shared joy and sadness

Another shared meal –a picnic by the sea. More talk, sad teasing: “Say ‘ameen’ to what I say,” I’m instructed. “Please God, bring this poor man his wife,” the teaser begs, breaking out as I say the obligatory ‘ameen’.

Their teasing is based on the depressing fact that many here have not seen their wives, families, and parents for over a year, or more.

We eat: grilled eggplant salad, grilled chunks of onion, roasted chicken, all done over the hand-made scrap-metal hibachi on the sand. A six or seven year old boy comes by, calling “therrmis, therrmis”. Bags of cooked and salted beans in hand, he is selling them for 25 piastres (about 6 cents) a baggie. The boy, Fadi, isn’t shooed away in annoyance but is instead given water, offered food. M., usually solem, buys 4 packs, tossing them to us, and explains: “he works during the summer months to pay for school clothes and materials.”

Another boy passes, selling trinkets. This one is prodded into a chair, given chicken, bread, yogurt.

Later, R. shows off the CD he’s made for his wife in Gaza, a compilation of photos from her visit when the Egypt-Gaza wall was breached in January. He’s chosen lovely, mournful music, and as the slideshow progresses he pulls his cap lower to his his eyes. His friend teases him for his tears, trying to lighten the mood.

The photos are interspersed with “I love you” in English and Arabic, and with scenes of love and life: a blond, curly-haired girl, a pink heart, a tranquil lake surrounded by trees. The photos of he and his wife are of them on the beach sidewalk, on the rocks, by a nice hotel, holding each other, gazing at each other. Love oozes from the photos and from his silent tears.

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