Sunday 1 July 2007

I am humbled

Okay today I am humbled. An American academic attempting to enter into a foreign land, a foreign cultures in the attempt to conduct research on something that is phenomenon. The phenomenon is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the structure of the “security wall” the checkpoints and what I see as a laying of “siege” suffocating the economy of the Palestinian people. I clearly see what is going on here and I am conducting academic research that is supposed to be “objective” without bias and pre-conceived notions of a culture.

It is also stressful being under academia under the current pressure and political concerns regarding the “terrorist Palestinians”. Being here, in an ethnographic project and removing the political notions around me is rather difficult because live and its existence here is based on political motives, movements and actions. This is conflict.

Why am I humbled? I am humbled because under the standard ethnographic qualitative research model, we must PLAN, and yet be flexible. Okay, I can do that, I think so proudly, easy…be flexible …but within my own ideas and time frame. Due to deadlines, lack of funding etc… I can be flexible that I CANNOT find an Israeli group to conduct and partner the workshop with.

The project has taken some rather large changes. Forget the Israeli’s involvement. I cannot find one group of women to work with, although, they expressed intense interest in the project and provided me with other names. Most of the groups were either pro-Palestinian left. Or, radical right. Interesting. However nothing came to reality.

Major change number one: The project now consists of Palestinian women. At this late time in the project, I need to remain “flexible” and take what comes my direction. I have 3 weeks left and only one group. Adyah Camp, Bethlehem women who do not work, who are full time moms and wives.

At first I tried to understand why I could not find an Israeli group of women. My first impression was that they are more like the Europeans or Americans, they are women that work full time, keep a house and have children and a family. Who has the time these days for an hour a week to participate in a workshop? Okay, I understand now. That was my first thought.

But! I was having almost the same difficulty with the Palestinian women. They would express interest, recommend me to this person or that. However, nothing came into reality. On this side of the coin, many appointments were canceled, this morning I had the third appointment canceled. I had the feeling to call before I took my 1-2 hour trip to the point of meeting in order to make sure that the meeting was still on. I received a call back, “Something came up, and I can’t meet today so I will call you when there is a better time.” Halas (enough, finished) I think. Okay, I get the message.

What message is it that I need to get here? It is the message of the since of time. How we look at life differently, our perceptions of what will come tomorrow. What am I talking about here? I am talking about, my own security in planning something and knowing that it will or should happen. A meeting at 10am. Yes, tomorrow I have a meeting at 10am. In my mind, I believe that the meeting will occur tomorrow. I will be there, they will be there and we will all be there. 10am. This is how the Western mind functions. We plan peace negotiations on deadlines; we plan our research on modes of theory that include calendars, processes, appointments and deadlines. We plan and plan and plan based on our assumptions that the “other” also sees and views life the same way that we do. But in reality, that is not reality.

Number one) This is conflict. One side holds the money, military power, land power, political power, public relations power…just plan power. The other side, in reality, is oppressed. They are the ones without the power, without the “knowing what tomorrow will bring”. A common phrase in Arabic is Inshallah (God willing) you hear this anytime someone tries to make plans, appointments, arrangements for meetings. This phrase does not only encompass God willing we will meet tomorrow. It has deeper meaning, based on the oppression and the lack of the ability to make plans. Yes, they want to meet tomorrow, but the life is not planned it cannot really be planned. Today and now is what is known. This very second of standing and breathing either alone or talking with someone, whither riding on a siervice or walking down the road.

Number 2) Time is very different here. Something that is not understood so well by the Western culture and barely understood by myself. Thus it becomes the song and dance that I talk about so much. I see it as a song and dance, and they view it as normal and getting to know the other, developing a since of trust and understanding. The tea and more tea and yet more tea is bonding. This song and dance is developing a strong relationship an important relationship a lasting relationship and it takes time.

Number 3) I need more time and I don’t have it. I needed the ability to do what it takes as long as it needs to take in order to meet my preconceived goals. I need/ed to understand to let the river flow and I flow with the river, not against it.

I humbly learn that perceptions of time and how one view this existence greatly fluctuates based on ones experience with it.

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