One of my friends is an intern at Al-Qaws: For Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society; last night, the organization hosted a big dance party in a club. As someone commented, the atmosphere really could have been taken from any gay club worldwide (okay, so maybe excluding Divas): lots of gay men, loud music (only here it was all in Arabic), various girls who are either queer themselves or are dancing alongside their gay male friends, and a strong haze of cigarette smoke, strobe lights, and heat. It was also very reminiscent of other dance parties that I’ve been to in the Middle East, though obviously the atmosphere brought by the attendants made it wholly its own entity.
I’m nearly packed to go back to the States, though I’m sort of in a depressed and overwhelmed and excited whirlwind and therefore can’t really process what it means to “go home”. I’m not particularly excited to go back. I love Jerusalem in an odd and complex way, not because I feel particular ties to the land, but because of the warmness with which my friends have accepted me and shared their stories and homes. My experiences this summer have allowed me to begin to draw concrete parallels between struggles here and abroad and allowed me to develop a stronger voice that is just a bit less intimidated by the banalities of “unbiased” approaches. This means remaining critical of each narrative presented, but without allowing the development of my conclusions to be hindered by the ever-present requirement of objectiveness. Looking back on our (amazing) seminar, there are things I’d like to prod a bit more, responses I wish I had mustered up the courage to give. I’ve encountered both approaches during my summer, both that which refuses to acknowledge the faults of political or social movements they support and with the obsession to remain unbiased, apolitical, neutral. I have attempted, albeit often unsuccessfully, to experience life in Jerusalem according to the words of Edward Said: “Nothing in my mind is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characeristic turning away from a difficult and principled position that you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political, you want to keep a reputation of being balanced, moderate, objective. Your hope is to remain within the responsible mainstream. For an intellectual, these habits of mind are corrupting par excellence.”