honking their horns. They were celebrating the release of a young man who had been put in jail by the Israelis. I dont know who he was or what he had been jailed for but Im guessing it was for a while and his release was a small victory.
A little bit further on is Tulkarem This is where we met Murad’s friend Fayez, and where I saw the wall for the first time. Like Murad, Fayez also runs a farm in a village just outside Tulkarem called Irtah. His story is amazing: resilience and steadfastness in effect. In a nutshell… Occupation forces tried to confiscate his land to use as a military post; some of the first sections of the segregation wall were built across 20 dunams of his land; he resisted the land confiscation and repeated attacks on him and his crops and was imprisoned, leaving his wife Muna, to manage the farm; 12 chemical factories considered hazardous to Israeli public health were relocated to the other side of the wall, one right next to his farm*; he thus grew more aware of the health impacts of fertilisers and pesticides and made the switch to organic production. Now his and Muna’s farm, famous for popular resistance attracts solidarity activists and volunteers from all over the world.
*Factory chimneys are turned on when the wind blows east into Palestine, and off when into Israel.
At his home we sat and drank zamzam with his family. Zam zam is holy water welled from the zam zam well in Mecca. They told me the story of zamzam, debating over the specifics but Im struggling to makes sense of my notes so heres a simple kids version of the origin of zamzam I found online:
“This is the story of the ZamZam water. The water well of Zamzam is a well located within the Masjid al Haram in Mecca. It was a miraculously generated source of water from Allah, which began thousands of years ago when prophet Ismael (PBUH) the son of prophet Abraham and Hajar (the wife of prophet Abraham, May Allah be pleased with her) were thirsty and alone in the dessert.In this area there is very little water if any at all in some places. According to our tradition, Hajar (May Allah be pleased with her) was a very devout mother and wife. When she was separated from her Husband prophet Abraham (PBUH), she was left alone in the dessert, by herself with her small son Ishmael (PBUH). Prophet Abraham made a prayer for his young family as he left them behind and Allah provided the means of sustenance for them. Hagar (May Allah be pleased with her) ran seven times back and forth in the scorching heat between the two hills of Safa and Marwah, in desperation because her son cried as it was very hot and they did not have even a drop of water to drink. Allah provided a Miracle and the ZamZam well was born.”
Fayez’s son “carried” 20L of this water back from his hajj pilgrimage so it goes without sayng that I felt really honoured be offered it. Its meant to contain healing powers so you drink it in 3 sips and wish for good health. I drank mine to my Mum.