Back to the modern era. As soon as we stepped out of the shuttle, a local man named Mosleh took us under his wing and became our unofficial chauffeur with a hospitality that may seem unusually excessive by American standards. But this kind of thing becomes expected in Palestine; most of the people here seem incapable of the cold calculus and rationalizing that keep American hearts closed.The first place that Mosleh led us to was the courtyard of the Al-Kayed Palace, where a five-piece band was playing traditional music near the reflective windows. Alongside an old man who plucked and bowed a stand-up bass with an impressive intensity were two men expertly playing a beautiful guitar-like instrument called the oud, which is commonly used in Arabic music.
After that was over, the crowd began the pilgrimage towards the other side of town for the main event in the ancient amphitheater. We took these shots on the way; the first is a view of the main courtyard in the village. The second depicts some graffiti advertising the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Palestinian political organization with a Marxist-Leninist ideology. The DFLP broke off from the more militant and well-known Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1969. No telling how much of a hold the DFLP has here among the Sebastian populace, but I will say that after a trip through the Nablus market, capitalism seems alive and well in Palestine.
If I had to wear that, I'd be pissed too. If only I had seen him earlier I would have known that there was also a wedding happening in town, and thus spared myself some embarrassment.
I heard music coming from the large hall near the ruins pictured above, and I thought it was another music venue for the festival. When I entered the room, it was a colorful (and very stuffy) zoo of dancing and clapping, but I noticed something—of the scores of faces I glimpsed, none of them were those of fellow men. Within seconds a woman was wagging a finger at me and I knew I didn't belong in that room, so I darted out. The segregation among the sexes as nowhere as severe here is in, say, Saudi Arabia, but it still takes a Westerner some time to get used to.
The ancient amphitheater, filled with people, looking upon the Norwegian band Peevish Penfriend. We ran into these very nice fellows at a bar in Ramallah a couple nights later and I learned more about Norway in an hour than I had learned in my entire life. Did you know that Norway levies an 80% tax on oil revenues and pumps it into a massive state pension system? Did you know that this very Norwegian pension system is also recognized as a powerful investor, owning two percent of the entire European stock market? Did you know that in 1944, 350,000 Nazi soldiers were stationed in Norway, anticipating an Allied landing on the Norwegian coast rather than at Normandy?
Well now you do.
A few from the cheap seats, which are not as uncomfortable as they look. This shot was taken before the show started; these seats filled up shortly after. Snacks were ridiculously cheap - I munched on an ear of corn that cost me about 25 cents.
This two-dimensional picture doesn't nearly do justice to this majestic view. Here I am looking upon the hills north of Sebastia. Over the mountain lies the village of Jenin, which suffered a barbarous onslaught of destruction and demolition by Israeli bulldozers in April of 2002, in the heat of the Second Intifada.
I'll end this post with a telling testimony of an Israeli bulldozer driver that was part of the said operation that, within 72 hours, razed more than 300 homes and left 4,000 Palestinians homeless:
"For three days, I just destroyed and destroyed. The whole area. Any house that they fired from came down. And to knock it down, I tore down some more. They were warned by loudspeaker to get out of the house before I come, but I gave no one a chance. I didn't wait. I didn't give one blow, and wait for them to come out. I would just ram the house with full power, to bring it down as fast as possible. I wanted to get to the other houses. To get as many as possible. Others may have restrained themselves, or so they say. Who are they kidding? Anyone who was there, and saw our soldiers in the houses, would understand they were in a death trap. I thought about saving them. I didn't give a damn about the Palestinians, but I didn't just ruin with no reason. It was all under orders.
"Many people where inside houses we set to demolish. They would come out of the houses we were working on. I didn't see, with my own eyes, people dying under the blade of the D-9. and I didn't see house falling down on live people. But if there were any, I wouldn't care at all. I am sure people died inside these houses, but it was difficult to see, there was lots of dust everywhere, and we worked a lot at night. I found joy with every house that came down, because I knew they didn't mind dying, but they cared for their homes. If you knocked down a house, you buried 40 or 50 people for generations. If I am sorry for anything, it is for not tearing the whole camp down.
"I didn't stop for a moment. Even when we had a two-hour break, I insisted on going on. I prepared a ramp, to destroy a four-story building. Once I steered sharply to the right, and a whole wall came down. Suddenly I heard shouting on the radio: 'Kurdi, watch it! It is us!' Turns out there where our guys inside, and they forgot to tell me.
"I had plenty of satisfaction. I really enjoyed it. I remember pulling down a wall of a four-story building. It came crashing down on my D-9. My partner screamed at me to reverse, but I let the wall come down on us. We would go for the sides of the buildings, and then ram them. If the job was to hard, we would ask for a tank shell.
"I couldn't stop. I wanted to work and work. There was this Golani officer who gave us orders by radio—I drove him mad. I kept begging for more and more missions. On Sunday, after the fighting was over, we got orders to pull our D-9's out of the area, and stop working on our 'football stadium', because the army didn't want the cameras and press to see us working. I was really upset, because I had plans to knock down the big sign at the entrance of Jenin—three poles with a picture of Arafat. But on Sunday, they pulled us away before I had time to do it.”