I couldn’t imagine how going to Palestine with The Center for Jewish Nonviolence (CJNV) would affect me. All of my thoughts before the trip revolved around other people: the Palestinians I was about to meet, the international activists I would spend time with, the people back home who might be moved by pictures and stories. Two weeks and a trip to the occupied territories later, I still couldn’t access my own feelings. I spent the plane ride home reliving my trip as an observer, my experience becoming a vivid movie that lacked any personal transformation.
It’s been almost two weeks now since returning from Palestine, and life has begun to resemble the normalcy in which I left it. It’s this normalcy though, or the return to it rather, that’s finally evoking some personal reflection. Similar to how author David Foster Wallace imagined fish to have no concept of the water they swim in, I lacked the ability to define my environment, my water, my “normal” before this trip. I came back and found myself swimming in something for the first time.
What did I come back to? I came back home to predictability. To control over my environment. To routine. This was in contrast to Palestine, where I experienced so many moments of uncertainty. Will the Israeli military open this checkpoint and let our group through? Do those settlers coming towards us have weapons? Does this soldier want to hurt me because I am filming him? These tiny doses of life under occupation, these microcosms of the arbitrary violence that Palestinians experience on a daily basis, took me out of my “normal.” It forced me to examine my atypical privilege, not through a book or a movie but through active participation in the struggle I claimed to care about. I can acknowledge the differences between my life and that of a Palestinian, but how entitled have I become in my environment of predictability, my ability to control my surroundings, the routine in my fishbowl? Am I ready to give up elements of my own safety, like so many of my friends did on our CJNV trip, to fight for a world where everyone’s “normal” is free of state violence?
Maybe I could, with a community behind me. If you’re thinking the same thing, maybe we’re in the right place.