By:  Andrea Becker
Bourj el-Barajneh

My back to the burning tires and garbage, the thick black rising into the air….eyes stinging….. Amine is swaying in the crowd, silent in the loud chants, tilting back and forth as she walked, her injured hip displacing her upper body with each step….a ship in a stormy sea. Amine saw me and greeted me warmly, enveloping me in her embrace…she pulled me back, and with her ancient eyes stared into mine. I am her ‘grand-daughter’. Amine used to prevent me from eating my breakfast until I had learnt all of the Arabic words for what was on the table..she insists that I attach her last name to mine.I am family, she says. We have heated discussions about politics, and she laughs endlessly as we debate which northern village in Palestine was the best. Other times we sit in silence. Now we are together, surrounded by the crowds, the children, the chanting..this is the second day of protests in Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut. Hundreds are here, mourning the recent deaths in Palestine, the killings of unarmed Palestinian protestors by Israeli police, ‘security’ forces. Kids with stones. Trained men with tanks and assault rifles. What started with Ariel Sharon’s visit to Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif, is now spiraling into a familiar story in Occupied Palestine. Over 30 Palestinians killed. Live ammunition, ‘rubber’ bullets. Rubber-coated steel bullets. And Palestinian stones. The Palestinians here in Lebanon remember Ariel Sharon well. His name is linked to many things here…you can still see where the shells fell and killed during the 1982 Israeli Invasion. You will see pictures, yellow-green and faded, in refugee homes here. Faded, killed. You can stand in the eerie silence of the mass grave in Shatila camp, the red soil littered with garbage. 18 years ago this month, and no markers, no peace for the thousands buried beneath the littered soil. Mothers, children, young men and women. Elders. Unarmed. Unremembered. Massacred by Israel’s Phalangist militia allies. Flares were lit so that the massacre could continue even at night. Amine holds me tight in the crowd. I help her walk. She turns to me now, and raises her voice, staring into me, shouting at me in Arabic, everything loud and clear. “Do you know what is happening, how is this happening? I am here, I am old, and the children in Palestine are being killed. Did you see on the television, the people being killed by Israel? Can you see what is happening?” Her voice has carried, and now there is a crowd gathered around us. Amine, my grandmother, stares into me and waits for answers. I have many, and none. Walking into my flat in Bourj el-Barajneh some time later, my eyes still stinging with smoke.. Kholoud and Samira are there. Samira and I are silent…the weight of injustice felt by our friends, our family, here. Kholoud looks at both of us, and tells us not to be upset, not to cry. “Aren’t you Palestinian?”, she asks us. “Then don’t cry. You must be strong”. But Kholoud’s eyes are red with tears this morning too. She walks towards the door. One of Kholoud’s relatives died this morning. She is on her way to the funeral. “They are dying in Palestine. We are dying too. Here, we die for nothing.” Salaam,

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