Palestine: Depressed and Inspired


Tarek Abuataby Tarek Abuata

Tarek Abuata joined CPT in 2007 as the Project Support Coordinator for the Palestine team. Born in Bethlehem, Tarek emigrated to the USA with his family at the age of 12. He now lives in the Washington, DC area and joins the team in Hebron several times a year. He wrote the following reflection about the emotional dynamics of “re-entry” – coming back home after spending time in the field. See more at

After coming back from Palestine, I find it hard to get out of bed for a number of days. Actually, my jet-lagged body wakes up at 3:00am, but my spirit is too tired to keep up. It crashes my body right back down and I curl into a fetal position, a soft fluffy pillow wrapped in my arms, and the warmth of the bed like a cocoon protecting my spirit.

My head rushes from one image to the next, my nose jumps from smell to smell, and my body tenses with anxiety and joy, depression and inspiration.

Images of children throwing stones and soldiers firing tear gas at them mix with the colors and shapes of fresh fruits and vegetables piled up in perfect mounds on street carts.

Nighttime sounds of Israeli soldiers violently pounding on doors, of roosters crowing at 4:00am, of singing on the rooftop next door, alternately refresh and choke the air.

Putrid smells of chemical water fired into crowds mixed with the delicious scents of Knafeh and Maqloobeh (traditional Arabic dishes) pollute and purify the atmosphere.

My mind is spinning so fast and my spirit is so worn out, I have no doubt that the destination is despair.

Many times, the sights and smells of a place stay with us long after we’ve departed. It’s like the smell of campfire smoke that lingers in the fabric of your clothes after leaving the fireside. The energy of some places is so vivid we can sense its colors and sounds rushing through our bodies. I realize that I am depressed.

Over the years, I’ve learned to sink myself into that inevitable depression just enough to allow it to pass through my body, but guarding it from inhabiting my spirit. It’s a balancing act – embracing the emotions rather than bottling them up in a pressure cooker for later blow-ups, but not succumbing to them so much as to become bound by them.

As the emotions flow through my body, I try to sublimate their residual energy into a song, a dance of the heart. It’s hard work.

Some say that nonviolence is the way of the cowards. I laugh. Life, forgive them for they know not what they say.