Saturday, August 09, 2008
The Awesome Palestinians
Last night I did something I usually don't do: I planted my eight-year old son in front of the TV and ordered: watch. It was the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games. We watched over two hours of amazing choreography, high-minded symbolism, cute children, huge screens, thousands of performers (basically men doing the heavy lifting and women the pretty dancing). We commented, argued, admired, and shrugged as the spectacle unfolded in front of our comfy sofa.
Then the parade of nations began.
We stopped our snacking and waited.
We blushed when the Bahrain delegation marched holding a picture of the country's leader over the flag. The only people to do so! As my son explained: "they must love their ruler very very much."
We groaned when the commentator described Jordan as a somewhat "progressive country." (define "somewhat")
We snickered when the commentator pointed out that the two women flag bearers for the UAE delegation happened to be the prime minister's daughters (he concluded: "but that maybe a coincident." (then we fumed for continuing to be the butt of jokes)
We frowned when the Saudi Arabia delegation appeared with no women on it and we had to be reminded that "Saudi women need a male guardian to travel."
We were deeply saddened by the uniforms of the women on the Hungarian delegation.
But we mostly waited.
There were huge nations and small ones (the population of one participating country was 46,000 people). There were bullying and bullied countries. We patiently waited.
Finally, they appeared. The Palestinians.
Now jumping on the sofa, pointing at the screen, and screaming "Palestine, Palestine," my son and I drowned about everything that the commentators said and could hardly focus on the picture. All I remember is this: there were four participants: two runners and two swimmers. The flag bearer was the runner Nader al Masri, who trained in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, during Israeli "incursions." I could see two women dressed in traditional Palestinian dresses. They all walked around the stadium holding hands and raising the victory sign.
They appeared for a few seconds. The Cuban delegation followed and the Palestinians disappeared from the screen.
We know they may not win any medals, but they already won. For despite the occupation, the closed borders, the divisions, the poverty, the misery, the lack of official support, the lack of facilities and the empty promises, they came for Palestine. They had no Olympic-size pools to swim in. They had no shoes or safe roads. They had no budgets. They had to wait for exit permits that may or may not be granted. But they persevered and came.
My son and I cheered for this, not for an abstract nationalism or an "us against them" idea. We cheered for the tenacity of young women and men who insist on dreaming of a better future.
When it was obvious that we will not see more of the Palestinians, we settled down. My son, breathless and flushed with excitement, turned to me and said: "They were awesome!"
Yes, they were: Nader, Ghadeer, Hamse, and Zakiya. We thank you for your awesomeness!