Mornings in the Burnat family house are very much like mornings in my house: Tasaheel wakes the kids up and slowly some of them rouse from their beds looking still half, if not entirely, asleep. Five minutes later, Tasaheel goes back into one of boy’s bedroom to see that one of them has fallen back asleep. She wakes him again telling him that he must get up now. She does not want him to be late for school. Tasaheel gives each of her children some tea to wake with and money to buy some breakfast at school. They will get a falafel. Then Tasaheel gets started on her day picking up the house from the day before and making food for today. She does this despite being awake much of the night because her ten-month-old has kept her up most of the night.
There are many ways that family life is in Palestine is no different from the way my children and I live in the US. But, there is one glaring difference, the Burnat family lives everyday under a brutal military occupation.
Last night the children in the village of Bil’in tried to get a good night’s rest in preparation for school exams. However, while they were resting at 1:30 in the morning, their father was getting a call from a neighbor that the Israeli military might be headed into the village. Children here live with the constant presence of the Israeli military. They military comes into houses and schools in Palestine. They arrest children. They shoot tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition at children. The oldest Burnat child, Majd (16) was shot in the leg this past summer. After being smuggled into Jerusalem for surgery to repair a nerve that had been shattered by the bullet (Israel had refused his request for a permit to enter legally enter Israel for the surgery) he still cannot feel his foot. Now, as I write this, my daughter, Isabella is attending school with Mayar, the Burnat’s ten-year-old daughter. I find myself worrying about the soldiers coming into the school.
I don’t know if I could be as brave and strong as the Tasahel is. I don’t know that I could go about sending my children to school everyday knowing that soldiers can enter the school at any moment. I don’t know that I could entertain guests with the delicious food that Tasaheel has made everyday since Katya, and my children and I arrived to visit with them. Could I with the smell of tear gas devote myself to ensuring that my children study diligently so that they can receive high grades in school? Tasheel does not have a choice.
I know as I write this, I have a choice. I can go about my daily life, raising my children in the safety and comfort of Ithaca NY, without thinking about what is happening in Palestine. Or I can speak out and work to end Israel’s occupation so that the families in Palestine can have the safety that I take for granted. You who reading this, also have that choice. I hope that you make the right one.