The Earthquake

By Samia Khoury
Thursday, March 4, 2004

The day the earthquake hit our area, I was sitting with my husband in the oncology department at the hospital. The telephones did not stop ringing; I was grateful I do not carry a cellular phone. The doctor’s phone was the first to ring. Very calmly he set the mind of a petrified wife at ease.

Immediately, someone turned on the television so that we could all find out what was happening. There was an alert from the ministry of education to get all the children out of their classrooms and to have them wait in the school playgrounds until the fear of another tremor was over. I could imagine the panic of the parents, and as a former school administrator, how the responsibility must have drained the school principals.

Amidst all the tension, I was wondering, “What if a real disaster had happened, and we all ended up under the rubble?” Israelis and Palestinians; Jews, Christians and Muslims; doctors, nurses and patients. Even visitors who happened to be there by chance would not have been spared. Natural disasters, as well as diseases, are not discriminatory, and we would all have been equally victimized. In a split-second, severe earthquake could destroy a whole region and its population.

How ironic it is, I thought, that for so many people living in such a troubled land, the end would not have come as a result of an Israeli air raid on a Palestinian refugee camp or a suicide bomber on an Israeli bus. It would have been the result of a tremor of earth which nobody can control. Not even the most sophisticated Israeli security measures, including the so-called security fence – which is actually a concrete wall – could control this.

The earthquake would have been the ultimate solution for both the oppressors and the oppressed. It would have certainly put an end to all the disproportionate suffering and inhumanity, and would have solved a problem that has prevailed for over half a century.

Since the United Nations has not been able to get Israel to abide by any of its resolutions, and none of the peace initiatives have gone through, I thought that maybe a divine intervention was necessary to get a fresh start. A new beginning would have emerged with the survivors. They probably would appreciate the miracle of surviving such a natural disaster and would cherish whatever remains of the land and respect whoever is on it as equal survivors. No master or slave. No walls, or barriers. No soldiers at checkpoints. Simply caretakers of the land whose privilege as survivors would be to till the land and enjoy its produce. An earthquake would probably be a good lesson for humans to remember “to do justice and walk humbly with the Lord,” instead of all the oppression and the suffering imposed by humans on each other.

I suddenly woke up from my surrealistic reflection to realize that life under occupation is even more surrealistic. Every time a new reality is established on the ground and Israel gets away with it, we feel it cannot get worse. But again and again it does get worse. And the Wall is showing that once again Israel is getting away with a new reality, even if it is in violation of international law or in defiance of United Nations resolutions. The pattern has become too familiar whereby we hear voices of objection that get silenced as soon as the reality is established. The “Wall” is the test now for the international community.

What can be worse than the “Wall” which is snaking through the Palestinian Territories? Like a hurricane, it is destroying and uprooting all that is in its way, and making life almost impossible. It remains to be seen, but maybe an earthquake will spare us.


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