A column by Janine di Giovanni
posted 17 February 05
Last November, I sat in Paris watching Yasser Arafat's funeral on CNN with my nine-month old son, Luca. It was the first time in more than a decade that I was watching someone else reporting the biggest story in the world, rather than being there myself.
And the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was an important story for me: professionally and personally. My first big assignment in the late 1980s was the first Palestinian intifada. My first book, Against the Stranger was about how the occupation affected ordinary peoples' lives. I walked into Jenin under Israeli tanks in April, 2002. And nearly six months pregnant, I sat on the floor in Gaza with kids who wanted to be suicide bombers before I had to be medi-vaced home. The doctors thought I might deliver my baby early.
Some people come of age in high school. I came of age in my 20s in the the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem, where I lived, writing my book, cared for by elderly Palestinian staff who treated me like a granddaughter. But now the biggest event in recent Palestinian history was unfolding: the death of Arafat and the emergence of a new leadership. And I was in Paris trying to teach my son how to play patty cake.
There was a time in my life when I slept with a pre-packed bag under my bed: satellite phone, flash light (a lucky charm I found on the 7th floor of the bombed out Holiday Inn in Sarajevo in 1992); a morphine-based injection (in case of gunshot wounds); photocopies of my passport; my sleeping bag.....