Considering the fact that our literature workshop at Birzeit almost didn’t take place at all, it was a real success. We’d applied for a grant to teach a workshop to Palestinian university students through a fund administered by the US Department of Education and the State Department’s Public Diplomacy program. Despite the contacts that the consul in East Jerusalem had set up with our colleagues at Birzeit, we had a difficult time making arrangements. The department chair was away for the summer and didn’t respond to our emails as we tried to confirm our plan. Fortunately, David knew some people in other departments who connected us to Ahlam, a junior member of the English faculty. It turned out to be a perfect match—she was enthusiastic to have us come and meet with her students. She’d studied English modernism in America on a Fulbright. If she hadn’t drummed up support for us, I doubt it would have happened.
We finally figured out a time that would work for all of us, though when it came, it turned out to be the same day that an American diplomat was visiting Ramallah and the whole place was shut down for a general strike in protest. We told our driver that we wanted to go anyway.
When we arrived, we found two military jeeps parked at the entrance to the university. Students were throwing rocks at the vehicles while soldiers fired rubber bullets back at them. We waited with other cars as the scene unfolded. Then, for no reason, the army sped off with sirens flashing. (Read More)