Sara wasn’t stuttering or visibly stressed when I saw her yesterday. Of course, these things don’t just disappear because of a trip to the beach, but the sea air can’t hurt either.
It was a gorgeous day, warm but slightly cooled by the breeze, the kind of day where you later discover your sunburn. We met at Hamsa’s and, with his horse, trotted along Gaza’s main streets, Sara, Saud (Hamsa’s uncle with schizophrenia), Hamsa and myself, en route to the coast.
Donkey and horse carts are completely normal in the middle of any given Gaza street, and only seem to raise attention when they slow or block taxis behind them.
Yesterday, however, the presence of an ajnerbiyya (me, foreign woman) on the cart was too startling to most who saw us. For me, I’d take the fresh air and closeness to a horse over being stuffed inside a car any day. But there is apparently an element of loss of prestige and dignity in having to ride a cart, which perhaps explains the surprised looks. It also helps to explain why some people feel humiliated at having to use such transport as a result of the siege, the ban on petrol, the smothering of the economy.
Hamsa had already shown himself to be fairly indifferent to such criticisms, and didn’t seem to worry about my presence on the cart. To my amusement, he did take great care to pull his horse’s tail down whenever it needed to relieve itself, sheltering me from that.
“Work has been going well,” he said, and he’s able to continue buying feed for his horse, keep the horse healthy and muscular. While trotting, we passed a cart pulled by a scrawny horse, with an even scrawnier horse in tow, also headed to wash off and cool down at the sea.
“They can’t afford feed,” Hamsa explained of the family of 8 or so kids crowded onto the cart.
So far, Hamsa has proven hard-working and at the same time a good horse owner, not overworking it, ensuring adequate food and washing it daily. “It takes about half of my daily wages,” he explained. “I earn maybe 30 shekels a day, and need to spend about 15 on the horse.” But, this is reasonable to him as “the horse is doing all the work. And I still have money left over for vegetables and our food.”
Their lifestyle is as basic as it gets, and while the horse has more or less secured a daily income, Hamsa hasn’t splurged on his daily expenses.
On the other hand, like any Palestinian determined to serve their guest, he insisted on stopping to buy apples and soda to treat me, despite all insistence that I was sated and fine.
He still hopes to improve his bathroom at home, separating toilet from shower, and even build a small kitchen area.
At the beach, the usual crowd of children surged from the sea and hidden corners to surround me and ask questions, practise their English skills. A man with a pushcart was there selling the tangy yellow slushy drink popular in hot weather.
Life in Gaza is tangled with politics within and outside. There are expectations that Israel will soon wage another murderous campaign on Gaza, to ‘prove’ its new government (old policies) and to ‘finish off’ the business of going after Hamas that Israel claimed was the reason for the last war.
In the sea, its lights visible at night, the Israeli platform where natural gas is taken from beneath the sea. There are speculations that the drilling is not straight down into Israeli waters but possibly angled into the Gazan Marine Field, harvesting from the reported 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Worth repeating from my earlier post, David K. Schermerhorn’s April 2009 very detailed Timeline of Gaza Marine Zone, Fishermen and Natural Gas Deposits outlines not only the history of Israel’s policy of piracy and preventing of Palestinian fishermen from accessing their own territorial waters, but also brings to light the connection between Israel’s trawling for Gazan natural gas deposits and the aggressing of Palestinian fishermen.
Schemerhorn’s timeline renders transparent Israel’s ambitions for Palestinian natural gas and Israel’s determination to, at all costs, go after it.
Michel Chossudovsky’s January 2009 article, War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza’s Offshore Gas Fields, likewise outlined just how significant the gas is to Israel and, with respect to the ruthless 3 week war on Gaza, to just what extent Israeli decision-makers would war for it.
The other day I was working at some friends’ office, typing on my slow computer, when one of them, Ibrahim, –bored –appeared at the lattice fence behind me, meowing.
“I’m finished my work, just waiting for someone before I go home,” he said with some more meows.
He then decided to put his boredom and free time to use and went about the garden admiring flowers. It’s a well-kept garden and one of the joys of working there, the other joys being fast internet, fresh air, no loud music (as in cafes), and nice company.
I couldn’t see him all of the time, just now and then as his head surfaced and he tiptoed to another patch of flowers. Concentrating on my computer, I looked up to see him back up on the porch, walking hand behind his back. Meowing was apparently replaced by artistic side: from behind his bank he brought out a bouquet of flowers, cleverly tucked into the cup of one larger flower.
A second friend came out and upon seeing the special bouquet begged for his own, which Ibrahim promptly set about creating.
“Is there anything better than flowers?” asked another friend.