By: Renée Pinchero

It’s August 26th and my second last day in Wavel Camp. I write this as I lay in bed sick. Again. A cold this time. But as I lay here, it’s not the frustration of being sick that brings tears to my eyes, but this week’s process of saying my “good-byes.” As I write this, the taste of mulokehye (the best transliteration I can manage) still lingers on my tongue – the mulokheye that my neighbour promptly brought over on a tray as soon as she found out I couldn’t make it for lunch today because I was sick.

Just as I was overwhelmed by the amount, I have been continually overwhelmed by the generosity of the people I’ve met – people who have so little materially, but whose love of life and concern for others is so abundant. People who have shown me that despite living in what my neighbour described as “a virtual prison” (her description of camp life) still offer not only a wealth of hospitality, but something more. Despite the fact that my government is complicit in this imprisonment, the people in Wavel can and domake a distinction between my government and me.

They have reminded me of the single most important thing in the world: the importance of recognizing the humanity of another. I need to be careful, though, for I do not want to fall into the trap of sentimentalizing the suffering. I don’t want to sentimentalize the ‘Suffering of the Palestinian People.’ I don’t claim that it’s their suffering which makes them stronger. Suffering is neither noble nor beneficial. It’s unjust.

So, I need to remain focused: The situation of the Palestinians here in Wavel, in Lebanon, everywhere, is not only unjust: it’s a crime against humanity itself. It’s a crime against our own humanity. And for my part, I need to do more than just acknowledge this. I need to act on it. I need to make sure that my daily actions do not betray the people who have opened up their homes, their hearts, and their lives to me. For they have recognized my humanity, and by doing so I need to act to make sure that theirs is equally respected. But how can I do this? I have been reminded repeatedly of how I can act. I’ve been reminded in all my “good-bye” visits, in all of my “good-bye” heart shaped notes from my grade eight girls, in every exchange of email addresses and telephone numbers… “Please don’t forget us when you back to Canada. Please tell people about us.” And I know that when I return, my life will return to its regular breakneck speed: there will be too much work, too much to get done. But as I lay here, in front of the remains of the rice that I managed to get away with not eating under the watchful eye of Najwa and her mother, I know that this time I must make good on my promises. I must do more than “not forget.” I must act. This summer must be more than just a “great experience.” It needs to be more than a few stories that I can share with friends and family. I have a responsibility to provide space for voices which are all too often muted by those who have the power to write our official history. I have a responsibility to be an advocate when I can and to educate at home. I have a responsibility to make sure that my actions acknowledge the humanity that lies in every one of us.

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