“Please, have some coffee,” Mahmoud insisted, though I told him I’d just drank an entire pot at home. Water wasn’t good enough for him to serve me. I relented.
I’d stopped in his computer shop to buy a new power cord and, as things go in Palestine, we sat chatting about life.
“I dream of going around the world. I’ve never been in an airplane, never left Gaza,” he said, not the first.
I told him that this is his right, he deserves to see the world’s beauty like anyone.
“I’m so happy to speak with you. You know, this is the first time I’ve had a conversation with a foreigner,” he grinned.
He’s 21, personable, helped with the power cord, and like any other person I’ve met in Gaza: friendly, curious, wants to see the world, loves his country, is thrilled to meet people from outside, and tried to give me the power cord for free.
“Everyday is the same here (massacres aside). I go from work to home, nothing is new, nothing different.”
Adham, 13 years old, walked up to me as I waited, typing, in the Ezbet Abed Rabbo Red Crescent centre hallway yesterday.
“Where are you from, anyway?” he began, sauntering up to me.
“How much is that computer?” he wanted to know.
When I tell him about $500, he says his family’s computer was about half that price, but now it’s useless, destroyed.
“Where do you live?” I asked him.
Ezbet Abed Rabbo, he said, gesturing eastward to the graveyard of homes toppled during the Israeli massacre.
“What’s your family name?”
“How is your house after the war?”
He left, and returned, walked past three times, forgetting something each time as he collected medicine for his ill brother, a nurse scolding him for stopping to chat with me.
The dabke youths were ready, so I went into the meeting room which until then was being used for a conference on health issues, put on by the Red Crescent. A number of youths from the area showed off their dabke-in-process: they have the basic steps, they have the dabke spirit and straight back with springing legs. The rest will come with practise.
Dabke is one of the things that unceasingly fascinates me in Palestine:
it’s the obvious pride and self-assurance, the enthusiasm and zest for life, despite it all (as ever).
I see this pride in people all over Palestine: in those driving donkey carts and scavenging for recyclables, in the fruit vendors with meticulously-stacked goods.
Palestinians, have their human flaws like any of us, but a carry pride and playfulness that I never stop noticing.
It’s the little things…
It’s the playful poke in the belly as a man runs past his friend but wants to give a quick hello.
It’s the “ahlaaayyyn”[a greeting] as a friend sees another friend not seen in a while.
It’s the children who’ve lived through lifetimes of invasions, have a broad knowledge of warplanes and tanks, have taken up work at age twelve, ten, eight…and still smile, joke.