Sunday, November 18, 2012

Climbing the Ladder in Bethlehem

17 November 2012

Reading and posting on the situation in Gaza has brought back some of my photojournalist memory.
Because this started as a blog in search for an identity, I decided to add this bit to it.  I rarely get personal about anything in my blog.  Maybe that is not such a good thing, how is anyone going to understand life after reporting war?

I have continued to "search for my identity" as the time flickers by.  I have seen some women find their new "nitch" after a divorce feeling left stranded in the middle of a blowing desert staring at the wind blowing the dust around them. 

I left "my war" the Palestinian/Israeli...conflict...war and the desert wind still blows.  Although I really try to find that new "nitch", I just can't seem to find.  In the end, life just passes by and I look back after leaving the war trying this thing or that and writing in this blog, but it just is not the same.  I don't feel a "purpose" or I have not been working in my place of calling.  There is a sure emptiness and a void without the cause of advocacy, generating voice, telling the stories that are very important for mankind and human beings to know about and trying to get them to "care".  Leaving the war, was like a divorce.  A divorce from the people the place, the food and the land.  A divorce from the cause and leaving in the middle.  It was a divorce from a way of life that I knew it, that I learned after my own real life divorce.  It was and to me is the same.

I ask myself every day how do the women who have to start over do it?  I have been in the same boat.  Divorced, older and starting over.  

This is what I have observed:

  1. The women remain strong.  It seems that they plow through whatever obstacle that is before while their eyes continue to glare forward.  Never to look left or right at the past or the future.
  2. They possess determination to plow through the new road, up and down the hills and valleys.  
  3. They put all of their energy into one thing, that thing of focus and the goal.
  4. They seem to never give up.
I remember when I was covering a story in Bethlehem after a 40 day incursion of the Israeli's Defense Force (IDF).  This was a time in history where the IDF surrounded almost all of the West Bank towns and imposed curfews, turned off water, shut down the electricity and buzzed the streets with bulldozers, tanks, jeeps and guns.  They also would take over peoples homes on the high ground to create lookout posts as places to shoot from if they saw any movement in the streets.

The time was horrible and it was dangerous for journalists as well.  So, I waited until they were pulling out and I went in to see the damage.  I interviewed a woman who was what I would call "held hostage" for 40 days.  Her home was right across from the Nativity Church, where they say that Jesus was born.  She lived on the top floor.  I spoke with her and she was lucky that the soldiers that were in her home were decent...or shall I say more decent than others had experienced.

One soldier gave her a cake before they left as a good-bye.  She had not realized the reality of her situation by the time I spoke with her it is called hostage syndrome.  It was only a few hours after the IDF left.  She was more concerned about giving me some cake, some tea and showing me her panoramic view of Bethlehem from the roof.

In politeness, I had some cake and tea then went to see the panoramic view.  We walked outside onto her veranda and she pointed to a frail ladder and then looked up.  I quickly realized that she wanted me to climb that ladder to see the view.  I became nervous for my own safety, not of bullets but from falling down that ladder.

She looked at me and shook her head and started climbing.  This woman was about 70 years old remind you.  I watched her step right onto the first rung and climb up that ladder, she had no frets, no fear and no second thought.  What she had was determination.  I said to myself , "If she can do it, then I can do it, I mean she is twice as old as I am!"

At that moment, I saw her strength that seemed boundless and fearless solid like a deeply planted stone bound into the earth.  It was then that I had deep respect for the women who had to suffer in wars under horrible conditions and remained very strong.  

It was that moment that I decided that I too needed to be strong and then remain strong.  There are other stories of the "women of war" who emulate both strength and gentleness. These woman of war taught me something very valuable; that we too can be like the woman who climbed the ladder.  

As outsiders of war zones and conflict, we should remember those who are living in conflict, like those in Gaza and not give up the fight to change the mind of the political leaders and citizens who do not understand.  We should keep going until the end.

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