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Living around guns

My village, Rameh, is always full of guns, especially gangs’ guns and guns smuggled out of the military. Dozens of murders, dozens of crimes have taken place right in front of my eyes, right under the police’s nose. The motivations might be organized crime disputes, racism, ego, misogyny and “honor”. How do you measure honor? And how can someone injure someone else’s honor? These are questions for which I have no answers. I do know that in my village injured honor is redressed by the number of bullets shot at the other party, which is usually the wife, the colleague, the competitor, even the neighbour…

I’ve seen two murders with my own eyes in Rameh, in front of my house and on the main street. I have countless stories. When I was five, I had to flee our house because masked armed men prepared the area for battle. As a child who didn’t understand what was happening outside , I cried and cried once I could go back home, and I locked myself in the neighbors’ toilet for a long time.

When I was seven, I saw five armed men with grenades through my bedroom window. They threw them at the house and we ran to the neighbors. We weren’t a target because of anything we did, they just wanted to scare us, to show their control of the neighborhood. In another neighborhood they set fire to a whole row of cars, in a third one three young men were killed in the space of several months just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Actually, I remember who was murdered in every neighborhood… These stories, in some cases images, and the village’s silence after each of them took place, are etched deep in my memory as if they just happened. How do you heal from that kind of trauma?

The strangest story: we were sitting with my family in the yard and a group of five young men with hoodies came by. They threw something in the trash cans and said good evening. Another group of six or seven, also with hoodies, ran after them. I went to take out the trash and saw something scary. My father said: don’t touch it, but he didn’t call the police. There were ten guns there. We went back to sitting. Two hours later the first group came back, took the guns and left. What can you do? If you call the police you’re finished. If you touch anything, you’re finished too.
It’s living with it every day. My mother was assaulted when she was forty because they wanted to take her money. It means getting up every morning and checking if there’s a bomb in your house.

These days I can’t be in the same room with a gun, not even sitting across the isle from a soldier. It disgusts me, the pride with which men hold weapons! They don’t even bother to conceal them or to be sensitive towards their environment.

It’s this way in Haifa and Tel Aviv too, guns and violence. It used to be that if someone harassed me early in the morning I could slap him. Now I’m afraid he’ll pull a gun out of his car and chase me home. Girl friends of mine have been assaulted twice with weapons. Someone assaulted my male friend. There is no safe place. Haifa is no longer safe. We have to work on the issue of drugs and violence. There are seven Palestinian women’s organizations and they don’t do anything when young women use cocaine, they ignore it. It’s all connected, drugs and violence.



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