Still Sleeping

by Meira Asher, summer 2020

In memory of Mohammed Abu Khdeir who was murdered by Jewish Israeli ultra nationalists on July 2, 2014. He was 16 years old.

How do you hold a sound festival in a forest where three Jewish-Israeli fascists burned a Palestinian boy alive? Why did I endeavor to offer my work to that festival in the form of a ‘sound-walk’ at night, from the festival grounds to where Mohammed was burned?

The title Still Sleeping refers to two states of being in my birth place, that is Palestine and Israel: one, the children who still sleep when they could be dead, and the other, the citizens who refuse to wake up to the situation and become active. We all know that the colonizer and the colonized both become deformed through the process of occupation.

It defects us all in so many dimensions. I didn’t know first that my own experience as a mother would jump into this piece. Actually, I can state now that from the moment I chose to address the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the piece led me into what it became. It consumed me.

Still Sleeping, Meira Asher [2016]

The piece contains field and body recordings, electronics and voice, and a fragment from grouse mountain, silent forest—a field recording by Frank Schulte for Radio Aporee. Special microphones, designed by scientist Noam Gavrieli, were used to record body sounds.

I wanted to press those hypocrite minds and forcefully remind them of where they are, and that in fact, nothing can be produced in this accursed forest of Jerusalem except the restoration of the murder of Mohammed. This spot among many others is the Zionist landscape where nationalist insanity erases every trace of human compassion.

My participation in that art event might have softened the horror. Who am I to comment about this vicious murder? It is arrogant. Another privilege of the colonialist; to touch anything she wants, while the colonized who dare talk about it might be abducted by the colonizer and forcefully placed in administrative detention…

I did not participate in the end. I insisted on sticking to my plan and the curator tried to dissuade me from the idea by raising technical issues, not knowing that our affair became a part of the work, as you can read here. This is the thing: every step from the moment I started, became a relevant part of the narrative, and now again, after the brutal murder of al Quds’ Iyad el-Hallak by Israeli Border Police on May 30, 2020.

We arrived at dusk. A wide circle of stones surrounded the place where Mohammed was burned alive and the ground was still charred. Where the hell does such cruelty come from?!

To prepare the ‘sound walk’, I walked in the woods in order to find the place where Mohammed was murdered and burned. In the forest of Jerusalem, where I once lived as a teenager.

Things became mental. I sunk in a long walk towards the place, together with a colleague while directions were given to us on the cellular by a journalist who had been following this formative event for a long time.

We arrived at dusk. A wide circle of stones surrounded the place where Mohammed was burned alive and the ground was still charred. Where the hell does such cruelty come from?! I can hardly contain it. I was over-adrenalined. The place is bordered by localities not so far from the murder scene. How could this brutal murder take place without anyone noticing it? Car engine, fire, three killers in action and nothing? Slowly, sadness and pain dawned on me. Maybe someone did notice and turned a blind eye? While exploring the place, I found tweezers on one of the surrounding stones. I took the tweezers with me and we headed back.

A month later, when I traveled with my kids to the South Sinai desert, I realized that my motherly fears are now leaking through my (un)steady mindset and if I needed to control my anxiety, Mohammed’s murder was actually breaking the rickety brain-dam I couldn’t fix.

The typical mechanism mothers should acquire here—to suppress their fears and worries—was collapsing. I could feel one percent of Mohammed’s mother’s agony. I imagined the horrors. She experienced them.

At the same time, I was invited by artist Jamie Allen and the Eyebeam arts organization to participate in Acoustic Infrastructure—a public sound art exhibition in public spaces. And so, Still Sleeping was scheduled to haunt the lobby of the ACE Hotel in New York.

For more social documentary, radio art and music, visit Meira Asher

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Still Sleeping [full text]

Soundscape: a burning boy in a forest
Precisely, the Jerusalem forest
July 2014
The Sound between his mother and me
The Sound where we mothers sink [sync]

July 2016
Sound fear
My sound fear

my children are sound asleep
(sea drained)
I delve into the sound of the Sound:

Soundproof forest amongst right wing neighbourhoods
Car stops by, a man with a big head talking ‘is everything okay?’
I stand where the boy was set on fire
The man must know where I stand
I stand in the sound fear of all mothers
I say ‘who are you?’
Man says ‘We’re watching over you, are you okay?’
Yes! Yes!
See the small stones on the ground?
Here they set the boy on fire
Her boy my boy your boy our boy
Who the hell sets a young boy on fire?!

Soundproof chamber amongst soaring mountains
My children are sound asleep
under the stars
(sea drained)
I sit still by the stairs to the chamber
my head surrenders to visions of horror:
abduction. Someone’s descending the mountain behind, coming
here, lifting my daughter, running away
She cries Ima Ima Ima…
My eyelids start drooping I fall asleep not knowing
what will my eyes encounter tomorrow
Will they all be here?
What if one will be missing, taken to the mountains to a temporary base camp, tortured, set on fire, alive?

Soundproof skull chamber of grey matter
Blasting, shrinking, push it push it push it all
to the back of my head

Good morning sun
Good morning my children
You’re here
Still Sleeping
Still alive.