*north from Gaza City, overlooking sweltering concrete slums of Beach Camp and on to border with Zionist state. The stepped-building in the right hand photo is a never-finished project begun in the 90s after Oslo
As I spoke with Emad’s father last night there was a loud blast somewhere in the distance. He is hard of hearing, asked what’s that? I told him it’s a bomb somewhere. He shrugged and walked off to the mosque to pray his evening prayers.
At night I lay rooftop, again star-gazing, listening to F-16s and other IOF warplanes roar overhead every so often, and heard a series of bombings again far off.
The noise of the wedding party in eastern Deir al Balah almost obfuscated the bombings, and as the planes didn’t do their evil work in our area I, like everyone else, shrugged and went to sleep.
The thing is, here, you never know where is being bombed, whether it is farmland or a home or a car a market the beach. And with electricity cuts (ours was out at the time of the first bombings and again this morning), there’s virtually no way of getting news, save ringing up people who might have internet access or tv. But, it is so normal to have these warplanes growling overhead, menacing with their presence and the potential of at any moment dropping a bomb anywhere on the 1.7 million caged in the 360 square kilometers that is Gaza, that you’d rack up a massive phone bill trying to find out what every bombing was. Bombing in ‘defense’, of course.
It is so normal that people really just don’t think about it, don’t think about the planes overhead or the rapid-fire thudding coming from the sea as the Zionist navy targets fishers on their trawlers or on their hand-paddled, slightly-larger than a surfboard “hassakas“. When their boats are not shot up, or they are not injured or killed, fishers are routinely abducted from within Gaza’s waters, as was the case with a father-son duo kidnapped by the Zionist navy this morning. [see Fishing Under Fire for regular news updates]
When they bomb in Gaza, life goes on somehow. People either don’t notice, if it is not right in their faces, or if they notice they just continue on with what they were doing. Can’t blame them, as bombing can happen at any moment, and does, but they have to continue on with their lives.
I ask H, who is from the north, how it was for her. She shrugged: it’s fine (which means, yes there was bombing but thankfully we’re still alive). Then she told me, The Salafiyeen (Salafis) sent rockets to Israel yesterday, to a place where Peres visiting. Why did they do that now, when Gaza is calm?
Yet, although Hamas did not fire the rockets and has for a long time been instead clamping down on Salafis–who themselves claimed responsibility for the rockets, even Israeli press recognizes this–Israeli authorities immediately blamed Hamas, hence last night’s numerous bombings on Gaza.
In a broken old Mercedes heading south on the coastal road, through cracked windows weary passengers watch fractured Gaza roll past. After the slums of battered old homes with the scars of previous Israeli bombing campaigns, the Lighthouse appears, a high-class (for Gaza) restaurant perched off the north-south sea road and overlooking the sea to the west.
Most in the shared taxi have never and will never set foot in the restaurant.
Along the the beach opposite and beyond the Lighthouse, families gather, sipping tea from thermoses filled at home, or simply enjoying the sea without any excess. Children circulate selling small bags of salted beans for 25 cents, the profits going to their families’ incomes or towards school clothes and materials. Men lead donkeys pulling an improvised mobile oven (an oil drum set on a cart, a drawer cut into it for roasting Gaza-grown sweet potatoes over a fire in the pit of the drum). Like the roasted corn vendors along the road, the potatoes also go for the equivalent of 25 cents a piece.
Along the coastal road to Gaza the shared taxi crosses the low bridge over Wadi Gaza (Gaza valley), the notorious noxious dried up stream bed along which raw sewage flows daily into the sea. Along with other sewage depositories, up to 90 million litres of raw and partially-treated sewage dump into Gaza’s sea every day.
Fishers wade into the sea of stench, throwing lines into polluted water. “The fish are bigger here because of the sewage.” Never mind that they are contaminated, toxic.
“Now many fishers are scouring the southern waters near Egypt. Some are even buying fish from Egypt instead of fishing as they’d like to. It’s impossible for them to fish as they used to, the Israeli won’t allow them beyond 3 miles, and most of the time it is less. If they get accustomed to buying fish and fishing close to short, we will lose the tradition of fishing we’ve had for generations.”
*beached and docked fishing boats in Wadi Gaza and Gaza port, unable to fish as they used to in Gaza’s waters due to Zionist navy attacks on fishers.
An older woman, simple white headscarf and traditional simple long robe, sits on the middle bench of a Mercedes. The row behind her is filled with boxes of freshly picked green grapes from Sheik Rajleen. “The best grape-growing area in Gaza.” [During the 2008-2009 Israeli bombardment of Gaza, this area (and it’s grapes) was devastated by the bombings, by Zionist tanks, by white phosphorous. Surely that soil holds many of the chemicals unleashed on Gaza 4 years ago]
Every so often she looks over her shoulder and re-arranges the boxes shifted by the taxi’s turns. “I’m taking these to a relative in Deir al Balah,” she explains, picking a bunch off and warning, “wash these well before eating them.”
The heat is an almost insane degree but still better than a month ago, I’m told. A man in simple, modest clothes and wearing an UNRWA vest, slowly pushes a cart of garbage to the four large bins on Deir al Balah’s main street near the UN refugee camp. He heaves the sacks of waste into a bin and turns around with his empty cart. A day of this collecting and disposing of gargbage and litter in Deir’s refugee camp will bring him around 30 shekels (about $7.50), 50 if he is extremely lucky. This is the sophisticated collection system of the UN-run refugee camps throughout Gaza, their solution to Gaza’s soaring unemployment. Fishers, farmers, factory workers, factory owners, all walks of life rendered unemployed with a solution within reach: open Gaza’s borders and allow normal life to function, without hand-outs, band-aids and Zionist collective punishment.
An F-16 grumbles overhead.