I arrived in the airport in Sao Paulo before 5 am. The airport was empty and I walked pratically alone to the imigration. As I delivered my Brazilian passport to a Brazilian lady who was working there that morning I said ” Good morning”. She looked at me and smiled and told me “good morning and welcome back.’
I pointed out that it was amazing for her to be in such a good mood that early. She explained she had been awake since last night, that her shift was about to be over.
“Oh, so you will be able to go to sleep soon :)”
But she was leaving in one hour straight to the university and eventually in the afternoon she would sleep for a couple hours before she would wake up to prepare dinner for her husband who would come home. She said all of that smiling and laughing.
The experience of leaving an Israeli airport where you have to get everything out of your bag, get asked several times the same question, that you are asked whether you are carrying a bomb, and why you have been to Muslim countries like Malaysia or Indonesia to arriving in Brasil where a lady sleep deprived who lives in a crappy neihbourhood where people probably get more killed in a weekend than years of Israeli conflict and still smiles (when she still has hours to go) is a shocking one.
Most of the time when I return to Brazil and I see the loudness and happiness of Brazilians I want to shout ” Why are you people so happy? Why is it that we laugh so much when it is all chaos?”
Not this time. This time I smiled inwardly and I felt an enormous joy to see that in spite of all Brazil´s problems people are happy.
As I am pondering about that my friend Jaafar writes me. He tells me he had just celebrated Eid ( the end of Ramadan) in Tel Aviv. I am puzzled. And I asked him how did it go. He tells me he was with friends and that they had swam in the beach. They made Israeli friends.
I ask him to tell me about it. And he tells me they were in a Restaurant and that there were two girls that sat next to them. They asked whether they could join them. They asked in English. The girls were 18. They said yes. They did not know they were Palestinians. Once they found out they replied ” we are peace and love”
He tells me they did not know where Nablus was. I ask whether they knew where Schem is ( the Hebrew name for Nablus). They didn´t. In fact, Jaafar tells me he showed them the picture of it in the map on his phone.
They were surprised ” But that is Israel”. Jaafar tells me this laughing. He finds it funny they did not know where the West Bank was.
I wish I could have been there and seen all of this. I am not even sure what to think.
Jaafar is working with an Israeli IT girl in developing a new app. He asks me an opinion. I am not an expert on it but I give it. And as this conversations happens through the internet I cannot help but think how small the world has become because of it. All the people I met because of Instagram, couchsurfing, and all the opinions I can now ask from far away on skype, email, Facebook etc. The fact that he can take his Iphone out and show where he comes from in a map to people who have long heard about Palestinians being their neighbours but who do not know the Israel they see is a huge part Occupied Palestinian Territories.
“How did you feel in Tel Aviv?” I ask him
” We had lots of fun. We laughed a lot!”
Strange. I had always felt Tel Aviv was a bubble for Tel Avivians. It was the first time I realised it could be a bubble to anyone.
Laughter seems to be always the refuge of the naive. Irony is said to be the only possibility when all is too painful. I ponder about that and realise only an intelectual could have come up with that. So caught up in ideas about ideas. Seriousness is always solemn and is seen as inteligence. In the world of the mind to laugh seems always frivolous, naive, out of touch with reality. But I am starting to think that those that laugh are the most in contact with reality there is. The most aware of the reality they can´t change. They laugh.
It comes to me the Tibetans. Always smilling. The Thai. Brazilians. Are these people so in contact with reality that they just refuse nowadays to let the harshness of it enter their bodies? Their minds? Is laughter after all the last possibility of resistance?
I am not sure. But it does definetely feel better to be next to those who laugh… I take my passport back and I wish the lady she will have a happy day. She smiles and says “It is already.”
I wonder what basement these Israeli girls were locked in for 18 years that they had no notion of what and where Nablus is, what the West Bank is and what the occupation is. I’m surprised that anyone could believe that this is a true story.
I have many Israeli friends who do not know where Nablus is. And they are older than 18. Most of those who know it…know Nablus by Schem… And all of them have no clue how it is there being that if they have heard about it, or had been there it was as an army person. As for the girls being surprised the West Bank is part of the Israeli map they learn it shocks me to. Though it does not surprise me in the least considering the kinds of things I have heard in Israel. Or from 18 years old anywhere in the world in fact 🙂
If you would like to go to Nablus btw since you have a Brazilian passport you wont have a problem. ANd if you want to meet my friends I am certain they will love to meet you.