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Monday, January 30, 2012

Nothing to Lose But Your Life: An 18 Hour Journey with Murad

Nothing to Lose But Your Life: An 18 Hour Journey with Murad
by Suad Amiry

I read Amiry's "Sharon and My Mother-in-law" first and loved the mix of explaining the Palestinian situation and humor and resilience. The first part of this one didn't hook me like that book, but the second part more than made up for it.

In chapter 10, she realizes they have been in the West Bank all this time (they are about to cross at The Wall) and the dangers, fear of arrest, running, bullets, hiding, etc happened on what is supposedly their own turf. Even for Amiry, who knows about things like this, the shock is palpable.

Chapters 11 and 12 struck me as out of place at first, but after some thought, they capture the situation perfectly. Chapter 11 is a fable or a few fables and 12 is about The Wall and a particular graffiti artist. I didn't realize at first that most of these images are actual Banksy "paintings" on the Wall; I only had seen a few in pictures. This chapter, like the art, is profound.

In chapter 14, this quote was great:
"I don't know what it is about Palestinians; they all believe they can pass for an Israeli, regardless of how typically Arab they look, the second they put on sunglasses."

It comes amid the various adjustments the workers are making to their appearance as they prepare to "blend" in with Jewish Israelis. I was aware of the plight of Palestinian workers, but not so much with this aspect. Very interesting.

Last sentence of chapter 14: 
"Only then did I realise that for me, and many others, Israel was virtual. For Murad, Israel was 'home.' Israel was a reality; a harsh reality."

At a cafe (deciding whether or not to continue), she defines the ultimate love-hate relationship, being out of ones' skin, out of place and history as being in her homeland Palestine.

Nearing the decision to quit the search for work for the day and distance themselves from the actual workers who they have slowed down some, they rest in a park and she tells a bit about what an Israeli park actually is- a peaceful green space that, by contrast, was taken by force from Arab villagers. For instance, most Palestinians are referring to Petah Tikvah as Mlabbis, it's original name.

This several pages long daydream about Mlabbis/ Petah Tikvah is brilliant. I wonder if she knew or researched the history, heard bits from Murad, or simply recounted the familiar 1948 Palestine or Nakba memory shared by many people and villages and retold by more.

In chapter 16, she talks about missing the Tel-Aviv (Lod) airport and the firman Sharon issued that no Palestinian from the West Bank or Gaza could use this airport. Also on this portion of the bus ride she remembers various Palestinian villages while looking for the rubble.

At the end, she takes off her worker's clothes and steps back into her life and reflects on the situation- real risks and dangers- that they face every day just to get a day's work. And the author's note! It is an article she reads the day she gets home about a worker getting shot doing what she just did.

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