QUARANTINE - DAY 14 - 19th March 2020
As Bethlehem enters its third week of quarantine with no one allowed to enter or leave the town, Israeli soldiers, dressed in fully-protective suits and masks, stormed into Dheisha refugee camp last night and arrested three men in their early twenties. I guess there are exceptions to every quarantine rule? A French Palestinian reports from his house in Dheisha:
Two weeks of quarantine. This morning I woke from a dream that I was walking in the lavender fields of Provence. I miss France. I miss Marseille. It is a hard reality I face every second I am living here in Bethlehem - we are all living here. Staying home in confinement means that I can spend more time in bed in the morning but it doesn't make me sleep better. I have no work now here in Palestine. I live by myself and I no longer have children to take care of on a daily basis - they grew up in France and live outside Palestine now.
I don't find life difficult but I try to think of ways to be productive. I spend my days cooking and gardening - when the weather is good enough to go outside. It is cold today and was raining yesterday. I am looking for love and think that when I find love again it will cure my soul. I am not really watching the horrible news about the rapid progression of coronavirus. Because every time I start watching the news on the tv, I see more depressing images of sick people. The way they report about sick or dead people feels like I am under attack in my own home.
As a french citizen living in Dheisha camp, Bethlehem district, I heard the announcement on the news when French president Macron gave people like me exactly 24 hours to take a plane and go back to France. After this date I would have to wait for a month before I could travel again. Ok, so I started my day calling the Consulate of France in charge of Palestinians living in the West Bank under the control of the Palestinian authority.
Me: Bonjour Madame
The lady: Bonjour Monsieur
I started by telling her my story.
The lady: It is better if you can stay where you are if you have got some place to stay.
Me: Yes, but I want to know whether there is any possibility to go back to France?
The lady: You will have to pay for all costs to go back.
Me: As a French Palestinian living in the Palestinian territories, what should I do to be able to cross the Israeli checkpoints?
The Lady: You should get a valid plane ticket and present yourself at one of these checkpoints six hours before the time of your flight.
She added: Or stay where you are.
Me: Merci Madame. Take care.
After a pause: A vous aussi.
So I decided to stay at home and learn the way of Palestinians and their philosophy in the face of this horrible illness: Resist with nothing - resist attacks from people and illnesses. No one is willing to help in everyday life with the Israeli blocks on these people.
Dheisha is a sprawling, crowded refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem, near Doha.
Today there is a strong wind and I can hear it outside striking my beloved trees.
Images: Mohamed Abu Haniyeh