The sea

Not long time ago I was asked if I had ever seen the sea before moving to Denmark. I remember I couldn’t hold a silly laugh because that question took some time to filtrate through the bubble that my life is, as a citizen of a “first-world country”. The woman that asked me that question is a Palestinian friend of mine, her family lives in Ramallah but she fled to Denmark some years ago. We were talking about the Mediterranean Sea, and she was reflecting upon the fact that she had never seen the sea before moving to Denmark. Now, technically speaking, Ramallah is situated at 1 hour car drive from Tel-Aviv and in general from the coast of Israel. My friend’s family, nevertheless, and as a consequence her, is not allowed to have the permit that grants Palestinians the freedom to go back and forth through the perimeters of the wall. They don’t have this right because her parents were political activists in their university years and that “stain” has enshrined her family’s destiny not to see the sea. Now, I would like to spend a few words on the importance of stories. I imagine that who’s reading these words is aware of what has been going on in Palestine in the last few days. We have read articles about the missiles. We have read articles about the “clashes”. We have read articles about arrests. We have read articles about international meetings and calls to deescalate the situation. When it comes to the Palestinian question, most of the time, these are the information that reach our cosy and comfortable houses in critical times. The stories of people are generally deemed irrelevant and consequently left outside of the picture. I believe that stories are powerful means to foster the human capacity of empathy and knowledge. It is of course important to know what is going on, but there is no better way than stories to feel close to the ones narrating them. The level of disengagement and detachment of the western world we live in, protects us from putting us in relation to complex and hurtful feelings. Nevertheless, it is vital to acknowledge the existence and lives of others outside our comfort zone. The complexities of the Palestinian question are numerous, but sometimes, it should be as simple as listening to the story of a girl that has never seen the sea. That is the power of a story. Life under military occupation generates consequences in the lives of people. Everyday life struggles and hardships that don’t touch or reach us unless the situation becomes critical from a geopolitical perspective. We need to remember that even when this current situation will normalize, there will still be the stories of the people involved. Stories that won’t be served to us on a silver plate. We need to act on our empathic capacity and reach out to those stories, so that the next time we read about Gaza, about the West Bank, about dead people, in our heads we will draw the colors of the stories we have heard and we will take on our shoulders that pain and sufferance.

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