Hm . . . I'm not sure when I wrote this piece. I think it was revised from the beginnings of a college application essay, written a few years ago. Anyway. A reflection on my time in the the Bourj el Barajneh refugee camp -- Beirut, Lebanon.
There are so many faces. Some are streaked with tears, others roar with laughter, all are smudged with dirt from the streets on which they live. Tiny faces for tiny people with tiny hands and tiny ears. Little people that Jesus died for, but have probably never heard his name. They’re beautiful: some dark, some lighter than myself—an attribute of crusader blood that still flows in their veins. Little people, dancing people, crying people. Three-year-olds, four-year-olds . . . some are even five. All are children.
* * *
One small girl dances to the music she loves, swaying her hips and turning her small fingers. Dark eyes shine with joy as she moves to the rhythm of Arab drums and Arab cymbals. A child watches from where she sits, her legs unwilling to mover her, her spirit unwilling to break. Solemnly she looks, and lives on her dreams. The boy in the center giggles and flirts, golden curls adorning his head. He’s witty and gay and smart as can be . . . not that it matters much. Two dark heads bend together, troublemakers both, bright eyes gleaming with mischief. And there he sits, the boy in the corner, who won’t move or laugh or speak, but only look with eyes that dimly remember their tears.
* * *
On the blue door of the building, large for all to see, the Dome of the Rock is present, like a symbol of hope that yearns for faith. It does little to keep out the cold, or even the rain, and the penetrating chill, which seeps between the bullet holes, reminds us all that we are still alive. And there on the wall of the dilapidated school, in a refugee camp in the center of Beirut, hangs a flag. The flag. The flag that keeps them here—separate, alone, and dangerous. The flag that has replaced their future, and is the only manifestation of their pride. Its stripes are black, white, and green—vibrantly declaring an allegiance to a nonexistent nation, but it is the red that draws my eyes. Red, that color that flows beneath humanity’s skin, and at crucial, penetrating moments, emerges to stain the world. It is the color that reaches across history to bind the ovens of Auschwitz to the bombs of Hebron, and entangles them both with the memory of a dying God hanging on a cross. It is the color of Palestine—land of death and restitution. Land of the dancing children.