The Ongoing and Relentless Nakba: Adventure or Ordeal?–Part two

From my journal, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. Previous dispatches were based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019. Now I write about how I decided to cancel my long-anticipated return for two months which was to have begun May 19, 2022.


Dedicated to the murdered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Who Killed Her?

Who fired the bullet
That killed journalist
Shireen Abu Aqla?
That question is
Heatedly debated
And it is
Not at all certain
That it will ever
Be answered.

Who is responsible
For her death?
There is no doubt
About that.
The side that
Maintains Israeli
Military control
Over Jenin and
The other
Palestinian cities,
Sends soldiers there
To carry out
Violent raids,
And which refuses
To conduct a
Any sort of negotiations,
Is responsible for
The death of
This journalist
And of countless
Other victims.

—Gush Shalom statement, May 12, 2022—Adam Keller, brilliantly memorializing the life of Shireen Abu Akleh, a renowned Palestinian-American journalist working for Al Jazeera, apparently killed by Israeli military operating in Jenin.

Shireen Abu Akleh

Learning this news I wept, I smashed my fist against my palm, rage smashing against grief. I can picture the Jenin refugee camp where I’ve taught and photographed for the world-famous Freedom Theater of Jenin. Offering nonviolent cultural resistance to the occupation, both Israel and certain Palestinian groups oppose them. Assailants, to this day unidentified, murdered its founder, Juliano Mer Khamis, of Palestinian and Israeli parentage, in 2011.

I resonate with Shireen, may have photographed as she reported from one of the numerous violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israel, perhaps in Bil’in. Like her, I dodged tear gas containers and sought cover when rubber-covered metal bullets whizzed thru the air like rapidly hurtling swallows hunting insects. She, like me, may have heard from the intrepid Art Gish who supported communities in the Southern Hebron Hills, his life-affirming statement, free to die, free to live.

Journal of May 11, 2022, Wednesday, Cambridge MA

Yes, a last minute opening because of a cancellation allowed me the sleep test I’d been anticipating. Initial results, conveyed to me informally by the overnight technician, Maureen, are at least not dramatically negative—no sign of sleep apnea for one. She will ask Igor who scheduled me to expedite his analysis of my sleep record and his referral to the sleep doctor. So maybe today I may have at least preliminary results or may not for several weeks, the usual waiting period. Waking me at 5, she said, you slept pretty darn good.

Of course, the conditions were highly unusual for me: no caffeine after 9 am, no booze all day, no sleep meds, couldn’t use my phone for my regular overnight Echart Tolle podcast (while wakeful) or do my light exercise before or during the night, or in anyway leave bed. Multiple wires to my legs (for jerky leg), head (brain waves), parts of my face (maybe breathing) and other parts of my body pinioned me. I’d estimate some 40 connections. In addition, she strapped a band around my chest (lung expansion) and inserted a pair of short plastic tubes into my nose (breathing). Yes, The Body Electric.

With Maureen’s permission, I photographed her installation. I believe she told me the 7 hour test (10 pm-5 am) generated some 300 pages of testimony. I’d love to see it, maybe even peruse it with Igor or the doctor. What will it reveal? Could it possibly contain my dream record? Does that day approach?

Polysomnogram (not mine)

After arranging with Katy (my daughter) a potential (if needed) morning pickup, I biked up the high Spring Hill in Somerville, needing to cancel my brief role with the online peace stories session last night. (They planned to feature a children’s story based on or maybe even written by Yousef Bashir from Gaza, who I’d met around 2008 in Ramallah when he attended the Ramallah Friends School and Ramallah Friends Meeting-Quaker. Minga had asked me to briefly tell a story of my transformation because of my Palestine/Israel work.) And biked happily home this morning, all down hill.

The sleep room was chilly to induce better sleeping, I’d asked for extra blankets. Maureen could see and hear me all night, I forgot to ask if the camera included night vision. The wiring prevented my mobility—I slept mostly on my left side, both hips slightly sore. I woke at least 3 times but each time quickly resumed sleep. Twice to pee. I wonder now about the effect of this environment on my sleep. Did I not wake with my usual anxiety because I experienced a mild form of background anxiety from the unusual sleep conditions? Should I try tonight sleeping without my usual aids (the hospital required this for the test), no meds, no podcast or Bach, no walking meditation, maybe only an in place sit up meditation?

I remain in a quandary: I’ve had the test, not yet learned the results; initial results are favorable which might preclude a letter from my primary care doctor, Susan, to allow me a no fee airfare cancellation and an indisputable explanation for cancellation. How strong are my inner voice, my small still voice, my inner light, my guide, and my basic instinct to not travel? I waver, oscillate, consider the question of stay or go, adventure or ordeal from multiple angles.

Helping my process, I wrote the first of what might be a short series of blogs about my situation, titled it, Adventure or Ordeal? It’s generated about 7 responses, all commiserating, and some revealing painful experiences like those of Kathy F. who told me she sleeps virtually not at all. I.M., my Palestinian friend, wrote me immediately after the blog, but checking further, her reply was to my earlier message to Mohammad, my only relatively assured guide, who she had introduced to me.

Going to Palestine-Israel, I gain more material for the destroyed site’s portion of my project. I join with Alternatives to Violence Project and maybe enter Gaza. I see old friends like Fareed, Amos (with links to Bedouin), Nir, Zaru, Abed, Inas, etc. I might find other angles for my Nakba project or even branch off into smaller paths (like climate justice, agriculture, or Bedouin).

Going, I may be afflicted by sleeplessness, rendered fuzzy, troubled, and even need immediate medical care. (Is this doom’s day thinking?)

The trip could be joy, the trip could be catastrophe.

Staying home, I continue the next phase of this project, assembling materials, amplifying stories, seeking venues, and preparing a publication. I work with Extinction Rebellion and other climate justice groups. I retreat to the Agape Community and attend the annual workday. I concentrate on my insomnia in the safety and certainty of my own home. I enter partial retirement from my Palestine/Israel travels. And I continue other pursuits with friends like S.F., M.K., P.L. family, Quaker witness survey, garden, and try to reverse my Youtube account termination.

Oh, me oh my, what to do, what to do? Would a brief in-home retreat be helpful for my decision process? For sure I shall write the next installment of my Adventure or Ordeal? blog.



Shireen Abu Akleh: Al Jazeera reporter killed by Israeli forces

Stages of Sleep: The Sleep Cycle

Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker (highly recommended by me)—here an interview with the author and here the book.

Agape Community

Nakba at 74, by Mazin Qumsiyeh (May 16, 2022)

3 thoughts on “The Ongoing and Relentless Nakba: Adventure or Ordeal?–Part two

  1. Skip, my heart is stretched to reach yours, sending love. 💕

    Carole On tribal lands of the Naumkeag and Pawtucket people

    “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put all together that overwhelm the world.” —Desmond Tutu




  2. Oh Skip, congratulations on having the sleep test and hope the results are helpful, and good news not to have sleep apnea. I hear the dilemma and here’s a question. What if you decide to go for a shorter period as a compromise to the worries about adventure or ordeal? Two months is a long commitment and maybe you could decide to stay longer but alter the goal initially and plan on a 2-3 week stay and you can extend it if you truly feel the pull to stay longer. Looking forward to hearing more about what you decide. Pattie



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