1st published By Eva Bartlett
The family and friends from Ezbet Abd Rabboh, who are like a family to me, invited me to see their newest addition to the family: a healthy one-month-old boy. Time passes quickly in Gaza, and until today, I’ve not seen him. I’ve also not seen the slow progression away from post-traumatic stress in the older kids that lived through the hell of the winter Israeli attacks. Slowly and subtly, they are becoming stronger, though the emotional wounds are deep and not easy to erase. `Abdullah, at least, smiles now and stands taller with a straight back, without the hunched cower which was a product of the post-massacre months.
“I want to die,” my friend tells me, and I believe him.
He speaks of his quashed ambitions and extreme fatigue under siege and of the Israeli attacks:
“I used to have many dreams. I used to live because of my dreams.”
He recalls all the ordeals of life under occupation, and the brutal Israeli occupation army suppression during the First and the Second Intifadas: and of the complexities of the current political battle.
“The days have become more difficult in Gaza, with the borders closed, and the siege tight. Everyone was saying, ‘Tomorrow will be better,'” my friend recalled. However, they got blacker, not better.”
Power cuts have become regular again. Now that they are back, I realize that they had abated slightly. In the heat of summer, many suffocate in their cement walled homes, as there is neither breeze nor relief.
August 7, months after the Israeli massacre against the Gazans, only just recently, a small insignificant shipment of cement has entered Gaza. That paltry amount is said to be allocated to just a few projects, well out of the hands of the authorities here. The homeless people continue to wonder when they will be allowed to rebuild Gaza and why the world continues to support Israel’s collective punishment of civilians. [UPDATE: CEMENT DENIED]
I meet a two-member Canadian Parliamentary delegation, accompanied by Code Pink activists, who visited Gaza months earlier. These two Canadian MPs [there were three, but the third could not get beyond the West Bank. Likewise the political pressure in Canada] are among the few who seek the truth on Gaza, and who support justice for Palestinians. Chatting with the larger group, I learn that back in my country things are getting worse politically, no surprise given Canada’s long-standing absolute and unconditional support for Israel. Their support is notable in Canada’s endorsement of the siege on Palestinians of Gaza and Canada’s veto (the only country) of a UN resolution condemning Israel’s attacks on Gaza in the winter of 2008–2009.
Meeting the parliamentarians and activists rekindles hope in the people, if certainly not in the government.
Fishermen protest the on-going Israeli Occupation Forces naval attacks on fishermen. A crowd starts at the Fishing Syndicate near Gaza’s port and move on to the UN headquarters a few blocks away. The Israeli navy continues to shoot upon unarmed Palestinian fishermen; damage or destroy their boats, nets and equipment; moreover, they abduct fishermen. This abuse and the limits on fishing is destroying the fishing industry, one of the few sectors remaining in Gaza. While fishing yield is hardly profitable nowadays, many unemployed Palestinians have turned to it seeking the few shekels or fish they can bring in for their families.
*Israeli naval vessel dousing Palestinian fishing boat with high-powered, damaging water cannon. The Palestinian fishermen were fishing well-within the Oslo-allotted 20 nautical mile limit. [photo: David Schermerhorn, one of Free Gaza delegates Oct 31 2008]
The only place to go on a Friday are the beaches of Gaza; so thinks a good portion of the 1.5 million here. Some areas are thankfully less trafficked, like along the central coastline. However, in Sheikh Rajleen, it is a scene or mirthful chaos: all ages are in the water, ignoring the possible health repercussions from the sewage pollution.
Some of these activities that take place on the beach are a soccer match on a small stretch, a group of teens builds a human pyramid, and a child is stuffing wet sand into his shirt. The potato vendors: a simple square iron stove, heated by chunks of driftwood or cut up furniture or crates, bakes Gaza’s sugary sweet potatoes to a buttery pulp.
Up on the main road, the corn vendors predominate. Every 20 m a small table sags with cooked corn charred over coals from more cut up furniture and destroyed houses. A pot of corn boils next to the table: chewy charred or succulently boiled, either way the fresh corn is delicious, and popular.
Tents cover much of the sand back from the water line. Families and groups of friends take shade eating, drinking tea, playing cards, smoking shisha (tobacco water pipe).
It is one of the most beautiful scenes of Gaza. It is hard to believe there are any wars or suffocating sieges in this small stretch of land. All seems so idyllic, from a distance.