Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Archives and Destiny

The rain falls on this Thursday morning--we have had the driest April in 11 years--I say "we" loosely since I am not of this history, a new comer to its weather worries, to all its national concerns. I come not as an Australian, but as a citizen of the world who has the opportunity to learn different realities of daily life--the crowing of our neighbor's chooks, the weekly rolling out of the garbage bins, garbage neatly sorted; shopping on Sydney Road, the Muslim heart of Melbourne; the resonances of other national holidays, ANZAC day with its heart on the shores of a Turkish town, where Australian "diggers," young military men, were sent to meet their death, the Queens Birthday, holidays marked by a living link to the colonial past and the always over riding concern with the level of water in the dams. I have learned to read the weather map with an Australian eye, or at least a Victorian one, to see the sweep of clouds from Adelaide swoop low over the tip and most times, pass us by on its way to Tasmania, but today, the sky stays gray, the temperature drops and rain falls. Here I live with migrant neighbors and their sometimes sad acceptance of displacement, the graying photographs on dressers of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers from the old country, looking sternly out at my neighbors, women's hair pulled tight, men with battered hats, their faces daily icons of sacrificial journeys. "What can you do?" says Anna, her hand resting on top of the low wall between us.

I have spent the last few days archiving the Women in Black papers that Marg had carefully stored in an old filing cabinet in her shed. As in other times, this handling of worn papers brings me peace when my body cannot do very much else. My knee, crushed when I was run over by a truck in 1995, gave way the other night. When morning came, Di called an ambulance and we spent the day in the Epworth emergency room--the knee gave way in the middle of the night as I made my way to the bathroom and I thought, I have entered the time of life when the body has its own conversations with the night, and you wait for sunlight to bring the hope of strategies of repair--so now I sit and have my work to do, to bring honor to the women who since the late 1980s organized campaigns for Women In Black, who stood vigil and wrote petitions and questioned members of parliament. Seven folders of documents to be inventoried, described, touched and then, a reunion of these women and they will see the markings of their refusal of destinies. That is how I see the archives of those who fall below the gaze of national powers--the queers, the peace makers, the migrants, the workers--the refusal of destinies. Women in Black has attempted to intervene in the militaristic policies of over 50 countries, and it all began in Haifa in 1988--Jewish and Palestinian women refusing the destiny of occupation. Nations spend millions of dollars on their war museums, on Presidential archives, on the historical collections of the forces of national power. Then I come to these pieces of paper, some with the hurriedly written notes of a meeting, with list of questions to be asked, the flyers handed out in the streets of Melbourne, of Sydney, flyers from Tel Aviv with the names of Palestinian women arrested by the Israeli Defense Forces in 1991 who desperately need help for their children, for their families. These papers tell another story, delineate a different way to live in the world, announce that preserved memory of difference made visible is a lasting denial of destiny--there will always be war, they say and build temples to its Gods. There was no other way, they say. Believe what we tell you, they say. Hate who the nation hates, they say. This is the only way to be a citizen, to be a woman, to be a Jew. Oh, but the riches of resistance lie in the archives. I know that some women involved in Women in Black read this journal and I hope you will think about archiving, collecting, listing, all the markings of your involvement. Perhaps eventually there can be an international archives of Women in Black. Write me if you want to talk about this. Some times these days, it seems as if the forces of everlasting war have won the world, but our markings will be found by those who need them, our imagination of refusals.

30 April 2008
Dear Friends,
I received this message from International Women in Black. Elana is a great woman I met at the Women in Black Conference in Jerusalem--her comments are in italics and I am sending them as I received them. She is living in Jaffa, Israel.
...from Paula, Women in Black (Vienna)

Raided--Hebron Girls Orphange Sewing Workshop
Hebron: At 1:00 am this morning, April 30th, the Israeli Military raided the Hebron Girls' orphanage near the intersection of Salaam and Al Adel (Peace and Justice) Streets. Acting on orders issued by Major General Shemni, soldiers looted the workshop of all its sewing and processing machines, office equipment, rolls of cloth, finished clothing and supplies. CPT members documented, with still photos and video, approximately 40 Israeli soldiers emptying the workshop contents into 2 40 ft trucks. The estimated value of the physical material taken is $45,000 US. The cost in terms of the fear and terror instilled in the hearts of the little girls living above the workshop is much higher. How I hope the international community will finally take note of this enough to act against Major General Shemni (or whatever his name actually is) and those who agreed to participate in this abomination. Isn't it time for everyone to take a stand and choose more realistic sides? Either this kind of act is acceptable OR IT IS NOT! FOR SHAME! Please do what you can to support the children and raise your voice against this invasion. Elana)

You know, it will matter who said no, it will matter who risked homes of all sorts because they could no longer live with the abuses of power and the breaking of our human hearts.

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