It’s not easy for anyone in this besieged Strip. Most are jobless, or if employed they haven’t been paid for a month, two months… And if paid, it’s sub-minimum wages, and everything is expensive here.
It’s hot, there’s little relief, even at night, especially if you live in a cement block home and can’t get a breeze. The power outages don’t help, for if you happen to have a fan, they’re useless.
Everything is broken, cracked, covered with dust (sandy place, Gaza), covered with pollution from the cars (no Egypt, but the petrol is bad and the cars cough a lot). And people, too, are broken, though they somehow defiantly continue pursuing life and holding celebrations of love: weddings, birthday parties, gatherings at the beach…
In my time here, I’ve met so many wonderful people. So many doors have opened, and remained open (insistently so!) to me, and it’s not because I’m anything special. It’s the way of people here, the way of Palestinians (Muslim or Christian)…Arabs….the Middle East.
But since I live here, I mention the Palestinians, of Gaza, vilified in the world’s sold-out media, but in true life, a shining example of love and generosity.
Sure, there are exceptions. Everywhere there are exceptions. Cheaters, liars, profiteers… but they are much less than I’d find in my own country, or in a good number of countries I’ve traveled and lived in.
And what is more overwhelming is the startling hospitality of perfect strangers.
I learn that one friend has been re-united with his family. From Bethlehem, they were estranged when he was sent to Gaza and they were left in the holy city. Finally, nearly 4 years since he last saw them, his wife and two stunning children arrived in Gaza. I met her today, and she of course dragged me in for juice and snacks, following with a dinner date tomorrow.
I saw a man whose family I haven’t visited in over a month. “Where have you been?!!!” the question goes, virtually every day, as I run into someone I met months ago. Today is was he and some Red Crescent medics I worked with during Israel’s massacre of Gaza. Yesterday it was different Red Crescent medics. Days before, my Ezbet Abed Rabbo family friends…
The same question, the same concern, the same mock-indignation: “Why don’t you visit us whenever you can (meaning every day)?”
But it’s born of love and friendship.