It was my second day full day away from Al-Khalil and as I left Jerusalem in my little rental car I felt something brewing inside, a little niggling feeling in the back of my head. Fear. I dismissed it as absurd – there was nothing to be afraid of (at least not anymore), yet as I continued to drive north towards Tel Aviv the feeling grew; I was afraid of driving, of the car, of the people around me, the buildings bearing down upon me. I couldn’t bring myself to stop like I had planned, instead I continued north and went to Appollonia National Park.
I jumped out of my car and took to the winding paths that paralleled the Mediterranean, trying everything I could to master the feeling that was clawing at me. The sane and unclouded part of my brain began talking to it’s partner; ‘It’s fine! There’s nothing wrong. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” I repeated it like a mantra.. but it simply didn’t help. The emotional side of my brain bubbled in panic, finally spilling over when I saw other people walking the paths with me – the only instinct was to get away.
I found a part of the path that lead downwards, towards the sea, to a little alcove which would hide me if I tucked myself away inside it. I scrabbled down as quickly as I could, and did just that. The stone of my hidey hole were smooth and cool from untold years of erosion, but most importantly.. most importantly… they were solid. Something about the solidity – the unmoveableness – of the stone made me feel safe, so I leaned into it, bearing down upon it with all my weight and finally let the panic and fear wash over me, pulling me under its dark waves.
It felt like I inhaled jet fuel; my lungs contracted, burning as if they were on fire while my head felt like it was going to explode. I was crying – not the romantic sort of heartbreak crying, either. I squeezed my eyes shut, every muscle in my body flexed making me feel like my body would fracture into a million tiny pieces, snot and drool streaming from my face, and I screamed… and screamed…and screamed, the blue-green sea swallowing the sound in the crash of its waves. My body wasn’t my own anymore, I couldn’t stop the strange, guttural scream that erupted from my guts, ripping its way up my throat and out of my mouth. Some detached part of my consciousness witnessed it, surprised at the alienness of it.
Who knows how long it lasted, but the feeling slowly began to subside – the screaming stopped, I began sucking in huge lungfuls of air and finally, mercifully I calmed down. All the feelings of fear were gone…
It was in that moment of light headed clarity that I was able to acknowledge my own privileged. I, in all my white American arrogance, thought that I would emerge from this experience fine. I would be a witness, then go witness what I had seen and learned, but I never expected those experiences to dismember me, taking a piece of me with it forever. In a sense, I am glad of it – I am happy to have lost something, to have experienced even a minuscule sliver of what my brothers and sisters have. It is fitting, it is right – suffering is what Christ invited us to do.
And of course, the most passionate of loves is born out of trauma…which explains the intense longing, and pain I feel at being away from Palestine. This love will drive me back, forever returning to be with my brothers and sisters in spirit.
I invite you to find that same kind of Love…