a poem for Ni’lin | 2008

A poem I wrote in 2008 on a previous trip to Palestine. I was in the beautiful village of Ni’lin. Since 1967, they have had half of their land annexed by illegal Israeli settlements. In 2004, Israel announced they were going to build the Apartheid wall through their olive fields for “security” reasons. Not only is the route of the wall miles away from the armistice line of 1967, but instead of surrounding the nearby illegal settlement that it is “protecting”, it also annexes an entire valley of olive trees. Agriculture being the main source of income, this caused a strangling of the village.

This colonial strategy is mimicked from the South African apartheid system where the goal was to annex the most fertile land, and limit the black South Africans to divided communities without a steady source of income (agriculture), thereby having them as cheap labor for the white communities. Already this is happening throughout Palestinian communities by way of the Apartheid wall, illegal colonies, and ‘closed military zones’.

In 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court granted authorization to build the wall through Ni’lin’s farm land and to suppress any protest to the contrary. The town organized and lead non-violent protests as well as fought legal battles. The Israeli military responded with crude violence on the unarmed protesters, and often collectively punished the entire village for their resistance.

When I was in Ni’lin, the wall hadn’t been erected yet. So far on this trip I’ve avoided going back because I am not eager to see this symbol of apartheid and colonization that has been crudely placed through their village. But Insha’Allah I get a chance to go and see the people that have fought and continue to fight a long and difficult battle.

In the short time I was there, I got the strong impression that Ni’lin was full of a warm and courageous people. Within a period of three days, two boys from the village were martyred.

10 year old Ahmed Mousa | إن لله وإن إليه راجعون | photo credit to Willow Heske

Ten year old Ahmed Mussa was martyred when he returned to the olive trees following a protest to find his lost shoe. He was spotted by an Israeli soldier and shot with a live bullet which went through his head and exited the back of his skull.

17 year old Yousif Amira | إن لله وإن إليه راجعون | I wish I had a photo of him smiling, but wallah this is the exact sight that inspired me to write this poem. | Anne Paq, Active Stills

17 year old Yousef Amira was shot the evening of Ahmad’s funeral, from a distance of 8 metres by an infamous Israeli ‘rubber bullet’ which is actually a steel bullet with a thin coating of rubber. Yousif, Allah Yer7amo, was declared brain dead, and died in hospital a few days later.

الله يرحم كل الشهداء

إن لله وإن إليه راجعون


I have only ever performed it once, at verses vs Apartheid in 2009 I think- and I just found it, so here you go world wide web:

You don’t have to venture far into my mind
To find out what lies behind
Just take a breath, and look into my eyes

Look and take step number one.
To us being forced out of our lands at the barrel of a gun
Knowing it would be years
Before we would see
The ancient olive trees
The waters of the Dead Sea
Knowing it may never be
The day where we will be free
To live, love, learn and be in our own territory
So we got on a plane and flew away
To a life born out of disarray
And we settled in the Canadian community
And we built both struggles and unity.

You don’t have to go far into my mind
To know what makes me feel confined
Just take a step, and look into my eyes

So take step number two into the unseen
Sleeping beside my grandmother at the age of fourteen
Peaceful is this night and my brother’s deep breathing
Serene are the dreams that his mind must be receiving
Peaceful is this night, until the bullets start flying
And amidst the F-16s I hear my grandmother sighing
Not again, not again she says so bleak
We haven’t had one quiet night this entire week
And the bullets are louder, and the guns nearby
And now my anxiety has reached a level sky high
And my mother yells at my brother to duck below
Because he’d fallen asleep in the sill by the window
And in this night I’m worried by the lack of crying
Because the children are so used to this that their tears are denying
The shots pierce this night again and again
And the night, she falls to the earth in pain
And she spreads on the earth like a blanket of dismay
And dead, the night can no longer walk away
Killed by the bullets of those that oppress
She leaves the world forever in darkness

You don’t have to venture far into my mind
To find why I fear for mankind
Just take a breath, and look into my eyes

Look, and take step number three
To summer 08 in the middle east
I was running through the olive trees
The intention: to stop the soldiers who seize
My people’s land with their policies
Destroy a home with their machinery
Then tell the world it was in self defense
That this home held a terrorist
Running fast through the olive trees
Listening to their screams as they try to flee
Emotion pouring itself over me
Not of fear but of the need to be free
The need to make the world see
What I see

I see soldiers boasting their superiority
I see teargas grenades fired from the sky and falling down me
I see guns pointed at he
I see teargas fall and slowly seep
Into our air and I no longer see

But I hear. And I hear his fear
And I hear a gunshot and I hear him keel
And I hear them scream Allah hold him dear
And the bullets rage and the people run and the gas falls from the sky and still the bullets shout until I no longer hear

But I feel. And I feel them near
I feel their angers and I feel their tears
I feel the despair they carry on their backs
I feel the hope they place in their prayer mats
The dreams they see when their heads touch the ground
The freedom they feel in a sleep profound
But now the soldiers near
And the smoke clears
And I see what I shouldn’t have seen
And I no longer feel

But I think. And I think about our fate in the stars
I think about love and laughter and if our life is really ours
I think about anger, oppression, hope and aggression
I think about what it takes to make a life
What it takes to fake a life
To break a life and derail a life until there is no life
I think about what it takes to take a life
I see him and I see his peace
But his peace drains me – I just want him to be
He’s just sleeping my mind says
In a minute he’ll wake and open his eyes
And he’ll smile, and I’ll smile, all the while, knowing this is just my mind’s eye
This is all just a lie
His peace drains me and I look to the floor
His father fights his tears back and screams Allah yirhamo
And now I think of chance and of fate
Of love and of hate
The kindness and crime
Bullets in the back
Hope in the heart
A face behind the bandage
A man behind the gun
A mother with nothing to love
A father with no son
A child’s end has come
And I no longer think


So the problem I see now is not a lack of objectives, it’s the lack of activists to represent the perspectives
In this time, where apathy’s become the attitude du jour, my words are coming out sounding somewhat obscure
But I can see the power we have within. The power that we have that we’re holding in.
The power to dream and the power to love, the power to care, the power to speak of..
So ask yourself, do you utilize this gift?
This tongue that can speak love, that can heal every rift
People are dying for the freedom of voice
While we avoid an argument to keep our prized Rolls Royce
These possessions, they distract us, keep us away from our brains,
Until the greedy have squeezed dry all the poor and in pain

But despite this world’s chaos there’s one thing that is Great
The ability to create a smile on another person’s face
These people are a reminder that freedom belongs to you
And despite all the chains, your joy can always stay true
Our warriors hold onto that for their goals to be obtainable
Because a clear mind is the way to make activism sustainable
So when I want to step into your memories, your mind
The way will be clear, just a door through your eyes
And together we can share the places we’ve been
To spread the stories of the hearts unseen
And in this lost and divided world
We can work to never let a cry go unheard

Leave a comment


  1. yallsmoketoenjoyit

     /  November 27, 2011

    this is really powerful

  2. God Bless Ni’lin, and may these words reach many hearts

  3. Hurrieh

     /  November 29, 2011

    It is powerful I’m subscribing right now. What is the situation in Ni’lin now?

    • Well the wall has been erected, taking much of their land. They still hold a protest every week, and every week are reacted to violently, even though the march can’t actually progress past the wall.


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