The Living of the Pigeons

Wellington Palestine organised a screening of The Living of the Pigeons at the Victoria University of Wellington on April 24th in the Student Union on Kelburn Campus. This award-winning, documentary short, by the Palestinian film director Ba’ha Abu-Shanab, offers a compelling insight into the lived experience of Palestinian workers as they transit through Checkpoint 300 separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem in the West Bank.

Whether stuck in traffic in the Terrace Tunnel, or gridlocked in an Auckland suburb, travel to work time is a constant source of irritation for workers. But imagine that your only route to work is to join thousands of others on foot, in the early hours of the morning, to be herded like cattle between narrow concrete barriers to a military checkpoint. The control on the movement of Palestinian people is one of the routine ways in which the Israeli apartheid state enforces its regime of occupation.

Palestinians’ freedom of movement in the Occupied Territories lies completely at the mercy of the state’s whims, the instructions given to soldiers at the local (DCO), and the way in which they implement them. This state of affairs forces Palestinians to live in constant uncertainty, making it difficult to perform simple tasks and make plans. A Palestinian leaving home in the morning cannot know whether he or she is going to make it work – on time or at all – or to keep a medical appointment, visit family or catch a movie. She might make it, or she might be delayed at a checkpoint for hours, detained and humiliated by soldiers. She may have to turn around and go back the way she came. She may get arrested. (B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories).

Following the screening, Ba’ha Abu-Shanab (the film’s director) joined us from Bethlehem by Skype for a Q&A with the audience. Thanks to everyone who made this event possible including VicMuslims for booking the room, Aida for the amazing soup, Shahd for the excellent date cake and, of course, Ba’ha for the insights he gave us into life under occupation.

This event was Wellington Palestine’s contribution to Israeli Apartheid Week.


The documentary closed with a poem by the national Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish:

Think of Others

As you prepare your breakfast, think of others
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
As you conduct your wars, think of others
(do not forget those who seek peace).
As you pay your water bill, think of others
(those who are nursed by clouds).
As you return home, to your home, think of others
(do not forget the people of the camps).
As you sleep and count the stars, think of others
(those who have nowhere to sleep).
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others
(those who have lost the right to speak).
As you think of others far away, think of yourself
(say: “If only I were a candle in the dark”).


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