Carpe Diem - Seize the day

February 2020

I still have a few days to live here before going back to Italy. That very same Italy which now, due to a  “SmartVirus” (as I call it), is suffering and going crazy.
I said “live”, rather than “remain” or “spend time”, because here, in the South Hebron Hills, and in particular in At-Tuwani, we live.
It does not matter the time going by, especially in this season when the days get longer and time passes slowly.
We live every second in a more authentic and full way, without wasting it.
We enjoy the beauty of the small things, of being together, of the family, of the friends, of the  neighbor.
Almost, I would say, we are in peace, light heartedness, freedom and serenity.

Because - and it is strange - for days everything has stopped and not even the Israeli occupation is perceptible. But, sadly, the occupation continues and not even a “SmartVirus”, that is the “Coronavirus” (COVID-19), can silence it.
And today, that once again I act as a lookout for a few shepherds, I enjoy the breeze and think about the days I have spent here, trying to give them a voice, to create a hymn: a tribute to life.  

For me life is getting up early in the morning and heading towards the top of the hills to make sure the kids of the neighbouring villages get safe to school, that they have a nice day with their teachers and classmates, and bring home good grades.

Life is also waiting (sometimes too much) for two or three Israeli soldiers that escort those children, in order to let them go back home without being attacked by the settlers.

Life is also accompanying a shepherd, seeing how he takes care of his flock, of each sheep. And then drink hot tea, listen to some stories from his past, or just stay there silently, contemplating the breath-taking landscape and look him praying.
Life is, at the same time, protecting that flock and that shepherd from any Israeli settlers’ attack or when a jeep of the Israeli army orders him to leave his land because he does not have the right to stay there, because he has no freedom of movement, because “they are the law, and so it is”.

For me life means to record with a camera everything you can, every time you can, because that moment will never come back: Carpe Diem… a smile, a kid running after a turkey or compete with another one to push a car’s pneumatic, a happy puppy wagging its tail, a woman who carries a bundle on her head or holds some hot bread in her hands, a Palestinian on a donkey who, sometimes, walks hours and hours under the sun, or the birth of a new goat, a house which grows day after day, a tractor in motion, the kids singing…

For us life is holding a passport always in our pockets, a phone and above all a camera to record and document everything surrounding you, especially when unfortunately something wrong happens: like a jeep that appears out of the blue and you do not know where it is going or a white DCO car of the Israeli civil administration ready for a demolition or a confiscation; because it is through that small yet strong tool that one tries to do justice and dignify someone who deserves it.
Life for me is being in a car (or in any other vehicle with at least four wheels) and travel on the most unusual roads, up and down the hills, avoiding as much as possible stones and puddles, listening to Arab music and hearing the driver singing loudly because, at that moment, there is no better thing.

Life is running to see that car - stopped at a checkpoint - which, at any moment, may no longer circulate.
At that point, the voices you hear are not for the music anymore but they belong to those  Palestinians who have seen what is going on and help each other to prevent other cars to get stuck as well.

Life for me is visiting the families, taking off your shoes before entering the house, learning words in Arabic, trying to speak with gestures, eating hummus, tabun bread and drinking tea, and never say no, leaving always something in the glass or the dish to make clear that you are satisfied, but even more being yourself, respecting this form of brotherhood.

Life is being aware that you do not know when and if you will take off those shoes again and sit in front of the fire, in the warmth of their smiles, of their words and of their gazes.

Life for me has meant to see a large family spending time altogether without doing anything in particular: laughing, joking, playing with the babies, talking, looking at the village, drinking tea... and someone, like the jiddi, that is the granny, praying.
Because nothing else is needed.
Because yes, here, in spite of the occupation, the restrictions, the violated freedom, the trampled on dignity, life is lived day after day, moment after moment, without wasting it.
It is this image of life that I want to bring back home, in that home where now we have to stay one meter far from each other, where we need to stay in a delimited space called “red zone”, from which nobody can go out or anybody enter; in that house where schools and social centres have been closed, where nobody walks in the streets or does it with a face mask and a pair of gloves; in that house where everything looks so absurd yet real.

I have this image inside me and if, on the one hand, some thoughts worry me concerning what it is coming, on the other I already know what it might mean to me.
Indeed, the Palestinians have taught me this: they taught me to “take care of time”, they made me love even more the “beauty of the small things” and, above all, “the greatness of being together, taking care of each other, even if we are all different, even with all our weaknesses, even for worse, even during the struggle, even in the everyday life”.
In that house where I am going back there is no occupation, but there is a virus which is spreading so fast, which is so “smart”, that is not giving time to the people.
We were not and maybe we still are not ready for a certain kind of life, we complain, we are scared, we run away.
But we have to accept it and adapt to it.
Here, instead, time is never smart, somebody would like to run away and remains instead.
There is another kind of virus, also this one strong that keeps spreading, but they resist, they keep on living, and it is not a matter of habit; it is a matter of respect and love for their land, for their family, for the whole village and for themselves.
It is a matter to offer a wide scope for hope and faith.

Hymn to the Occupied Territories.
Hymn to At-Tuwani.
Hymn to life, to the “Carpe Diem” and to all Palestinian faces I met, every man, woman, kid that I had the honour to meet and with whom I loved to live and shared these months.