Today was Rushdi Tamimi’s funeral. Rushdi was a 31 year old Palestinian man from Nabi Saleh, the village where we have been attending weekly demonstrations for some time now. He was shot in the stomach and leg by Israeli soldiers at a demonstration in Nabi Saleh this past Saturday, and died in the hospital yesterday (a video taken by his sister on the day of the shooting can be found here: http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=T4L3oaYtyLs&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Ffeature%3Dplayer_embedded%26v%3DT4L3oaYtyLs).
The day of mourning began with a gathering of family, friends, neighbors, and supporters at the hospital in Ramallah. From there we marched along the streets of Ramallah to Manara Sq. Many were weeping and comforting one another, and nearly all participated in indignant chants of resistance. From Ramallah we took buses to Nabi Saleh, where the funeral itself was held. On our way we passed Palestinian youth clashing with Israeli soldiers, a scene which seems to appear everywhere you turn in the West Bank right now. The funeral in Nabi Saleh was as massive as the march, and the anger and sorrow of the mourners was equally palpable. Towards the end of the funeral, Palestinian youth approached the Israeli military forces which stood ready nearby (as if to accentuate their indifference to the death for which they were responsible) and the day predictably drew to a close with volleys of tear gas, torrents of skunk water, and the clapping of rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition being fired.
It is all too easy to let death become nothing more than an abstraction. Having lost a number of people who were close to me, I can attest that this is true even in the most intimate of circumstances. But it is all the more true when death is distant, when lives slip into mere numbers, the seemingly endless repetition of which cannot but help encourage a tragic normalcy. Today I witnessed a single absence within a structure of violence which has extinguished thousands of lives, which extinguishes them still. We must do our best to remember all of the love and sorrow and rage which is contained within these singular absences, to re-humanize those losses which are rendered invisible by remoteness or routine. For once we are able to recognize death in all of its sensuousness, it is far more difficult not to act in the service of life.
When death with its birds
of black foam sprouts from my skin
when my bones question the air
about its rains and its tides
and roots lift their lonely rituals
from my drooping eye
when I’m the only one whose place was
on the roads the only one not there
to round off the footsteps for the day
in your silver body my drowned out words
will still cheer the ripe harvest on.
Travelers in the same cult of love
doggedly we killed oblivion off.
– Roque Dalton