It’s the thirst that hits you hardest. Saturday 22nd August was the first day of Ramadan, a whole month of no eating, drinking, smoking or sex during daylight hours, and Palestine is a hot country in more ways than one. Fasting ain’t easy out here.
But, back in Bi’lin after a turbulent few weeks away, I felt determined.
It was unfortunate that I woke up early, because when you are fasting the days seem to last for ever as you wait for the Sun to set. However, I do think it is a good way to learn patience, and to appreciate what you have in life.
When evening finally came, the meal was amazing. Provided by my adoptive Khatib family in Bil’in, I ate like there was no tomorrow, feeling so happy as my stomach began to fill. I was in heaven.
For the first day or two, it did just feel like watching the clock and waiting for food, but however thirsty I felt, I knew that my parched throat didn’t compare to the Palestinian villages surviving without running water for months whilst nearby Israeli settlements, built on stolen Palestinian land, enjoy their luxury swimming pool facilities.
I soon became accustomed to the process, and actually began to enjoy Ramadan. The days gave me a chance to focus on other activities – writing, being creative, and sometimes sleeping – and the night feasts were certainly a reward. It also complimented the by now familiar routine in Bil’in of staying awake through the night, onthe look-out for invading soldiers wanting to start beef.
On Monday morning we had a demonstration outside Ofer military base, demanding the release of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners held without trial (including 176 arrested from five villages, purely for resisting the Apartheid Wall which separates them from their land) and an end to the Occupation. Asharaf, or “the Palestinian Che Guevara” as we like to call him in the village, climbed up the fence of the prison complex and erected a Palestinian flag, as armed soldiers watched his every move. He is quickly becoming my hero.
Amongst us was the family of Na’el Barghouthi, who has been behind bars for the last 31 years. I wonder how his patience is holding up this Ramadan.