Michael Taussig, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
Thursday June 17, 2013: I pretty well stopped eating in Palestine, not because I wasn't offered food at every turn, but because the intensity ate me alive. It was like I was breathing different air on a different planet where the customary laws of gravity and physics no longer existed. Except it wasn't just the harsh reality of physics-of land occupation and check-points and the permits required for any and everything-but the even harsher reality of things harder for me to pin down. Paranoia? Yes. Anxiety? Yes. But these terms are too obvious yet not quite right, anyway. Above all what threw me was the patience and calm in the midst of choppy seas that in an instant could become a gale inside and outside. Was it that things seemed calm, but shouldn't? Or was it that people spent a lot of time making calm, if you see what I mean, and that this was a sort of national pastime, a gargantuan cultural feat, "making calmness." (Compare with the agitated frenzy I always hear about in Israel) Or is it that no matter how bad a situation, people adapt and life continues in its steady and unsteady rhythms, as it must for the 40 year old man I met in the subterranean market in Hebron selling spices at the same stall all his life and who has never seen the sea, holding my arm, eyes burning, when I tell him I am from Sydney. Although it is quite close, he has never seen the sea because he doesn't have a permit to travel the necessary roads. But the spices need to be gathered from the dusty hillsides, the customers expect it, and he has to live, sea-less as it may be. Twenty meters away Jewish settlers are said to pour garbage and even urine down into the marketplace from their houses which not so long ago were the homes of Palestinians whom, by and large, Israelis insist on calling "arabs" as if the very word PALESTINE does not exist, is not allowed to exist, and yet for all of that non-existence very much exists-as a taboo word threatening thought itself and, indeed, the very writing of this diary. Never have I felt the use of names and words to be so precarious.
Continue reading Taussig's Two Weeks in Palestine here.