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The vote for Palestine

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 30.11.2012:

30 November 2012

Toine van Teeffelen

It is the day of Palestine in the UN, on 29 November, the Day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People. I decide to feel ashamed when the Netherlands would vote against. It doesn’t happen, but it was close.

Mary and I walk during the evening to the Wall around Rachel’s Tomb because a kind of celebration would take place there. A few hundreds of people are watching the TV broadcast coming from New York, projected on the large iron gate in the Wall adjacent to a military watchtower. Israeli soldiers look from their watchtower down; they seem rather relaxed. The large spotlights from the watchtower let the audience bath in light. The soldiers themselves sit in the dark.

The atmosphere is almost cozy, like at a party. Palestinian flags are distributed. Mary and I too wave the flags, I feel myself as in a football match. The Palestinian police walks around relaxedly. An ambulance of the Palestinian Medical Relief stands ready for emergencies.

Over a week ago the Israeli army shot teargas and rubber bullets at this very spot. Most of the stones on the street have been removed. Still a hidden tension is tangible. A young man climbs over a wall up to reach a balcony. Everybody looks backwards to watch his courage and skill. Then another man starts the real work. He climbs vertically, like Spiderman, up the gate. When he reaches the upper edge, the people down throw a flag to him and he plants it on top. Shouts and cheers. We too can go high, is the message.

I have to think of the new Bethlehem Christmas DVD (“the Birth of Jesus Between the Walls”), where a lady of the Bethlehem Sumud Choir sings the Magnificat from the ground up to a similar military watchtower, saying: “Come down, you throne!”

The youth dance a wild dabkeh, pound hard with their feet, jump high, go fast around in the circle. The spirit is like in a flamengo. Do we see flickering lights shining from below up to the watchtower, saying: we shine back at you?

We go back home, have to get up early. Mary wakes me up with a big smile, saying: “only nine countries voted against.” The US, Canada, the Czech Republic and Israel are in the proud company of Micronesia and some other Pacific islands. Mary regrets not to have stayed, yesterday night, especially to see that huge flag which was later spread out among the attendants. With only a little irony she congratulates the man who brings the kaek (bread with sesam) in the morning: “Mabrouk [congratulations] with the state.” The morning paper Al Quds quotes Mahmoud Abbas, saying the vote is like giving the Palestinian state its “birth certificate.” Tamer asks if Israel will now leave Palestine. An understandable misunderstanding. Jara is touched by the images on Euronews of the celebrations.

The Nativity Church bells tolled when the vote took place. Tamer leaves with his little backpack in the morning to prepare with his class for confirmation, together with a nun and priest. It is beautiful weather, a coat is not needed.

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