Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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Mira Dabit

Mira Dabit is a Palestinian youth activist and folkloric storyteller, who lived and worked in north and south Ireland after receiving her BA in psychology and sociology from Birzeit University.

February 15th, 2012 6:39 PM

From Occupied Palestine to Occupy DC

I am 26 years old and I’m a refugee from Palestine. I grew up in Ramallah until I was 22.  Then, I traveled to Ireland and worked on peace and reconciliation issues.  Then, I ended up in the States.
 
Growing up in Palestine is a struggle for survival.  My father was born into the life of a refugee.  My mother was born into a life of poverty. They were not rich people.  My mother went to the United States to study.  My father went to American University of Beruit.  They were able to come out of the oppression of the occupation and poverty and make lives for themselves.
 
When we were born, my parents taught us that life is important.  They knew that the only way to make it in life was through education.  Being born into occupation teaches you to be an adult from the moment you are born.  Things I remember from my childhood are putting on the gas masks during the first Gulf War.  I remember it always getting stuck in my hair, and me not wanting to put it on because it really, really hurt.  I went to the Quaker Friends School in Ramallah because my mom taught there, and I remember my school being bombed in the year 2000.  I was 13.  Back then, we didn’t have cell phones, so we were being evacuated from the school because the Israelis called because they wanted to bomb a building next to the school.  I remember running down the street and having no clue where to go.
 
We lived in the old city of Ramallah in a very rough neighborhood where the army came in a lot.  People were arrested a lot.  During my teenage years, a horrifying understanding of the occupation came with my brother.  My brothers were three years older.  They were the popular kids in school and they were very much my idols.  I remember one day my brother bursting through the door.  He had pee on his pants and he was crying, at the age of 16.  He had been taken by an Israeli Army chief while he was walking home.  He was beaten by the army and then thrown onto the streets.  Growing up in this, growing up in the idea that you can’t go anywhere, you can’t do anything, you can be killed any minute, the sounds of shootings and bombings all the time really taught you how to survive, how to be strong.
 
I came to Freedom Plaza on the 6th of November and I haven’t left since.  My journey with the occupation has been an eye-opener about the real American community, what’s happening with them, their different stories.  Being in the occupation for a month and a half, you get to know each and every person in a different way.  You get to know their stories, and I think the reason I’m staying here is the struggle for justice and equality for all, but also, because the family at Freedom Plaza has become so intertwined and so important to me that I don’t think it would be good to leave it.  It’s an amazing experience.
 
For me, it is quite interesting being here and talking about Palestine and educating.  The majority of people, when you say you’re from Palestine, say, “Are you from Pakistan?”  Or, India.  People don’t know where it is unless you say Israel.  Since I’ve been here, I got people saying they know where we are and they are in solidarity with us, but I also got people saying how Israel is a victim, surrounded by all the Arabs.  You get all different responses.  Some people won’t talk to me because I’m Palestinian.  People call me a terrorist.  Then, on the other hand, you meet someone who say they are in solidarity with us.  It’s like anything else.  I’ve got my positive and negative responses, but more Americans are being educated about it.  Especially, in the occupy movement.
 
I came into Occupy the first day after a demonstration we had at the White House which was for the Statehood of Palestine.  I was there with some students from American University.  Then, the people from Freedom Plaza and McPherson came.  That night, I was supposed to go to a poetry event, but my friend kept saying, “You have to come. You have to come.”  So, I went and people were welcoming and interested in who I was and what I was doing there.  We played Uno that first night, and the next day, I started going to the demonstrations and protests.  I think I’m a very strong member of the community. It’s not only about the political actions, it’s like being a family.  Knowing what people like to eat.  Knowing some people’s problems, some people’s love story.  I have the personality in which I’m not judgmental.  I’m open to everyone. I welcome everyone.  People in the occupy movement, the majority of them, have been the same.
 
What’s weird is one of the kids there, Alex, he went home to his mother’s house the other day and he said, “I came back tonight because I needed to be here.  I needed to be home.”  By home, he meant Freedom Plaza.  That’s the thing: everyone’s going, “Are you going home tonight?”  Even if I have a house, home is Freedom Plaza.  Even if it’s cold out, once you’re having a chat, or going to a protest, you’re warm.  Your passion strikes.
 
That’s what I like about the occupy movement.  People don’t care where you’re from.  You’re just part of the community.  After Newt Gingrich said Palestinians were invented people, people have been joking about that a lot.  What’s beautiful about Occupy Washington D.C. is that people see each other as a human being.  Not always, but at a certain stage, when it’s raining or it’s freezing, you don’t care if your neighbor’s black, brown, pink or orange… you’re going to help them out.  And, that’s what’s so beautiful about occupy.

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