*Nasser street, one of Gaza city’s main north-south streets, long in a state of unfinished repair. The street serves several of Gaza’s hospitals and clinics.
The pressure keeps building in Gaza. The siege, people locked in with no relief, no escape and no way of escaping the daily problems for even some hours, no real life, no future plans, no fun…They live under invasions, attacks, the taunting of F-16s flying over Gaza’s small surface. And people anticipate the next attacks.
Their destroyed homes remain destroyed, no repairing, little rubble cleared.
And even on the more ordinary level, without talk of martyrs and homeless, life is just so hard here. Those without jobs crave work; those with jobs don’t get paid, or make such a pittance they still consider selling whatever possessions they may still have.
A friend talks about where he goes when he is fed up, ziggit. I’m surprised by the simplicity of his partial remedy:
“When I’m feeling stressed, like I’m going to burst, I go to the sea, and sit, and breathe the sea air. I watch the people around me. I love to see people eating: corn, popcorn, falafel…whatever. When I see this, I think “they’re living, we’re living, despite it all.”
I leave him and his latest troubles, and go to see the impoverished families off Zarka street. In the taxi there, a man orates the list of problems facing his friends: its the list of all Gazans. There is almost no break from their misery, nor from awareness of their misery.
Amar is not at home. “He’s having heart problems,” his wife tells me. I don’t get all of what she says, but it sounds like he has several problems to do with his heart and that he may have surgery tomorrow. The man has not been home the last few times I’ve visited… because he’s out scouring the streets for work, selling whatever shekel or half-shekel items people might buy.
Saud is home and looks haggard. Says he can’t get his medicine (he has schizophrenia) and is feeling worse for it. “I just want to die. Death is better than this life. This isn’t living.” He’s not the first to say something like this to me. Often the refrain is a desire to get out of Gaza, to work or study outside, to smell fresh air, taste a life full of life and opportunities, live like anyone else. Then return to Gaza. And I believe many would return, for Gaza, Palestine, is in their blood, although right now both are poisoned by the attacks and siege.
Anyway, who can blame someone for wanting to see another part of the world? Outside of Gaza we call it tourism, and take it for granted, as our right: we work hard, we deserve to vacation wherever we can afford. Can we really imagine how it would feel to never leave our state/province? To never think about traveling to another region, because we can’t get permission? I have heard it again and again, and still can’t really put myself in Palestinians’ shoes. A little jail time helps one imagine, but in the end, you know you’ll be out. They don’t.
Down the lane from Amar, Abu Hanin and Umm Hanin are home. Yasmiin comes in soon after I sit down. Her movements are still jerky and awkward, and her mother laments her daughter’s mental state. “I never used to think about having another baby. Although my oldest daughter is in university and might marry in a few years, I had Yasmiin and Hanin.” But Hanin, just 10 years old, was killed, shot by the Israeli soldiers invading Tel el Hawa, and Yasmiin has been troubled since seeing her sister killed. Their mother longs for comfort, and hopes that a baby will bring this.
*cooking and selling corn, in season. An ear goes for 1 shekel.
*a surveillance blimp, lording the skies along Gaza’s border regions. Everywhere over Gaza, F-16s and random unmanned aerial vehicles add to the Israeli-only sky traffic domineering Gaza.