Life here gets to be too much sometimes

May 7, 1999

Muna Muhaisen writes from Palestine in response to a current debate in Freedom-List, on the subject violence in the US and elsewhere. Muna's response is addressed to our Lebanese friend, Emile Nucho.

I would like to share with you Muna's first-hand picture of what I think of as "the other Palestine and the other Palestinians" that don't receive our immediate attention. MD

Dear Emile:

I'm sorry to sound so out of touch but around 1200 phone lines were down after a bulldozer hit a phone cable in the area and I've not been able to connect to email. This is what happens every time road works begin. Major road works are part of the Bethlehem 2000 Project and they recently started working on the Jerusalem-Hebron Road parallel to Dheisheh. Before the phone lines were down, a water pipe was busted and several neighborhoods in the camp have been without water for twnety days.

Life here gets to be too much sometimes.

Anyway, I agree with what you say about violence leading to violence. In addition to abusing weapons, we have numerous cases of abuse (verbal, physical and sexual) against women as well as violence against children. I'm not so certain that it is just the result of the Intifada though. Sometimes, I think that beating women and children is somehow acceptable in our society. Many people certainly believe that a man has the right to beat his wife and kocking children about is a habit.

The good news (if there is any) is that more and more women are going to women's centers to complain about their abusive husbands. But in the end, unless women become economically independent and can make their own decisions, not much will change. Ours still is a very male dominant society.

Another form of abuse that exists but isn't addressed publicly as much as it should be is the rising problem of drug abuse. A friend in Gaza who works at drug enforcement came to visit recently. I asked him about the drug problem in Gaza. His answer: "It is worse in 99 than it was in 98. In 98 it was worse than 97 and in 97 it was worse than 96."

I can't even begin to describe the DEEP frustration and depression that people here are living through. Politically things are at their worst low ever. Economically, people are working hard just to get a loaf of bread. A nurse from Beit Sahour was complaining to me yesterday. "I got paid last week and went paid the phone, electric and water bills right away," she said. "Then I stopped by the market and bought some groceries. When I got home, my purse was empty. We're lucky to eat."

She's not alone. Increasingly, we all feel that so much in life is becoming a luxury. We don't go out, we don't buy new clothes, we don't go on vacation. All we do is work, pay bills and then stay broke and wait for the next paycheck. The exceptions are few and we all know who they are.

Meanwhile, the settlements are eating up even the air that we breath. When we turn on our TV and watch the Israeli channels, we see swimming pools, people at the beach......and water, water, water everywhere. Meanwhile, our laundry is piling up because there is no water to wash and the only thing we swim in is our own sweat.

How long will this situation last? When will we be able to lead an honorable and dignified life? People here deserve a much better chance at life. But it doesn't look like they're gonna get it before we stop making concessions to Israel and sign peace agreements that are taking us many steps back instead of bringing us forward. Is this the Palestinian dream we all fought for all these years?