chapter  3
16 Pages

Americanizing Palestine Through Internet Development

ByHELGA TAWIL-SOURI

In a small, rural village in the West Bank, I stop by an IT4Youth Internet center. A few kids have been invited to try out the center before its grand opening in a week’s time. A group of teenage girls is in the Internet Room. Raucous and excited, they hop from one computer to another to see what each is doing. Next to me is a girl of perhaps fi fteen, sitting quietly by herself. She hesitantly interrupts my typing. “Can you help me?” she shyly asks. “What I am supposed to do?” She had been sitting there not daring to touch the mouse or keyboard. I ask her what she wants to do: check her e-mail, read the news, go to a particular site, play games, chat with a friend. . . . After a moment of silence, she asks, “How can I get an e-mail address?” I rattle off some options-Hotmail, Yahoo!, MSN-none of which seem familiar to her. I pull up the Hotmail website, and tell her she can sign up for free by following the instructions on the screen. As I return to typing my e-mail, she interrupts me: “I don’t read English.” I apologize for my insensitivity and search for an Arabiclanguage e-mail site. I pull one up and tell her to follow the instructions. Although I do not mean to be rude but rather being in a rush, I return to my computer. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice her paralysis. I ask her if she is stuck on choosing a screen name. “Well, uh,” she replies, “I don’t read Arabic either.”