|Rama Jyoti Vernon||
This is the eighth installment in a series about my trip to the West Bank in May 2015.
That night, we went to a film held at the Red Crescent building sponsored by the Swedish and British Consulate. The name of the film was “Speed Sisters.” Before the film was shown, there were the customary speeches by consulates of various countries as well as thank you’s and introductions of the film makers and four of the five Palestinian women who were the actual speed racing drivers who were the inspiration behind the film. The speeches were in English translated into Arabic as well as in Arabic translated into English. The film was also a combination of both languages.
The audience was young with a vibrancy of creativity. Many ex-pat foreigners were among the audience and it was refreshing after being with women with traditional Muslim dress to make a leap into the future with young women in skin tight pants and high platform shoes and spiked heels. The “speed sisters” wore racy clothing and defied all the norms of their Islamic roots. The film was moving and inspiring not as to who won, but the obstacles they each had to overcome in themselves, as well as in their lives, to excel at what was traditionally known as a man’s sport. At the end of the film, the audience gave a standing ovation in honor of the speed sisters and the filmmakers who took five years in the filming.
When the audience stood and applauded, I wanted to burst into tears because here it is, one more time, Palestinians giving hope to one another, to keep moving and lifting above one obstacle after another. When one of the women was criticized for speed racing saying she would give a bad name to her hometown of Jenin. She replied, “If I win, all of Jenin wins with me.” On the way home, I thought of nothing else but the film and how one of the woman actually flew the Palestinian flag on the back of her car in one race. As our taxi sped through the Saturday night traffic and narrow streets, I noticed all the Palestinian flags being flown and sold in shops along our way. Again, my mind drifted to the past, remembering the time of the Intifada when people were not allowed to have a flag. If they were seen with the Palestinian colors of the flag -- white, black, red and green -- they could be shot or arrested. Now the colors were brandished about as a uniting sign of freedom and self-determination. In the early 1990s, Palestinian youth, in defiant determination to declare their sense of freedom from the occupation, would dress in black and white and carry half a watermelon with the inside facing out, which was red and green. They then had all colors of their flag. It was a code of independency and bravery as they strode by the Israeli military presence who did not suspect, they were wearing and carrying the colors of their flag.