We lock eyes. Her name is Haya. My mind flashes to National Geographic and eyes that stay the same color but grow tired over time. But this is not a photo opp. She is not a photo opp or any other kind of opp. I don’t really want to write articles. I don’t even want to tell her story because I wonder how much her life has been dictated to her. But I don’t know. That’s the story. That’s the answer. I don’t know.
Her day starts before her husband’s does. She fixes a breakfast of olives and cheese. “Sometimes, there’s cheese,” she says, referring to the ration distribution. Her home is three rooms. The walls are made of water proof plastic. On the floors are sleeping mats at the base of each wall.
Why would your greatest hope be to return to a place that you know to be gone? You know your home is no longer—and you want it, still. To an Arab, attachment to soil, ground, trees is an important part of familial identity. This plastic and plywood tent cannot hold that identity. It cannot ground it. Cover a living, breathing thing in plastic and you suffocate it. It dies for lack of sun. And so, the longing for ‘home’ wells up and overflows into every sentence.
“What words would you use to describe your feelings?” the woman to my left asks our host. She says that it cannot be described. There is too much sadness in the way.
Well, there it is. Sadness. “So, how much of your body is filled with sadness?” someone asks This she can answer. “At least 75%.”
We have a very difficult time sitting in tension. I was told today that, in the West, we see 95% in black and white. We only allow 5% to remain grey. Our translator asks our host, “These women are from the United States. If you could ask them for anything, what would it be?” My heart flips. My mind races through all the possible answers she could give. I want to interject, ‘Wait, don’t ask that. What if we can’t deliver? Don’t give her false hope.’ And then I realize that any hope cannot be false. It cannot be in vain. Because hope will always empower. It will always lead towards life.
Another woman asks, “So, what do you want to make sure we really know?”
Our host closes with, “I you want to forget everything about this visit, don’t forget that my daughter needs a better future. If there is any way you can do this, help. Help.”
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