escaping in Gaza

The presence of the Zionists soldiers, of remorseless illegal white supremicist colonists capable of shocking brutality, of land annexation, of humiliating and debilitating military checkpoints and roadblocks, of lock-downs (“curfews”) and raids, of daily kidnappings and imprisonment of Palestinian sons, daughters, husbands, mothers, of the complete “Israeli” control and stealing of water sources, of the destruction of occupied East Jerusalem…are just a fraction of the suffering of Palestinians in occupied Palestine.

The closed borders, years-long siege, wars on and military invasions in the Gaza Strip; the complete lack of hope, of work, of freedom to exit; the denial of medical treatment, of rights to education abroad, and travel freedoms enjoyed world-round; the ravaged streets, corpses of buildings and homes, devastated farmland, near-absence of clean water, destruction of wells…this is just a taste of the suffering of Palestinians in the Zionist-controlled Gaza Strip.

Palestinians in Gaza have known the physical occupation and all its savagery, and yet tell me they long for those days, “because at least then the borders were open and we could work and move somewhat freely.”

There are nearly no means of escapism in Gaza, though of all places there certainly is the need.

I escaped the other day, with farmers finally planting on their land near, but not within, the 300 metres decreed lethally off-limits by “Israeli” authorities.  Although the Zionist jeeps stopped and did their routine of flashing lights and screaming at us, this time they only shot in the air.  And when they left, the farmers resumed their planting and plowing.  Every time we accompany farmers, it’s an effort to politely decline their insistant invitations to eat with them.  We accept, when time allows, and it’s always enjoyable.  The company is great –funny, a little crazy, exceedingly generous –and the food is field-fresh.  Imagine how it was years ago, when farmers worked on all of their land, without being subject to gunfire and shelling.

*bread, made from locally-grown wheat, reheating on a fire one morning before accompanying farmers to their land.  Since their harvest last May, the farmers had not returned to their land near the “buffer zone”, afraid of being shot by Israeli soldiers.

*Laetaemat, Khoza’a, east of Khan Younis, 24 January 2010. Zionist military jeeps stopped along the Green Line border.  From these jeeps, soldiers routinely fire on unarmed Palestinian civilians and farmers on land near, but as far away as over 1 km from the Zionist-imposed “buffer zone”.

*Al Faraheen, east of Khan Younis, 22 January.  “Israeli” jeep and soldiers on dirt mound used for scouting and from which soldiers regularly fire on unarmed Palestinian civilians and farmers near the “buffer zone” Soldier scoping with rifle.

*Al Faraheen, east of Khan Younis, 22 January.  Tractor plowing the freshly-sowed land.  The tractor driver would not come to the land without internationals accompanying him, although we have no coordination and can provide no actual protection from “Israeli” shooting.

*Laetaemat, Khoza’a, east of Khan Younis, 24 January 2010. Israeli automated machine gun tower, open.  “Israeli” soldiers can monitor and shoot from remote booths.

Another day I escaped again with farmers, sitting on a swing, breathing the fresh winter air, listening to the impressive chirping of the border region birds, and drinking tea brewed on a fire.

I escaped today to the sea, one of the only places Palestinians in Gaza can find some whiff of freedom.  It’s a clear, sunny, warmish day, and I’m not alone.  Fishermen haul in their meagre catches, dropped from the small hassakas (slightly larger than a surfboard), a few majestic horses prance along the sea’s edge, a woman and her young children play on the sand.  The sea is one of the things Palestinians in much of occupied Palestine virtually no access to.  And it’s one of the things Palestinians in Gaza depend on.

On a day like today, the sea speaks to those who listen, speaks of its freedom.  It’s bittersweet to listen to, as Palestinians in Gaza know they cannot enjoy the sea like years before, cannot delve deeply into it, for leisure or urgently needed fishing, because of the “Israeli” gunboats always patrolling in Palestinian water, shooting and shelling.  But people here always seem grateful for the smallest niceties, in a Strip where things are rendered backwards by the day.  The siege has shattered Gaza’s economy; Israel’s war on Gaza last year completed the job.

Even for myself, I too get dragged down by the misery of hopelessness here and lose scope of the potential for real change.

It’s people like the ever-resilient fishermen and farmers –facing “Israeli” assaults on a daily basis but still persevering –and the medics and civil defense rescuers, and the ordinary Palestinians who move along, that give me hope.

And today, it’s the sea, the breeze, the guys jogging on the coast, the colours of flowers –life– in Gaza that give me hope.

But I am of the privileged, who can eventually leave when needed, who can afford the goods that still manage to get in through the tunnels (at the cost of human lives) (certainly not through Gaza’s closed borders), who hasn’t lost a loved one to Zionist brutality.

What of those jobless, educated, formerly employed, yearning to study, needing medical treatment outside?

*’farmer friends’, reaping the benefits of the newly sowed land.  Abu Taima tells us, “they are our friends. We always plant more seeds than needed so the birds can eat some.”

*hand-sowing the land with wheat.

*almond tree blossoms.  The border regions used to be filled with almond trees, as well as olive and citrus. Before the “Israeli” bulldozers came.

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