+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Death in Gaza, fireworks in Bethlehem

Though tawjihi, matriculation, celebrations seem light on the surface, they point to a bleak political reality in the West Bank.

I heard the first gunshots at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 30 minutes before the “humanitarian ceasefire” went into effect.

My elderly landlady stuck her head out the window. “What’s going on?” she shouted to where I sat in the garden. She speculated that it could be clashes in Dheisheh refugee camp, which is within earshot of our house. But when we heard fireworks and horns honking, we figured it was a celebration. “Maybe,” I told her, “it’s because of the Israeli acceptance of the ceasefire. Maybe people see it as a Hamas victory?”

Majeed Al-Zeem, 52 year old, stands next to an hole caused by a missile launched by a drone which caused his injury, Gaza city, July 14, 2014. The missile was launched by the Israeli army to warn the family that they are going to conduct an airstrike on the house next door, a policy known to be termed "knock on the roof". Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 180 Palestinians.

Majeed Al-Zeem, 52 year old, stands next to an hole caused by a missile launched by a drone which caused his injury, Gaza city, July 14, 2014. The missile was launched by the Israeli army to warn the family that they are going to conduct an airstrike on the house next door, a policy known to be termed “knock on the roof”. Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 180 Palestinians.

And then a neighbor, another elderly woman, arrived. On my street—and I would venture to say that this is true for much of Palestine—elderly women are consummate collectors of information. My landlady once ferreted out my partner’s cell phone number, knowing only his exceedingly common first name, his not-uncommon last name, and the village his family hails from.

Over the cracks of live fire, which echoed through the valley, our neighbor told my landlady that high school seniors had just gotten their tawjihi scores. Tawjihi are matriculation exams, and their scores determine what college or university one will be able to get into, as well as what departments they will be admitted to.

The noise went on for a couple more hours and resumed in the evening. After iftar, the sky lit up with fireworks. As I headed towards the neighborhood dukkan (bodega), a few men stood in the street, watching the display with awe and disgust.

A friend from Beit Jala put it simply that night, as we sat in the garden. “Shu malhom?” What’s their problem?

***

It might seem belated or curious that I’m writing about this on Saturday. But in the Bethlehem area, tawjihi celebrations are still a topic of discussion.

Last night, I visited some Palestinian friends in Beit Sahour. “Did you hear all that noise on Tuesday?” my host asked, shaking his head. “Unbelievable. There’s a massacre in Gaza and people are shooting off fireworks.”

“Okay, if you want to celebrate, fine,” he continued. “But be respectful of what’s happening. Take your celebrations inside.”

My host added that one of his brothers was so upset by the celebrations—he though they were so disrespectful of what Gaza is going through right now—that he threw eggs at honking cars.

Newsletter banner 4 - 540

While my host said that the young people’s parents should not have let them celebrate in the streets, he said that it pointed to a much larger problem.

“We have no leadership,” he said. He explained that a good political system—one that works for the Palestinian people and their freedom, one that cares about Gaza and sees no division between the territories—would have held the scores until this military escalation is over. Or they would have issued some sort of an announcement requesting that people keep the situation in Gaza in mind as they celebrate.

And that’s what this is really about. Leadership. That’s what I hear over and over and over again in the West Bank: we want to protest, we want to do something, anything, but we have no leaders.

***

This came up again in another troubling conversation, the day after Israel began its ground incursion into the Gaza Strip.

“What’s happening in Gaza makes me sick,” my friend Layla said. Layla used to be an activist. Now, she’s just trying to keep her head above water.

Layla is angry and sad, but she also feels powerless. We talked about how protesting seems increasingly futile in the West Bank. How the Palestinian Authority does Israel’s bidding by putting down demonstrations. And that, at this point, getting arrested at a protest would not be a provocative act of civil disobedience. It would just seem useless.

So rather than rallying for Gaza, the youth celebrate tawjihi.

“There are Dayton forces all over,” Layla said, referring to the American general who was in charge of training the Palestinian security forces—security forces that don’t make the people feel safe but, rather, oppressed and silenced. “Maybe we could do more if we were abroad.”

Related:
On dual standards and the hypocrisy of peace
The abnormal reality of the occupation and its ‘escalations’
Gaza diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Sonnehuhr

      The Palestinians are lucky to have “Dayton Forces” protecting them from the foolishness of some who would like to cause a third intifada and another naqba.

      Or would the writer like another war in the West Bank similar to Operation Defensive Shield? Maybe you would like to see Israel tanks in the streets of Ramallah and infantry in the living rooms of Palestinians? Be careful what you wish for, for you may get it as Gazans have discoverd.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn8

      The connection between Gaza and the West Bank was never strong. Palestinian nationalism as a whole is a very weak force on the ground like all the other Arab nationalisms. It is just a means of raising capital abroad and a means of papering over the real political divisions that are based on more local concerns.

      The only real Palestinian nationalism is what existed/exists in the diaspora where the village/clan divisions are less relevant.

      It is thus not surprising that people will celebrate the Tawjihi exams. They have no real connection to what is happening in Gaza. The people being killed there by Hamas stupidity might as well be Tunisians or Yemenis.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Sonnehuhr

      Just a short note about the fireworks in Gaza. The UN found 20 rockets in one its school. It removed the rockets and handed them back to local authorities, instead of destroying them. Hamas now can fire these rockets at Israel and invite strikes back on Gaza.

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        Very nice, and now back to the fireworks…

        Reply to Comment
      • valid

        blubblubblub lieslieslies

        Reply to Comment