My grandma once hid me in a suitcase on a shelf in the closet when the IDF raided our house during the Intifada looking for kids who were throwing stones at the patrolling jeeps. I was 8 years old at the time.
I was terrified and on the verge of wetting myself the whole time, but to this day there is nothing like the memory of hearing her shout down and curse out the IDF scum who had barged into our home with their guns. She was the epitome of a Palestinian fala7a sitto - tough as nails, not afraid of anything, took absolutely no shit whatsoever, and was always willing to stand up for/defend family, no matter what
Memories of my grandmother, a defiant victim of the occupation of Palestine
Sitting in the backseat of a taxi heading to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, I waved goodbye to my grandmother while trying hard to hold back tears. I was nine years old at the time and I had no idea that this moment would be the last time I’d ever see her again.
My sitto’s name was Myassar – a beautiful name that suited her beautiful persona. While she faced and endured the horrors of a brutal military occupation on a regular basis, she led a very beautiful life. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I didn’t have many experiences with her; after all, she lived thousands of miles away behind military installations and army-grade checkpoints. But after thinking back upon the few moments I did manage to share with her, I feel nothing short of admiration for the person she was, the kindness she embodied, and her dedication to defying the inherently vile nature of occupation, injustice, and oppression.
I never used to see them. Well, I did, but I just didn’t let them in, that is to say, acknowledge them. On a daily basis I kept my window up and didn’t even look to the side when a person came to beg at my car at any intersection.
As things go with us women, I met a man. One with a big heart, or at least big enough to care about people on the street. This guy made me see them in a different light and made me realise that my view of such people was a teensy weensy bit judgemental. Then, to top all that, along came the Love Life advert of the guy begging for work at intersection to better his life and that of his impoverished family. That was what drove the stake in deeper.
I let them in. I acknowledged them and still do. I give what I can, when I can and the rest of the time, I look them in the eye, shrug my shoulders and lift my hands, indicating that I have nothing.
While I find that it’s a noble thing to do for another fellow being, it is expensive! There are so many intersections and at each one there is someone begging for food, money, anything, even a job.
I have a budget for the intersection people. A monthly one, in coins. When that’s done, which goes pretty quickly, that’s it.
One night though, I saw someone hand out three crisp R10 notes. All in one go! And it was in that moment that I realised the begging won’t stop because those who have pacify their guilt by giving lots of money at a go.
While I appreciate that we all have different realities, I often wonder how genuine those boards are. And whether, given the choice, would those people choose to work or continue to beg. There are those that get aggressive when I indicate I have nothing to give and those don’t get a big allocation of the budget. Then, there was a young white man in Yeoville that I wished I could talk to, just to say to him: get off the drugs dude. I worry most about the children though. The young men, on whose shoulders the next generations should be built on, who are begging so early in their lives.
All I can say is: I’m begging for some mercy, some reprieve from all those begging. My heart wants to help every single person, but my resources don’t because they can’t.