JERUSALEM POST BLOG 2
Bigger than Jesus
Are the Spice Girls in town? No, not really. Lebanese pop-singer Nancy Ajram then? Or perhaps eighties one-hit-wonder Charles & Eddie? If no one else can help you, and if you can find them,… maybe Palestinians hired the A-Team? Quite unlikely. And yet, the sulfuric tang of ignited powder abounds. There floats an excitement that is difficult to explain otherwise.
Today, Ramallah is falling over itself, people dash about in thrilled flurries, and firecrackers litter the sound-spectrum. It’s the day of “tawjihi”, the proclamation of final-year high school student’s results, a local SAT or baccalaureate if you will. The tawjihi determines which, if any, college you’re allowed to enter, and the field of study that is deemed attainable for your intellectual prowess. The growing popularity of higher education has made Palestinian universities rather strict in their admittance policies. Too strict, some say, as the results of a single year determine who goes to college, and who doesn’t. Tension and anxiety hang thick like steel wires. Family and friends, not to mention the contenders themselves, brace as noon approaches.
“Nata’ig! Nata’ig!” the newspaper kids shout, the fates of lives wrapped in drooping folds from the left arm, like omnipotent waiters. Two shekels a pop. “Nata’ig!” Results! The special editions, already printed as bakers’ alarm clocks rang, were under lock and key, by presidential decree, until the official reading about a half hour shy of midday.
I’m running errands downtown, wading through a choppy sea of people. Traffic rules are, for the day, suspended. I exaggerate of course, but it’s hard to underestimate or misread the beaming smiles, or the rutted brows that hover over index fingers on the endless lists of printed names, scanning for the thumbs up. I’m startled as a young girl flails onto the street, screaming. She is pursued by a hive of classmates who are there just in time to catch her as she swoons onto the asphalt. For an unguarded second the word “Beatles” pops into my head, curtsies, and disappears just as quickly. “Stand back. Give her some air,” says a gentleman passer-by. Gravity will not let go of her just yet, and I saunter on. She’ll be alright.
Here, two adolescents crouch, poring over the percentages. Today it is permitted to read on the sidewalk. An older man is hunched against a car, pats his chest searching for his spectacles. Everyone has a cousin, a nephew, a son, daughter, sister or brother whose future is weighed on these pages. Whole families will gather in celebration tonight, or had planned to at least. Today, no one is Hamas or Fatah, and a powwow of smiles and handshakes in Jericho is the least of anybody’s concerns.
Such moot topics elicit shrugs. A sigh at best. Today a true majority can be seen, in a whorl of uncertainty, placing the safest bet available; education. Perhaps, when the chips are down four years from now, jobs will be as scarce a commodity as they are now, and the current curls on mouths will droop. And yet. People take that chance. Hope is always at its best, clashing with the odds.
A youth launches sparklers from a balcony. The streets are covered black on white, and the faces carry smiles, or frowns. Soon the latter will withdraw. The night is claimed by honking cars, and even more fireworks. All in the name of education. “Bigger than Jesus,” I catch myself thinking. One of those unruly seconds…
9. WOWWWw… Tom, I loved the bridge or the comparison you made about the Palestinian celebration of Tawjihi results and the Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram visiting Ramallah…(which is impossible because the Israeli security in Bengurion will never give her a visa in) Oh, yes both are equal to Palestinians and for only those who know palestinians’ lust to life, beauty and education! but those who don’t know I mean; our neighbors, they will never understand the pleasures of Tawjihi results, Nancy Ajram or Lebanon….. I guess, only when Palestinians and Lebanese people are no more beasts to Israeli’s…only then the riddle will be resolved! bayan shbib, Ramallah, Aug 19 1:08PM
8. I really like this blog. Its kind of refreshing. Stop the bashing already and listen for a change… revi, TA, Aug 11 6:08PM
7. I for one appreciate this blog. I’d like to know more about our Palestinian neighbors customs, culture and language. This is the best bridge of peace that we can build. And do we have a choice? Why perpetuate hatred, mistrust and madness. There are MANY good palestinians out there and Israelis would do well to try to make more connection with them. Some of us remember “good old days” 20 years ago when we could eat houmous in the arab souk, walk through and sip arabic coffee, enjoy watermelon in the “tent”,,,, and other middle eastern pleasure. The younger generation never experienced that peaceful coexistence– which wasn’t perfect, but better than today. Pity that we have let relations deteriorate like this. It’s time for the tikkun of Isaac and Ismael, yes? michelle, Israel, Aug 9 7:08PM
6. James, do you cry when people in African Sudan are being killed and raped by Arabs? Probably not. Probably dont even care. You only cry when Jews succeed in stopping terrorists from killing them. And cheer when they dont. Education means absolutley nothing if the educated one is a terrorist. (not that any one is automatically a terrorist – but they did overwhelmingl y elect Hamas – didnt they) Ben, NY, Aug 9 3:08PM
5. James: as an American your claim to moral arguemnts in this vein are, well, problematic – Indians, you know. My advice: “take the beam out of your eye….” you understand, of course, unless you belong to the numerous American abducted by aliens. Were you? Jack, Israel, Tel Aviv, Aug 9 3:08PM
4. They’re in a world of their own. This information is not really interesting. I can just imagine the sort of education they will get. Ilanc, Israel, Aug 9 2:08PM
3. Education is good. Maybe Palestinians will better understand the tactics Jew used to steal their land and oppress them. And then cry when Palestinians fight back. James, Washington, Aug 9 2:08PM
2. What will they do with this education, make bigger bombs? Amir, MIami, Aug 8 4:08PM
1. I’ve always said education is important. A.M. Roth, USA, Aug 8 2:08PM