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Sa’ed Atshan

A letter to foreigners in Ramallah

Life in Ramallah goes on, despite the occupation [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 31 July, 2015

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Blog: A Palestinian living in Ramallah addresses a letter to foreigners disparaging his lifestyle.
Dear foreigners in Palestine’s Snowbar,

I don't know you or your names but I was sitting with family members next to your table at Snowbar in Ramallah and we heard the comments you were making.

I regret not having approached you at the time but perhaps you will get this message somehow.

You see, Snowbar is one of my favourite places here, in Palestine.

A play on words: it is not only the name of a bar in English, but it also means "pine trees" in Arabic.

There are over 500 pine trees in the area with an outdoor swimming pool, bar, restaurant, dance floor, and camping sites. It is quite magical at night - because when you get to the bottom, closer to the cliff, you can see the stars in Ramallah’s sky.

"Look at these Ramallah elite! So disconnected from their society. Palestinians are suffering all around them, and they don't care.”

"Disgusting, they've become Israelis."

Those words that I overheard and your looks of disdain and judgement felt like daggers to our hearts.

Was it not possible to lower your voices out of courtesy to the people around you?

Are you now self-appointed experts and authorities on Palestine that you can paint an entire segment of the population with a narrow impression?

Is your research and/or activism so lame that you didn't even bother to speak to the owners of Snowbar? You would’ve discovered that they are a Palestinian Christian family that has deep roots in Ramallah.

Do you know of their options to leave rather than stay here and help build the economy?

Do you know of their philanthropic and charitable work here in Palestine? Do you know anything about their love for their country and its people?

When you position the refugee suffering in a camp as the "authentic" Palestinian subject over the middle class Palestinian earning an honest living, you are no different than the colonial powers trying to divide our society.

When you expect us to completely level all social inequalities, you ask for the impossible.

Despite the Israeli occupation, we have built institutions, hospitals, ministries, neighborhoods, and spaces of recreation and leisure for children and adults, just like “Snowbar”.

I am proud of our defiance and perseverance.

Right below Snowbar, there is a beautiful public park that is free and open to all.

And even in the most underprivileged areas here, our people laugh, joke, make love, celebrate graduations, weddings, and try to make the best of life, no matter how difficult it gets.

Palestine does not need solidarity based merely on notions of vulnerability, charity, and pity.

We ask that you also recognise our resilience and see us as equals, interlocutors, and people from whom you can learn if you listen carefully enough to as diverse Palestinian voices as possible.

Foreigners are always welcomed in Palestine; more than anywhere in the world.

Palestinians are always, anywhere, and everywhere eager to tell the world about their cause and the way they deal with it.

The way they deal with it, naturally, is as diverse as the way you dealt with fascism in Europe.

We are sorry to ruin your expectations: we don’t all carry stones and we don’t all march every day in protests.

There is something more important than your expectations and your harsh impressions that I overheard at Snowbar: we share the basic human desire to be alive, free, and joyful in a world that is trying to rob of us of that every day.

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