Formalities are exchanged first. Where am I going? How is life in the Strip? Do I know Jaber and Leila from Faraheen?
We chat. He is friendly, a distant cousin of Jaber’s, ready to help me if I need anything.
Offhandedly, hardly expecting me to notice, he mentions his house was destroyed, in May 2010…I suspect he is Jaber and Leila’s western neighbor and that I’d seen the ruins of their home post-Israeli military bulldozers and tanks, the day after their destruction.
He is benevolent smiles and confirmations: yes, that was our house.
I remember the wreckage trail, from Leila and Jaber’s bulldozed vegetable crops and chicken/storage barn, to the dark brown, freshly –ravaged earth of his bulldozed land and home, he and his wife stoically standing in front of their ruins, Jaber and Leila beyond stoically sobbing at their third consecutive year of Israeli army invasion and destruction.
Now, a year but little change later he chats nonchalantly with me about his many losses.
“During the war (2008-2009 Israeli war on Gaza), our house was bombed. My son,” he says, hands apart the length of an infant, “he was killed in their bombing.”
So now, three years and little relief later, he is headed out, to search for work outside of Gaza, if he can.
He looks older, over 40, meaning he stands a chance of being able to leave Gaza if the Egyptian authorities abide by their discrimination against Palestinians under-40 trying to leave Gaza.
“Life is hard. I’m going to search for work so we can re-build our home.” Algeria, Libya, Sudan…”Wherever, I’ll go wherever I must to find work.
He speaks with an easy smile and warmth, with humility borne of faith in God and of living for decades under occupation.