Taganga, Gaza and the Message of the Condor

ImageI am in Taganga about to go tomorrow see the natural park of Tayrona.
My last email I started by saying I had received an email from a
Palestinian. So this email I wanted to start by saying that my first
response to my last email talking of al Naqbah was from Hannah who is
an Israeli who I met when I first came to Israel. She wrote with the
concern of a mother and the words of someone who has worked on
grassroots movements to finish the bloodshed of the occupation for a
while. Though I met her years ago I feel love for Hannah and Motti her
husband who hosted me on Yom Kippur. It was then my first time in
Israel and she was the first person I met who was open to talk about
the Palestinian cause. She is now in my list and this time she wrote
me concerned with my health and also talking of the symbolisms of the
key.

And just as she wrote me a friend from the US arrived to see me here
in Colombia.  He came to Colombia to see me. We had met also through
couchsurfing years ago. And we had become friends because he had been
to the first flotilla mission to Gaza in 2008. He was responsible for
making sure there were satellites transmitting what was going on so
that it would be safe to all. This mission was before the 2009 mission
you all know about.

Peter my friend, knew Vittorio Arrigoni, the Italian who had been
living in Gaza and was killed when Lorenzo took me to see the wall of
separation. I sat for Vittorio’s funeral with my Palestinian friends
Yahyah, Jaafar, and Samir. Though I did not know much of Victorio. I
was upset that day. It was said he was killed by Palestinians. Most
people I know thought it was Mossad. Till this day it is a bit of a
mystery what happened. I was upset because the activists spoke in that
memorial in us vs them terms. I could not believe it. I who then was
with my Palestinian friends, felt they had to explain to me they were
not going to kill me. I thought the woman could have phrased as in
“some lunatics” killed Vittorio but not create yet another problem
within the movement of resistance. No one knew who had killed him. All
those that knew him loved the man. Meeting him, has changed Peter’s
life who till then just worked a normal job but in seeing Vittiorio’s
passion he understood he needed to do something that mattered.

So we are in Taganga. And here I saw a Palestinian flag painted on a
door. Next to it was written Revolution, Free Gaza.. and there were
painted the cartoon Handala. Handalas are painted by Naji al Ali who
was a Palestinian cartoonist, noted for his political criticism of the
Arab regimes and Israel.

Handala is his most famous character. He is depicted as a ten-year old
boy, the figure has turned his back to the viewer and has clasped his
hands behind his back. The artist explained that the ten-year old
represented his age when forced to leave Palestine and would not grow
up until he could return to his homeland; his turned back and clasped
hands symbolised the character’s rejection of “outside solutions”.
Handala wears ragged clothes and is barefoot, symbolising his
allegiance to the poor.

Here Handalas do not have clasped hands. There a few Handalas They
have arms around each other. The first carries a key, the last a sling
shot. Those in between have arms in a hug. They carry different
objects but not in their hands. They hold each other. The objects are
in their shoulders. One has a weapon in his shoulder, the other a
camera, the middle one just wears a Keffiiyeh ( Palestinian scarf) .
As I saw this all I wanted to meet the owner  of that place. And now,
I just did.

Yassert is from Gaza. He has a food place in Taganga. His Palestinian
flag has been stolen  before, so now he has painted the flag in the
door. Together with the flag, and the Handalas you can also see a sign
written “no IDF and no Mossad”.

I arrived there and I introduced myself as being who I am: someone who
has enormous love for the middle east, for both Israelis and
Palestinians. Enormous gratitude for the Palestinians I met in the
West Bank. I introduced him to Peter who had been to Gaza. He was
nice. He brought us tea, then coffee. We ate. And I took my phone to
show him my pictures from the West bank. He saw Ibrahim Mosque and
started to become moved. “I am going to cry” He said. I told him it
was not a problem as I always cried. I told him all that I could while
he worked non stop. And then he gave me coffee. Made me Hummus and
Falafel.

I asked him his story and in between serving lots of people he told
me. He had been arrested in the second Intifada. Taken out by the red
cross to go to Switzerland, and then since he could not find jobs in
Europe he came to Colombia where just like in Brazil there was a big
Lebanese Syrian community.

“Why are you in Taganga” I asked?

Taganga is a small  fishermen village. It is close to Santa Marta.
Close to the natural park of Tayrona. He told me he came one day and
saw there were many Israelis. Here was where he was going to do his
fight for Palestine. He set up his restaurant. He wrote in big letters
“Free Gaza”. I asked him whether he served Israelis. He told me only
if they were against the occupation. I asked how often that happened.
“In 5 years I had met one person”

It is not surprising. Israelis that come to Taganga come after serving
for the IDF ( the Israeli Defense Force). Those who go to Asia tend to
be more in the search of Cannabis and spiritual paths. South America
is the continent of Sex, of music, nature, and Cocaine. So the
Israelis who come towards us tend to be the ones who are even more
traumatized then the ones I saw in India.

I pity all of them. As I sat there eating my hummus, seeing a grown
man moved by me being in love with the middle east I could not help
but remember that last night I heard Peruvians play music from the
Andes. This Palestinian man bought me chocolate when he heard I
wanted. When I wanted to pay for it. He told him I had brought him
happiness. I had heard this before in the Westbank. Yet the Peruvian
music came back to me. The people from the andes had a message of the
Condor for us. South America should unite beyond borders. I tell them,
not only south America we all should united beyond borders. And yet
keep the plurality of the world. They agreed it is the spirit of the
mountain… unity.

As I come home to write this. I read that Handalas were political
because they had clasped hands. I look into my mind and I remember
that not here in taganga.  Here they hold each other. One carries the
key, But all of them hold each other. They are together in a massive
hug observing whatever it is that they do. I get some hope out of
this. Whoever painted it knew not… but the movement towards peace
cannot be in clasped hands. It takes holding your neighbour.

But now I must go as we are expected by an Italian to learn about some
other resistance movement  that is taking place in one of the beaches
of Tayrona. The word revolution in Yassert’s place has the word love
backwards. Love is in Red. Yes.  It is big and red! That makes me
smile in the land of Garcia Marquez who went up and down the river in
“Love in the time of Cholera”. I smile and think thank God Love has
spread more than Cholera.  Now a man who fights for Gaza in South
America puts the biggest and brightest word in the middle of his
revolution. It is love. And we all hold each other looking for the
message of the Condor. Yes we should all Unite.

Love,
Jules