Early yesterday morning (August 31st) a Palestinian fishing boat was attacked (again) by an Israeli naval boat. The Palestinian trawler arrived back at Gaza port still in flames, and it took a good 20 to 30 minutes to extinguish the flames.
The fishermen, thankfully not seriously injured (this time), are now out of a source of work and income. The owner, Abu Adham, says there are at least 18 of them who work on this boat alone, support families from their modest income.
From the embers of the charred boat to the coughing of Nabih’s taxi, I was mostly immersed in Gaza’s soaring poverty yesterday. [Some days, if you visit one of the few nicer cafes in Gaza (where the minority of Palestinians who do have money to spend on dining out or an evening of Shisha), you can temporarily forget this poverty.]
Nabih isn’t getting help from anyone, aside from the dry food aid that Palestinian refugees receive every few months in Gaza. His two disabled teenage children require pampers and special food, adding to the already impossible budget of daily food, fuel and tuneups for his stuttering taxi, and now new clothes and (unavailable) books and school supplies for his 13 children in school.
Iftaar tonight was a potluck collaboration between my colleagues and I.
Later, visiting friends I saw more poverty, the kind that these friends have been accustomed for…most of their lives. Just getting by, sharing a one-room flat, sometimes able to make the rent payments. But that is dependent on finding work and getting paid for the work, which is in turn dependent on their employers not being in debt (and being honest).
In the end, they don’t bother with something like ‘hope’, either for tomorrow or for the distant future. It’s day by day here, and they make the most of what they can of each day.
And that’s the mentality I’ve met among so many. They live in a situation out of their hands, no matter how hard they work or how desperately they want to find work. And although they will speak of their troubles when asked, there is an ability to make light of a situation and turn it into a laugh, even though this is a surface happiness. The friends started telling me a joke, as an example of jokes that are common in the way of lifting one’s spirit. Something along the lines of an elephant marrying a flea…
Actually, I didn’t get it. But I got the idea: that no matter how terrible life is, no matter how little they have, no matter that there is no hope for the future, they laugh.