Shloshim (Jewish mourning ritual on 30th day)
A month has passed. An eternity. Millions of people, suspended in time, in rage, in grief… and I am out here.
Strangers tell me Israelis have no right to live in Palestine. “But why don’t they just go somewhere else,” a student asks me after class. A Mohawk friend who walks with me in a Palestinian rally, says that what happened on October 7th has nothing to do with decolonization. New Iranian friends confess they know little about the conflict even though they’ve been brought up on anti-Zionist slogans. “There’s two sides to every war,” they say. “Israel only wants to kill, they’re not even trying to look for Hamas,” someone posts on their profile. “It’s their own fault they died.” Crowds light candles in mourning, reciting kaddish and crowds bow to the ground praising Allah. There is context to these. There is context to this.
My students don’t watch the news. “All the news is biased,” they tell me. “So how do you know what’s going on in the world?” Insta.
I derail my lecture to do impromptu media literacy training. I show them how to determine what’s a fact and what’s a claim, how to verify and double check sources. I derail my class. I derail my plans to poster and protest. I derail. I am derailed. What rails were we on, anyways?
“I am grateful that I am here,” a Palestinian friend in Canada tells me. “Yeah?” I answer a little too quietly. “Aren’t you?!?” “Honestly, it’s easier to live these wars from there,” I confess. “I don’t know if it helped anything but at least when I was there I was filming, reporting, doing something… and everyone was together so it was easier…” “You’re doing something here,” she says. “Yeah, and look how much good that’s doing.” “Yeah, and look how much good we did back there,” she says.
A Canadian activist tells me she feels hopeless because she’s been doing solidarity work for years and the world is still burning. “People like us,” I tell her, “don’t have the privilege to be hopeless.” But I think to myself - how do you look someone in the eyes, someone who has grown up with the violence of politics entering their neighborhood, their school, their home, their lives and tell them that you’re hopeless?? I have heard so much nonsense this month. So much vitriol, so much ignorance. So many cruel, careless words have been shared with me, in my presence, but hers were the cruelest.
I am not hopeless. I am heartbroken. I am in mourning. I am rage but I am not hopeless. As Samah told me during Cast Lead, “every morning that Palestinian mothers rise and raise their children for another day, we don’t have a right to lose hope.”
Yes. And I will add - Every morning that Israeli mothers rise and raise their children to seek peace and to keep fighting for justice, even as their country marches onward into a murderous, fascist nightmare… I can’t give up hope. Hope is not the same as optimism. It is not analysis or a feeling. Hope is an action. Hope is a verb.
So many kind words have been shared with me this month. So many prayers for peace have been prayed. So many blessings have been whispered. So many journalists have risked their lives and stayed up nights to get the story right. So many people risked arrest to do direct actions, to derail the war machine, to derail the shock doctrine. So many people have taken a stand. When my candle was blown out in the wind in a vigil, my friend Sterling helped me relight it again and again. Even as I couldn’t see anything from the tears fogging my glasses, she relit my candle again. Please keep hoping. Relight each other’s candles and please, please, keep hoping.
Photo by Lauren MB