The Smell of Occupation

I figure there will be times in life where you wake up in the morning, and the first thought that will come to mind is, “What’s that awful smell?” That was the thought my nostrils flared at the other morning and the one before that and the one before that. I sniffed and sniffed. Within a few seconds, I realized the smell was that of burning garbage, and it was blowing in through my bedroom window from one side and seeping through the door from the other.

Contrary to what you may be thinking, I do not live near a landfill. I live near planted flowers, fig trees, and olive trees, as you would probably imagine a Palestinian to live around. I live close to a hill with an Israeli settlement standing there after years in the making, and now, I can also say that I live in clouds of smoke on some days because of the burning trash.

Recently, an order was given by the Israeli civil administration requesting the city of al- Bireh to, simply put, find somewhere else to dump its trash. Whenever my family’s conversations drifted to this issue, they would wonder at the irony; a demand supposedly raised with concern for environmental health while destroying environmental health by increasing pollution not only in the streets used everyday but also inside of homes. With no place to dump their trash in a healthy way, people are resorting to lighting fire to what is piled on the streets and in homes. If you know where the requested landfill is located, you cannot help but question if this, as in many cases, is actually a method to benefit the settlement. Can it possibly be that the settlement wants to grow and grow, as are the piles of junk?

I have not heard the drilling noise that the truck of our waste collector makes in a while. However, I have read Facebook statuses about our local waste collectors; how they are beaten and their trucks confiscated because they are trying to do their jobs. These sorts of incidents lead to the reason behind the smell I inhaled the other morning. Not only is the occupation interfering with where to throw our garbage, but it’s also interfering with the public’s health.

It would be much easier if the town municipality could find a permanent landfill. However, this proves to be difficult. Suggestions have been made by the townspeople to dump the trash where Ramallah dumps theirs, which is in Jenin, but what will happen when that place is “full”? Other suggestions would surely come up.

With this recent matter going on, I sit and ponder about how the occupation can easily meddle with my fives senses. My eyes see an apartheid wall, settlements, checkpoints, and Israeli products sitting on store shelves. My hands shake with anger when I’m given a hard time at a checkpoint that I rarely cross because I cannot move that far, anyways. My ears can hear the soldiers’ megaphones calling, telling the children to move away from the fence separating the children from them. My tongue has tasted the occupation’s products, and now, my nose is to smell burning garbage because of their order to close the landfill. It’s enough to see, feel, hear, and taste occupation, but God knows that I don’t want to have to smell it, too.

Hasheemah Afaneh

Hasheemah Afaneh was born in the US and raised in Palestine. Currently a Nutrition and Dietetics student at Birzeit University, she aspires to be a writer and public health speaker. She blogs at


  1. Reblogged this on wordsovertea and commented:
    I smelt the burning trash and faced the tear gas, my mother is from Silwad-Ramallah. Right next to her sisters house is an Israeli fort, anytime they felt like gassing the street they did.

  2. Jaffa; a clockwork orange

    I have a key to a home that has no door nor walls
    but i can still smell jaffa oranges sweet in the breeze down the hill
    over there stands a park where a village once stood
    so my grandmother told me one day, almost everyday

    Have you ever been to the sea
    i’ve never been there but my grandfather has
    it was warm and salty he says with moist eyes
    but for me the wet of the sea is not allowed

    Not too long ago we walked this land from water to water
    over the hills and down into the farms tending rows and rows of orchards
    some of the olive trees were thousands of years old
    before armored bulldozers came broke and razed them into piles of kindling

    Al Quds is a dream for all of us to see
    without roadblocks checkpoints and permits
    without smug smartass soldiers barking and pushing
    that day seems so far away

    What is ours we cannot build upon
    for illegal immigrants with an army tear it down
    yet they build what they want where they want
    with all the water filling their pools as our crops wither and die

    I walked with children in the southern Hebron hills
    on public dirt roads not bothering no one
    but then it rides roaring down from inside a fortress colony
    guns waving, curses launched from inside of beeping revving cars

    In the courts to be tried by foreigners in your land is surreal
    in a military court judged by bigotry what chance do you have
    someone somewhere somehow saw you throw a rock at a tank
    you must pay for scratching the paint

    Inside the stinking squalid cell in between your beatings
    the words of your grandparents echo in your heart
    you can almost smell the oranges on the limbs of Jaffa
    you can almost taste the salt of the sea….you endure as a freedom rider


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