They say when somebody truly believes in something and dedicates themselves to it, that the universe listens to them, and that it helps them to reach their goals and to fulfil their sacred needs. A few months after that brutal week of attacks on Gaza, my friend and We Are Not Numbers social media coordinator, Ra’ed Shak-shak, posted that there would be a free month-long podcast training course for those who were interested. You could imagine how happy I was. I never thought that I would have such an opportunity. Yet, I was also a little afraid, since I’m not that experienced with these kinds of technical skills. But I applied and waited patiently for the results.
Already a podcaster (in private)
I Googled “podcasting” and discovered that it’s all about recording one’s voice and about sharing ideas. I paused for a while and I recalled the many times that I had done this privately. Yes, it’s true, I used to record my conversations with myself. When I am feeling drained and uncomfortable, I tend to leave everybody and sit by myself. I organize my thoughts and share my true feelings and things that I cannot share with anyone but myself. My friends find the idea of befriending yourself to be a bit weird, but for me, that friendship with myself means having the solitude that I need to find comfort and to recharge.
Last year, I recorded a bunch of audios encouraging myself to push through life after exposing all my frustrations. Every time I record one of these conversations, I feel relief and calm. It really does help me get motivated. I still have many of them that I go back to listen to now and then. Sometimes, I laugh at myself for being sad about things now that don’t bother me now that I am older. Sometimes, I feel very happy when I notice the big progress I’ve made since I started recording in English. More people can understand me, but I also feel more vulnerable in sharing my feelings. I also think of those audios as messages from my old self because some of them were me giving myself some advice, in case I had to go through the same things again. I remember saying in one of my recordings that the bullet that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. There is a song by Selena Gomez that says you should kill people with kindness. Whenever I get hurt by people, I respond with kindness to kill the bullying and criticism. I talk about all of these things in my conversations with myself, so podcasting has turned out to be not just a hobby, but a way of coping as well.
In May 2021, the Israeli attacks on Gaza were relentless — the continuation of the genocide. I felt helpless, seeing people die. Like a wounded bird, I felt like my wings were broken. I tried to think of ways to reduce this feeling. I tried to write, but my written words didn’t change anything. The pain increased along with the massacre taking place against us. Gazans were suffering a tremendous siege, and this helplessness was eating me up.
Many news agencies and outlets approached us at WANN. Even though we know that some of them would not give a damn about our struggle for freedom and were simply manipulating us and using us to help strengthen the narrative of our occupier, Israel, we decided to help Palestine by participating in some podcasts to try and tell what was truly happening on the ground. Our written words and our voices focused some of the world’s attention on us, and for the first time in history, we witnessed a great moment of solidarity. We felt compassion directed towards us as human beings, and most importantly we felt heard while telling the story from our own point of view. We took back some control of our narrative.
That week created an urge inside of me to tell the truth about my home, Palestine, the traumas, the deaths and the times that I myself came close to death at Israel’s hands. It was like a sign that now the world has to listen to my voice and has begun to understand my story. Now, I no longer give into my anxieties about speaking to people or cameras, or about creating my own podcast. Now I have a message to tell that is stronger than the anxious voices inside my head. The duty and the respect I feel for the innocent souls that we have lost should always win and that’s why I applied into the academy in the first place.
A Palestinian reunion
On August 27, 2021, I received news of my acceptance into the Palestine Podcast Academy. A couple of days after I attended the orientation meeting. I was surprised at the diversity in the group. By this I mean that geographically we Palestinians are divided into many areas by the occupation, and there isn’t any kind of physical contact or close communication between us, even though we are one united people. It felt like a reunion to meet up with so many people from a larger community that you belong to. I remember feeling very awkward when I talked to my peers from the other parts of Palestine for the first time, but this changed quickly because the atmosphere was very open and encouraged me to participate and to share my ideas. Through the academy, we had the opportunity to work in teams. That led to me having a wonderful and fun friendship with Dalal, a lecturer from Bethlehem.
In addition to forming strong friendships, we also had to work hard and be creative. I shot a couple of videos in which I expressed my nostalgia for Qastina, the village I come from. I talked about how the Israeli occupation of my village forced my family into miserable living conditions in Gaza. I tried to make the viewer understand the strong attachment Palestinians feel to the heritage of their original homes. In another video, I explained my frustration with mainstream social media, which always depicts Palestinians engaged in a “war” or “conflict” with Israel. The fact is that the powers are asymmetrical — what is happening on the ground is nothing but massacres and genocide.
My ideal podcast
At the Podcast Academy, we were also asked to imagine our ideal podcast — who would our guests be? If I had my own show, my guests would be the four Palestinian icons: Ghassan Kanafani, Naji Al Ali, Ibrahim Nassar Allah and Hussain Al Barghouthi (see image). These authors wrote boldly about Palestine. They expressed the brutal truth of our identity as a people colonized by the Israeli forces. These four authors form a vital part of our heritage, which is being stolen from us, the way our land and rights are being stripped away. If they were alive today, I would host them on my podcast.
Finally, I am thankful for the experience with the Palestine Podcast Academy. But it isn't enough if we really want to communicate with the rest of the world about our life in Gaza. We don’t have good access to the Internet or to the equipment necessary to create podcasts on a regular basis. The Israeli blockade of Gaza makes it very hard to get equipment; it is either unavailable or far too expensive for an ordinary person living in Gaza to purchase. Nevertheless, I hope that, given my new understanding of the power of podcasting, I will have better access to this technology in the future. It is vital to Palestinians’ efforts to communicate with the rest of the world and help other nations to understand our struggle.
Eric Maddox is the host of Latitude Adjustment Podcast and the creator of the Palestine Podcast Academy. He completed his graduate research in Conflict Transformation while living in the West Bank and collecting oral histories from the 1948 War. Connect with the podcast via Instagram, FaceBook, and Twitter.