Of printed words that close the festival

May 28th, 2009, Jerusalem

Plan B had been laid out. The British Council in East Jerusalem agreed to host the closing ceremony of the Second Palestinian Festival of Literature, in the event that the Israelis came to close the event down again.

And this they did. There wasn't a confrontation this time like at the opening (see "Reality check or How to hold a festival under occupation" ), just two notices on the door of the Palestinian National Theatre.

Notices posted outside the door of the Palestinian National Theatre

Translated*, in English it said,


According to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

After I was informed that in the day of Thursday, dated 28/5/2009, a meeting was allowed by the Palestinian Authority, using the Palestinian National Theatre in Jerusalem, without written permission as dealt with under Article 3A according to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to my authority permitted under Article 3B of the law, I order for the meeting not to be held at the Palestinian National Theatre or any other place inside the State of Israel. I also order everyone who is responsible, and the owners of surrounding meeting places to prevent the meeting from happening at this address or any other place in the State of Israel.

Ministry of Internal Security



As the crowd gathered in the courtyard of the British Council, the Palestinian singer Basel Zayed and a group of accompanying musicians performed a musical medley, a lively fusion of traditional Arabic and modern jazz. The intimate garden was a perfect setting for the evening, though as the British Consul-General noted, it was “regrettable” the event had to be shifted there.

As the sun set on the garden, the writers taking part in the festival each took turns to read a piece of writing that inspired them. Some chose American poetry, some English literature, one read from Homer's Odyssey, and another from a children's book, but the most memorable though were a Palestinian writing.

It was excerpt from “Sharon and my mother-in-law” from local Palestinian writer Suad Amiry. Amiry had taken her dog Nura to a vet in a Jewish settlement for a vaccination and as a result, Nura received a Jerusalem passport. The situation is such that it was incredibly difficult for Palestinians to a Jerusalem ID

“'You know what, Nura? This document will get you through the checkpoint into Jerusalem while I and my car need two different permits to get through.'

Nura looked at me, slightly tilting her tiny head, wagged her long tail, put her head out of the car window and sniffed.

It was not long before I decided to make use of Nura's passport.

'Can I see your permit and the car's?' said the soldier at the Jerusalem checkpoint.

'I don't have one but I am the driver of this Jerusalem dog,' I replied, handing the soldier Nura's passport.

'Maze? (What?)' asked the soldier, making a funny face.

He looked pretty amused by the thought. He took Nura's passport and started flipping through it.

'I am the dog's driver. As you can see, she is from Jerusalem, and she cannot possibly drive the car or go to Jerusalem all by herself.'

'And you aregh hergh drighver?' he asked, rolling his 'r's the way Israelis do when they speak English and dissolving into laughter.

'Yes, somebody has got to be her driver,' I laughed back.

The soldier looked closely at me, patted Nura's head, which was still sticking out of the window, handed me her passport, and in a loud voice said, “SA'A... go!'

I pressed my foot on the accelerator, Nura stuck half her tiny body out of the window, and to Jerusalem we both flew.

All it takes is a little bit of humour, I thought to myself, as Nura and I passed the same soldier as we drove back to Ramallah that same afternoon.”


Closing the Second Palestine Festival of Literature

The readings concluded the six-day festival which took the group of writers from the West to the West Bank to interact with Palestinians and understand the situation there.

A member of the audience asked during a panel discussion the other day, “Now that you have seen all this, are you going to do something when you go home?”

As the writers say their goodbyes and prepare to head home after the events of the last days, their suitcases will be that much heavier with new experiences, inspirations and even muses perhaps. They may unpack this extra baggage with the rest of their belongings, or leave it to stand in the closet with the Samsonite, till the next trip comes along.

Maybe a new book will emerge from this trip. Maybe not. At the end of the day, what they do with what their trip is the personal decision of each and every of the festival's writer, and each and every visitor to Israel and/or the Palestinian territories.

This is the freedom that everyone who flies the Palestinian cause, including the girl who asked the question, demands for those living in the West Bank and Gaza. Freedom is not a concept that is hard to grasp. The difficulty it seems lies in remembering that it is universal for all, bar none.

*Editor's note: This translation is to enable non-readers of Hebrew and Arabic to understand the notice. Please write the author to submit a more precise translation of the notice, if available.Thanks.”




You are not logged in:

dan-chyi chuaDan-Chyi Chua began her writing career with Channel News Asia, a regional cable network, before forsaking broadcast journalism to hit the road for a three-year sabbatical through the Middle East, China, Central America and Cuba. She has now grounded herself as a writer for asia! Magazine.

[email protected]