In 2002, I signed up to go to Palestine for two weeks with the International Solidarity Movement. It so happened that the day after we arrived, Israel invaded the West Bank in retaliation for a bombing that had been carried out in Nazareth on the first night of Passover. A few friends and I stayed in a refugee camp called Aida, just outside of Bethlehem. We hoped that our presence there would discourage the Israeli army from carrying out massive raids against the civilians of the camps, and maybe it did. I didn’t speak any Arabic, and the family I stayed with spoke no English, but we found ways to communicate. I shared their fear, their curfews, their scrounging for food during the siege. The kids taught me lots of games that I still remember.
Six months later, I returned to Palestine to work with a new project called the International Women’s Peace Service. We were a group of 16 women who each committed to spend three months per year for three years in a small village in the northern West Bank. After my first three months, I decided it was not long enough. The next time I went back, I remained for six months, and the time after that I stayed for nine. I would have stayed a little longer but I was arrested during a demonstration against the Wall that Israel was building on Palestinian land in that area – a wall that has choked off much of the economic vitality of the region and denies Palestinians the ability to study, work and meet as families. I was arrested in a Palestinian village, where I was an invited guest, but the Israeli military claims the right to decide what foreigners can be in Palestine. I was imprisoned for a month in an immigration detention center in southern Israel and deported after my appeal was denied.
During the time I spent in Palestine, I spent many nights in people’s homes, receiving their hospitality, just as I had that first few weeks during the siege in 2002. The only thing people asked in return was “Go home and tell the people of the United States how we are suffering. Tell them we are not terrorists; we only want freedom.”
I came back with over 1000 pages of journals, and wondered what I could do with them that could help to convey that message.
I’ve been an avid mystery reader for years. I feel like I have learned a lot about other cultures through the work of Tony Hillerman, Cara Black, Rebecca Pawel and Sujata Massey. I feel that the genre is particularly suited to exploring the multiple points of conflict in an occupied country like Palestine, where loyalties may be shifting and everything is politicized, from what language you speak to what you wear. So I decided to see if I could create a mystery series based (very loosely) on my experiences in Palestine.