RamAllah, the de-facto business capital of the West Bank is full with vendors selling anything from fresh-squeezed orange juice and falafel sandwiches to designer clothing and jewelry. Everywhere you look, grounds are breaking for new apartment buildings and businesses.
In the bustling streets around the city center, honking cars and rushing pedestrians compete for the right-of-way. On any given day, to get from one side of the small city center circle to another could take a car 15 minutes or more. In this relatively small city, nightlife has also soared with trendy cafes and restaurants popping up everywhere drawing in locals, expats, and foreign nationals.
However, glimpses of RamAllah’s recent past subtly exist, but are seldom noticed. At Zaman, one of the more popular cafes, one will find young men and women enjoying argheela, espresso, and fresh cold beverages almost every night of the week. But just across the street, ripped-up faded posters of two martyrs from the second Intifada remains plastered on the walls. One of the martyrs is a young boy. The posters do not explain how or why he was killed.
I was in RamAllah at the end of the second Intifada, just after the death of the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. At that time, thousands of these martyr posters were plastered all over the city representing the 5,000 plus Palestinians who were killed during the uprising against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. The city was tense, and everyone seemed to know someone that had been killed. Funerals were all too common and mothers were mourning in sorrow.
Five years later, RamAllah and its surrounding neighborhoods remain entrapped by concrete walls and checkpoints of the Israeli occupation. And they remain separated and cutoff from other Palestinian towns and villages.
Some towns and villages are even chopped in half, making it near impossible for family members to get from one side to the other.
Even under the difficulties of the occupation, Palestinians have adapted as they have in the past. RamAllah’s skyline keeps growing and so is its economy. But the occupation, land grabs, and Israeli illegal settlements are just as active, and planted firmly inside the internationally respected green-line leaving justice and equality secondary.
The men and women of the Intifada sacrificed their lives for an end to the occupation, but what about those living today? Are they returning the favor? Most of the posters of the martyrs are gone, but what about their memories? Has it been reduced to strips of faded posters blended into the chaos of once-beaten city? I wonder, does anyone notice them anymore…