Ben Jakovljevic (OTI 2, USC Law)
End of the trip. Magical, moving, majestic… maddening.
I sit on an airplane, scribbling thoughts. Some are poetic, some are pointless. Some are objective facts I wish to remember. Others are fantasies daring to fly above the clouds.
I look down at the sea and imagine doves everywhere.
Bethlehem. The journey begins.
Have you ever seen the sun rise, reader? Well, it’s especially beautiful in Bethlehem. We woke up to the initial moments of its wondrous presentation. The narrow rays quickly gave way to broad beams of light, and before we knew it, the warmth of the day had enveloped the hill, the buildings and our patio. The rooster’s crow meant for some a signal to eat, and for others the signal to fast.
Hebron. A wary militia guides weary students. We sit in traffic and all I can hear is the horns honking. We are in Hebron, and I snap pictures of the men with their shiny weapons and camouflage uniforms. Everyone on the bus starts moving. I think this is our stop.
Sunlight streamed through the Israeli flag and reflected off the security camera lens into my eyes. I was in Hebron, squinting at the top corner of the Cave of the Patriarchs. My wandering glances came back to the group, which was now scurrying off to the entrance of the holy site. I passed my backpack and camera through the scanner as an anonymous soldier became my guard. His gun, on one side a danger, is on another side safety.
Tel Aviv. My head is a maze of spins and twists. Through its turns, my soul and mind drifts.
Sweat and sea spray mix as the pulsating lights splash over my face. Waves of music pound through hundreds of dancing bodies and shoot off into the sea. Clava, the beachside club, is in full swing and I couldn’t be feeling better, moving and shaking and bouncing and grooving. The thick drumbeat tells you where to go. Bum bum bummm. But now, looking back, my stream of consciousness flows back in time, from this Israeli venue to the dancers of the Shepherd’s Valley Restaurant in Bethlehem. Their faces know no Mediterranean mist; their feet have only felt the ground in front of them. They are Palestinian, but I can imagine them as Armenian or Sudanese. Their motion is the expression of a history. Graceful, synchronized, modest. Bum bum bummm. They dance the way it’s been forgotten in Tibet. I realize I have never fully grasped my own Serbian and Irish heritage. I feel offbeat. “Why do I stand and dance?” asks the man without a country. Am I experiencing independence or catastrophe? The beat of my own drum thumps, bum bum bummm.
Jenin. It is not easy to arrive at peace. But many of the steps are very simple and easy to understand. It starts with a nod, a handshake and a pat on the back. Peace and understanding exist when strangers hug; when you are armed with gifts and your smiles are unstoppable. Peace and understanding are universal and unique. It’s lovely.
I remember giving a stuffed animal to an innocent little girl. She was standing in the shadow of a statue in the middle of her neighborhood. It just so happened her neighborhood was a dilapidated refugee camp. I felt overwhelmed by emotion at the moment. Who was her mother? Where was she going? What would happen to her? Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized there were more girls than presents.
Negev Desert. Peace and understanding.
It’s 2 a.m. The actors are Bedouin benefactors, myself plus some fellow Olives, and a couple of camels. The setting is outside a tent in the Negev. Wandering desert sands stretch to a backdrop of dunes in the distance as the Milky Way Galaxy hangs the landscape. The stars wink secrets to each other. Oren, Ana, Khuyen and I talk before going to sleep. We are kicking rocks and rambling on the causes and effects, the problems and solutions. We peacefully exchange words of enlightenment with open palms and upraised pointing fingers. Our echoes whisper back to us from the dark abyss. Surrounding sounds whip through the cool night air, settle back into our bodies. What are they saying? Suddenly, a triangular peak shines in the distance. Brilliant white light! It takes our breath away and voices cease. The moon, silent and majestic, rises over the sand dunes.
Have you ever seen the moon rise, reader? It is many times more splendid than any sunrise. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sunrise. But it is a moonrise that really turns your world upside down.
How can something that happens every day evoke so much confusion in your senses, yet at the same time command so much mental clarity? I feel a mystical connection to everyone and everything, and realize I cannot adequately express this feeling in words. I feel like the moon itself, trying to present its narrative to the sun.
Warriors, eternally dancing! The world is their wall and we are stuck in the middle! And this battlefield is the only place they lock their eyes on! Influence of one is reflected off the other… one dies and so the other goes on. The celestial dance of the Middle East continues.
I turn my head from the view out the window to the inside of the airplane. I am surrounded by restless revolutionaries. Somewhere, a little girl is playing with her new stuffed animal. Maybe tomorrow the Wall will be swallowed by a sea of olive tree branches.