Today we took the girls to Ramallah to visit Mindy, a college friend of Terence’s who lives here and directs a grant to develop Palestinian civil society. She also knows the most kid-friendly spots in the city. This amusement park was adjacent to the spot where we had drinks, and our lunch restaurant literally had a play structure two feet from our table. I heard the mayor of Ramallah is a mom…makes sense to me…
I’m trying to grasp what it means that my first West Bank experience was mostly about keeping the kids entertained. (Parents all over the world do that, it turns out). At this point, it’s an accurate snapshot of my priorities. The political situation here is so complicated. To be honest, for an overall well-educated person, I had a horrendous understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict and its history. Once we decided we were moving here, I did a lot of reading to play catch-up. But every time I started to form ideas or questions, I would think to myself: “but I am sure I’ll see this differently in a few months, when I am there.” And then I would think: “that is, if I have any energy left after putting the kids to bed.”
I’m not sure how long my apolitical, just-a-mom-in-Jerusalem identity is going to last. To be sure, it’s a cop out and a defense mechanism. But it’s also how I am spending most of my time and energy. I am sure aspects of the political situation will anger, depress and — probably most of all — confuse me this year. I hope I can continue to see things through multiple perspectives — including those of a certain five and three year old I know.
I resolved to answer the girls’ questions as honestly as possible but not plant them in the kids’ heads prematurely. So for example Hannah asked, “did we just go to a different country?” and Mindy’s good answer was, “this is trying to become a country.” But overall, the girls were pretty clueless, even when we went through the infamous Qalandia Checkpoint. Terence and I noticed the tone of these instructions
the barbed wire, the concrete “fence”, the traffic, the stony moonscape-like terrain and the settlements in the distance. But the girls think of Qalandia as the place where we played “What Time is it, Mr. Fox?” while we waited for our friend to pick us up and take us on a bouncy castle.