I heard it all the time in the occupied West Bank back in 2007, and I hear it here in besieged Gaza also: ‘we used to live with the Jews, side by side. We worked together, lived as neighbours.’
The theme of coexistence is bastardized by the Zionist media which likes to spin the ‘conflict’ in Palestine as an ‘age-old’ war between religions, instead of reporting the reality: the occupation of Palestinian land in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza under military occupation; the denial of Palestinian refugees right to return to their homeland; the imprisonment of over 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are minors; the expansion of the illegal (all) Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank…
But anyway, here in Gaza, another thing to be bastardized by the Zionist media is the relationship between Christians and Muslims.
In my personal experience, I’ve had a Christmas party thrown for my friends and I by a Muslim family; I’ve been invited into many devout Muslim homes, though I don’t usually don a headscarf, and showered with gracious hospitality; and I’ve received iftaar invitations for every day of the month, many from perfect strangers who want simply to share the beauty of their religion, and their often sparse food, with me.
Aside from the sheer slander of the Zionist message of Palestinians being incapable of coexistence, the idea’s tangible ramifications are felt in closed borders and towering walls, cutting off land, separating families and neighbours, and devastating economies, be they in Qalqiliya, Azzoun, Nablus… or the Gaza Strip.
I took a taxi just minutes before iftaar, heading to Gaza’s Saha market region. The driver used to work in
Israel, could earn $100 a day. Now, he said, he’s lucky if he earns 70 shekels (under $20). And from other labourers-turned-drivers I’ve spoken with, 70 shekels is at the high end of earnings.
He lives in Sheyjayee, east of Gaza City. Half of his house was destroyed in the Israeli war on Gaza last winter. He’s had to rent a place for the last months because his home was uninhabitable. $150 per month for the rent.
As expected, when I began getting out of his car-taxi, he insisted I join his family for iftaar that night, after all, we’d been speaking for at least 3 minutes by this point. He also tried to refuse my fare.
I arrived at the sweets shop to which I’d promised to return today. Ahmed and the other staff were waiting, cheerful and teasing. They were pleased I had come, they repeated a few times.
Ahmed set about arranging tables into one long table, laid down newspapers, and spread out the food: rice with peas and nuts; bird’s tongue soup; bechemal macaroni; sambosas; fried potatoes; salad… He was particularly keen that I try the macaroni (his wife’s) and the sambosas (we’d discussed the vegetable or meat-stuffed pastry at length days earlier).
We ate, we drank (juice), they smoked (one making dizzy motions around his head, saying he’d not had a cigarette all day and felt faint).
We talked: of fasting, of Islam…then of Christianity. “I have many Christian friends,” Ahmed said. Shortly after, one such friend arrived and sat down to eat. Ahmed continues: “here, Christians and Muslims have a long history together, we have no problems here,” he says, smiling again at his orthodox Christian friend.
*sambosas: simply-made, from dough made of flour and water, stuffed with peas, and fried.