The parting shot

We arrived in Jerusalem in April 2019 and this week, after three and a bit years, we will leave. A lot has happened but how much has changed? Nothing is better, so is it all worse?

On a personal level, the past three years have been some of the most interesting, exciting and privileged of our lives. We have been privileged to live here, and it is also our privilege that allows us to leave when others don’t have that choice[1]. We did a LOT, we tried to see everything there was to see, and it was awe inspiring. But, we did it through the lens of a foreigner, hovering above the apartheid system that blankets Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However hard we tried, we could never walk in the shoes of the people who call this place ‘home’.

Herod’s Gate, Old City

We weren’t in the Old City when 1257 people were injured with rubber coated steel bullets since we arrived[2]. We weren’t in Jabal Al Mukabbir to witness the 139 house demolitions there have been during this time[3].  We weren’t in Issawiya for the nightly police raids, nor Silwan when the police were beating up and arresting people on a regular basis. These are all parts of Jerusalem, a stone’s throw from where we live, but we were always safe at home. We passed freely through checkpoints, we were never stopped by police, harassed, threatened or worse.

The Separation Wall prevents West Bank Palestinians from visiting Jerusalem

I guess that would be excusable, if we could confidently say we were part of the solution, working towards justice and equality for Palestine. I think I arrived as that naïve person, and facing the cold reality has been a hard life lesson to swallow. 

As well as a lifetime’s worth of precious memories, I also leave with the bitter understanding that justice is not some prevailing force that always wins out in the end. It has to be fought for and people (Governments, other countries) only fight when they have something to gain. Protection of human rights is not always enough. The dirty motives of politics drive both actions and inactions, and inactions dressed up as actions.

A house facing eviction in Sheikh Jarrah

There have been several defining moments over the past few years when change felt possible. The first was during May 2021 when violence in Sheikh Jarrah erupted into a full-scale escalation between Israel and Hamas. Rockets were fired towards Jerusalem causing worldwide media attention, intensive shelling of Gaza and a spill over of fighting onto the streets of Israel. The situation was so volatile it felt like anything could happen, but after 11 days of fighting, a hollow ceasefire was declared, and life returned to the shaky abnormal normal that has become customary.

May of this year also delivered a pivotal moment with the killing of Shireen Abu Aqla, the Al Jazeera journalist who was shot by Israeli forces in Jenin. The claims that she was deliberately targeted for attempting to share the truth with the world was an afront on democracy and a national hero was lost. As if that wasn’t enough to cause serious repercussions for Israel, the diabolical images from Shireen’s funeral which was attacked by police forces were broadcast live around the world and caused frontline news. Sadly, the newsfeed moved on and things again returned to the abnormal normal.   

Since we arrived, 523 Palestinians have been needlessly killed by Israeli forces across Gaza, the West Bank and Israel[4]. I’m devastated that so many atrocities have happened during our time here and yet the occupation marches on unhindered and perhaps even bolstered. I’m frustrated that there have not even been any talks about peace talks during the past three years, let alone peace talks themselves. The Deal of the Century being one such farcical inaction dressed up as an action.

Battir and the Makhrour valley which is at risk from illegal Israeli settlers

One of the hardest parts about leaving is that I know that we can’t return to the place we’ve come to know and love. Every day, Palestinian land and heritage is being swallowed up into Israel. We’ve seen this happen in multiple places with land confiscations, demolitions, settlement expansion and the further separation and division of Palestinian towns and villages. It is a sad truth that Palestine as we know it will continue to shrink and become further fragmented. I know this, because it’s being allowed to happen now.

So, was I naïve and are these things inevitable? Looking around at the current players on the world stage, radical change which will bring peace and justice to Israel and Palestine seems unthinkable. It’s not that the path towards peace is unclear, it’s that the stakes aren’t high enough to make it a game worth playing. Words dressed up as actions have become the status quo and upsetting that unpeaceful equilibrium is seen as coming at too heavy a price for third states to trouble themselves with.    

In 2022, how can I explain to my kids that slightly older kids in police uniforms are allowed to shoot and kill people. How will they judge us in the future for being complicit with this system?

Palestinian breakfast in Nisf Jubeil

It’s not in my nature to be pessimistic, and I hate to forecast a future of doom and gloom. From Zababdeh to Hebron, from Aboud to Battir – we’ve seen the strength of the spirit of Palestine in countless towns, villages and small places in between. So many people have wanted to share their corner of Palestine with us and have told incredible stories, often dating back to Biblical times, as they’ve hosted us at their dinner tables and generously opened their homes to us. There is a connection to the land here that runs deeper than anything we know. The annual olive harvest feels almost spiritual in nature. Passing the same land from generation to generation has grounded people in a way that they belong here regardless of any accompanying permits or paperwork.

I want to believe that there is a happy ending and that it’s just around the corner. The World Wars ended, the Berlin War fell: and so there is an untold future waiting to take hold of Palestine. Giving everyone equal rights and asking them to live alongside multiple religions, ethnicities, cultures and histories cannot be an unobtainable future.

Graffiti in Nablus

There have been many times over the past three years when I’ve looked around for the ‘adults’ or the ‘powers that be’ to blow the whistle and call time on all of this.  It’s hard to accept that we – the current generation – are responsible for the world we live in. We can make up rules to separate and divide people and pursue narrow country interests at all costs, or we can stand up for something better.

When we go, we’ll be taking a piece of East Jerusalem, Palestine and this Holy Land in our hearts with us. I’m not sure how this story ends but I hope the future involves peace and justice. Are we – the adults – really going to settle for less and tell our kids it was all too difficult?  


[1] The 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza have no freedom of movement, Palestinians living in Jerusalem can lose their residency permits if they leave the country and West Bank Palestinians can only leave the country via Jordan.

[2] Data taken from OCHA OPT interactive maps, available online at Data on casualties | United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – occupied Palestinian territory (ochaopt.org)

[3] Data taken from OCHA OPT interactive maps, available online at Microsoft Power BI

[4] Data taken from OCHA OPT interactive maps, available online at Data on casualties | United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – occupied Palestinian territory (ochaopt.org)

8 thoughts on “The parting shot

  1. Thank you Kirsty for sharing so many stories about this place and her peoples and so much if yourself. This small, hurting, resilient part of our world has been better for them. Blessings to you and your family as you return.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kirsty, this is such a beautifully written closer to your time in Palestine — thank you for writing it. I learned a lot from your blog but this one in particular is so valuable. All the best, Nyla

    Liked by 1 person

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