It’s hard, in Gaza, to find a taxi, wall, or t-shirt (including mens) that isn’t adorned with hearts. There’s an obsession with love here, in the words and in the decor. Waiting for a taxi early morning, I see a cart that hasn’t yet set out to sell or collect whatever goods allow its owner to scrape by in a besieged Stip with roughly 50% unemployment. The cart, of course, is dressed in hearts.
Year round, their is floral to marvel at, even if Israeli bulldozers have desecrated the border regions and stripped naked what was once lush, fruit, nut and olive tree laden land. There are at least the random flowers and bushes, adding the splashes of colour needed to combat tired grey concrete and Israeli invasions-shattered buildings. These splashes of colour and perfume also combat the siege on the psyche here, where not a day goes by where one doesn’t feel “today is just like yesterday, no change, no prospects”. Palestinians are among the most expert at grasping the smallest flourishes of hope and life and running with them, persevering, defying all odds.
This store owner threw in a dress for free, despite all protests. When he learned the reason for being here –to bear witness, to vocalize and share Paleastinians’ truths, suffocations, hopes,hell, beauty–with the outside world, Ahmad insisted I take the dress as a gift. “It is small in comparison with what you all do,” he insisted. But he has it wrong: what we do is small in comparison with what is absolutely needed to bring justice to Palestinians 6 decades ignored. And Palestinian generosity is far greater than our good intentions.
So hungry for nature and trees, I snap whatever I see. Hard to imagine Gaza was once alive with a variety of trees, plants, birds and creatures…before two hundred thousand refugess streamed in from Zionist attacks, before 1.5 million became locked in without the needs of life, before the Israeli bombings and razings. What an unbelievable contrast it would have been just a few decades ago, when almond trees bloomed.