QUARANTINE - DAY 3 - 8th March 2020
Bethlehem's third day in quarantine coincides with International Women's Day - a day when we remember and celebrate the achievements of women both past and present and consider the resilience shown through times of difficulty. It is a Sunday but the churches are shut due to the quarantine.
A friend in Bethlehem, who prefers to remain anonymous, reflects on life as a woman and a mother:
Talking about quarantine in Palestine will inevitably have a special context compared to other countries and places around the world. Although I don’t want to be political in describing my third day under quarantine; politics and occupation restrictions are still very much part of my life and make it complicated. Holding a Jerusalem ID and being married to a West Banker throws up again the question of identity and belonging during these tough times. Where should the quarantine be? My husband cannot stay in Jerusalem and my three kids, who hold Jerusalem IDs, cannot stay without their father. I choose to stay with my husband and keep all family members together. Quarantine is already distressing enough and as a mum I don’t want to cause further shock and stress to my kids. Sometimes in life we need to make choices based on our priorities, so in that sense I chose taking the risk of not working for a month since I will not be able to reach my office in Ramallah.
This is definitely going to affect our economic situation. We have already suffered from a financial crisis two years ago. My husband went bankrupt and this situation drained us emotionally, psychologically and physically. At that time, I decided to take charge and took on more than one job to improve our financial situation and help us survive within our complicated political and economic situation. Unfortunately, being a woman, facing such a complicated life in a patriarchal society where a male-dominated system is rooted in our society, means more oppression for women from occupation and society. What I am trying to say, is that throughout life’s challenges and obstacles, people need community support, but since I am a woman who is criticizing the patriarchal system in my family and tribe, I receive zero support during these days. I was estranged from my family two years ago because I insisted on the fact that women are equal to men and asked for financial support for my family. They refused due to their belief that once a daughter is married she doesn’t have the same rights as her brother. It’s not that financial thing I am trying to criticize but I am trying to take a stand about our patriarchal system and some traditions that are part of our destruction.
Anyhow I am giving you a brief background of my personal story or “Hikaya”, to show how there is an overlap in everything in our lives. These challenges in my life have created a resilient woman ready for emergencies. On the first day of lockdown, I wasn't shocked because I always think of closure and fragmentation as part of a Palestinian's daily life. I was scared about shortages of food, water, money, medicine, losing my job and of lack of medical treatment etc. I entered into a loop of negative feelings; what if this and what if that? The second day I decided to control my negative thoughts and focus on breaking this cycle by putting some goals and milestones in place to achieve in order to avoid collapsing in panic. I did so for the sake of my kids (11- and 12-year-old girls and a 5-year-old boy) because I started seeing the effect of my fear and panic on them.
As a life coach, I wrote a post today about individual resilience and I shared it on my webpage as a message to enhance our resilience skills during this time. Honestly, I feel that I wrote it for myself because I know my community doesn’t believe in personal development a lot. Also, no one reads such posts because today it seems people are busy with women's day congratulations on social media. In my personal opinion we still have lots and lots to do in relation to women's equality and women's empowerment in Palestine. Still we tackle things in a superficial way that makes us miss the real purpose and the bigger picture.
My thoughts about Coronavirus are that Palestine already suffers a lot and this virus compounds the suffering. I am concerned about internal suffering related to the fragmentation of society, the widespread ignorance, the low status of women and so much more. Maybe this virus can enhance critical thinking because I am getting more and more disappointed when I see posts that relate coronavirus to religious and superficial issues while it is clear that the outbreak of the virus and containing it is pure science. I wish we would reach a point where we think in a logical way and have this as a common denominator confronting our mistakes and weaknesses and putting a real plan together to work on our community development and empowerment as a whole.
I am taking things on a daily basis to see how things will evolve because it seems I am worrying about tremendous things. Meanwhile I try to control my thoughts and stop thinking of outcomes to avoid cracking up. I will force myself to read and try to help my kids in studying (if they agree!). Finally, I wish that this crisis would pass soon otherwise if we don't die from Coronavirus we might die from hunger. Now I am going to make Manakeesh (Za’atar Pastry) in order to use my time in a positive way. The reality is that I have no choice – my kids are hungry!!