In Gaza: My Gaza II
By: Refaat R Alareer
Nowhere in the world do animals enjoy their absolute rights like they do in Gaza. You take a taxi wait three minutes at some red traffic light, and then the moment the light turns green a cart pulled by a donkey controlled by a teenager (actually, you can’t tell who controls what or what controls who when it comes to carts)crosses the red light from the opposite direction, delaying you two more minutes.
In Gaza you stick your head out of the taxi, shout your lungs out at the cart guy, ‘DONKEY!!”(If you are educated you still can do it but under your breath. And your certificate makes your head too big to stick it out of the window, but you still curse. If the reader(assuming that this piece is readable) allows me to go off the point I would add that sticking or not sticking the head out of a taxi window is the major difference between all sorts of people in Gaza. Get a guy, any guy, in a taxi, let a donkey cart block his way, and there you go. The man, his head, his social and cultural milieu stick, or do not, out of the window). Cursing, you lower your head and get it back in the car. You smile. You always smile after you curse in Gaza. (There must be something soothing and mitigating about cursing that needs research and studies). And your grin grows even wider when the taxi driver says half joking half angry that donkey carts are above the law(yes, In Gaza taxi drivers can be this wise and this meticulous as to observe the unobservable!)
The policeman does not stop the cart but stops your car. In Gaza even MP’s and PM’s, though in very few circumstances, wait at the traffic light. Carts don’t!
In Gaza the beauty of the sea in the summer is irresistibly attractive. You give your friends a missed call; they call you back and agree to meet to go to the sea (to relax). It takes you 27 minutes to get there. It can be 15 if luck does not throw two or three donkey carts in your way. Anyway, (digressions in Gaza, and let me be frank with you for the sake of brevity and straightforwardness and terseness, are the norm. (In brief, if you happen to live in Gaza you will become very rapidly acquainted and familiar with something everyone uses in his or her talks and discussions of things particularly when they sense people are very interested in what they say, that thing being digressions, lots of them)) after a lot of debate, (debates are the soul/salt of Gaza, in Gaza you debate issues of various importance from soft salt up to the kind of mobile phone you will soon buy) you decide to take a dip in the sea but go back the moment you see a man bathing his old bloody (there are actually a number of patches on the horse’s body that bleed where swarms of flies gather and suck at it) horse. The horse seems to be enjoying it; his eyes are closed. In Gaza, horses, when dragged to be bathed in the sea, close their eyes.
In Gaza no one can talk the horse’s owner out of it. Horse and donkey owners in Gaza (as the ancient taxi driver wisdom puts it) are above the law. Because you now can’t swim, (you actually swear to God not to because you do not want your friends to drag you into the water. No one ever violates somebody’s oath in Gaza especially an oath on the wife. Although in some situations it is fun to break other’s oaths) you try to make the best of the horse situation. In Gaza everything can be made use of!
You stealthily take your camera phone and try to shoot a picture of your friend with the horse at his background. He discovers your conspiracy; you run off to the tent. Your friend shouts at you, you look back, and there he is: putting his right hand on the neck of the horse with the widest smile ever reckoning you over to take more pictures. Astounded but expecting such things, (in Gaza things beyond the wildest imagination happen) you start taking pictures not of him but of the back of the horse. Horses’ back in Gaza can be the focus of so many cameras. Your friend, unaware, looks proud in a sheepish grin, you beam back mischievously.
When you go back home in the evening you are tired and in need for a shower but you still do not lack the stamina and cheerfulness to share the horse’s tale with your family. In Gaza when you go to the sea you do not talk about the siege imposed by the Israelis on the sea, you do not talk about Israelis preventing hundreds of Palestinian fishermen from fishing, you do not talk about Israeli warships shooting at fishermen, you do not talk about the fishermen’s families suffering deprivation and hunger, you do not talk about the fishing season being fishless, you do not talk about Israelis closing the sea and destroying the Gaza port, you do not talk about the Israeli measurements to systematically pollute the Gaza beaches, you do not discuss possible ways to break the siege, you do not talk about what you can do to help, but you talk about horse’s backs. You even show your family and friends the so many pictures you take of the horse. And you actually post some of them on your Facebook page.
In Gaza: My Gaza
By: Refaat Alareer
In Gaza you stay late at night watching action or romance movies and the next morning you rush to work with tattered clothes because you get up late and have no time to iron. You swear not to do it again, yet the other day the same thing happens.
In Gaza you spend half your day cursing America for financially, legally, intellectually supporting the Israeli occupation that killed 2 of your family members, 4 relatives, 6 friends and you still watch Hollywood movies throwing, every time, your heart into the hero whose clothes are torn except for the spot on his right shoulder as it holds the American flag, wishing, fingers crossed, every time a bad guy shoots at him that he will dodge the bullet and survive despite the fact that some of the bad guys have Arabian looks and a heavy accent.
Gaza is so crowded. In Gaza, only a comma might separate you from Israeli stray bullets. The bullet does not hit a wall or a tree but claims the life of a person who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no right place or right time in Gaza.
In Gaza you go back home, worn out, in the evening after a long day at work. You make sure to buy two huge bags of grocery and before heading home, you check on your parents and give them some of the fruits you buy although at the beginning of each month you give them 200$ pocket money, hoping they will be pleased, and, guess what, sometimes they do not.
In Gaza, paradoxically, you, for reasons you forget the other day, ignore your parents for a whole week, probably a month, and your mother gets furious and swears to God not to talk to you as long as she is alive but cries and hugs you the moment you set foot in her humble room whose cupboard has acquired the unmistakable odour of years. Only in Gaza, parents’ rooms smell like years. And you still wonder why your mother is crying and hugging you!
In Gaza you knuckle down to your work all day long. You go back home (having checked on your parents with the huge grocery bag), change, and while eating, a friend who went to high school with you(and who you have not heard from since) calls asking for a favour. He wants you to translate his 2000-word PhD proposal. You tell him it is ok and you will be honoured to do it(you do not tell him you are busy and you have 100 exam papers to correct and a PhD proposal to prepare). You finish the call, then you start cursing the day you majored in English. Holding the pen, you start translating, cursing yourself.
In Gaza your kids are very noisy that they interrupt your translation so many times. You fight with your kids and wife and pour all the insults on the caller’s head and the heads of his parents and his grandparents (his neighbours and a bunch of relatives get their share, too). You stay late and, while watching tonight’s movie, translate the proposal. You never liked that guy at school. Nowhere but in Gaza you do not prepare your lessons, not because you do not want to, because you spend most of your time doing things for friends some of whom you never liked.
Your friend who calls for a favour in Gaza has not called in two or three or seven years. He makes you irritably guilty beyond imagination for not recognizing his voice. He spends two minutes reminding you of who he is. He tells you stories or adventures of you two. You never remember them, but you say, enthusiastically, ‘Yes, Yes, but I am sorry I can’t tell who you are as I am tired and sleepy.” You are busy and have a lot of errands to run and (not ‘but’ and definitely not ‘yet’) you do not say no. You can’t say no in Gaza.
In Gaza you spend the days cursing the people, the taxi drivers, the students, the teachers, your colleagues, your relatives and neighbours. In Gaza you feel you are the most important person in the world. In Gaza you, only you, keep Gaza holding up. You swear to God (I swear, you swear to God and to other things and names a lot in Gaza) to seize the first opportunity to leave. And when you leave Gaza, Gaza does not fall apart. You cry. You feel homesick. You hate the food. You hate the people and you realize(something prevents you from swearing!) that the worst places, people, foods in Gaza are far better than those in London, Paris, Egypt, New York. You go back to Gaza.
In Gaza, you read this, nod your head, and brand me a typical Gazan.
On a drop of a rain
Refaat R. Alareer
Scientists still do not unanimously agree whether raindrops originate in the sky as ice crystals or not. But that does not matter to me. I am no scientist.
Abu Samy is a Palestinian farmer from the West Bank. He was busy on that windy day weeding his field, or what was left of it. He regretted not listening to his wife’s frequent pleas not to go out. He was always doubtful about what she calls “her special gift” or her “sense of the rain”. He never listened to her, and if he did, he did not pay attention to her interpretations and elaboration of her different methods of skillfully and accurately predicting when it will or will not rain, for how long and how heavy the rain will be. Om Samy touches the earth. She holds a tiny grain of sand, whispers to it, and listens back. In cases when communication fails, she smells the grain. She understands the earth. But that is metaphorically speaking. Abu Samy knows that.
On the southern side of the wall, Abu Samy along with thousands of Palestinian farmers is not allowed to build rooms or erect tents lest they should use these tents or structures to dig tunnels to infiltrate to the other side, the Israeli side. At least Abu Samy is a lot luckier than his fellow farmers; he only lost two thirds of his land. Countless others of his friends and relatives had their fields swallowed by the Israeli wall cutting through the lands of the West Bank. For Abu Samy, the wall at this time at this very moment was useful as it shielded him from the heavy rain and the strong wind. Living under occupation has taught him to see hope in the darkest of tunnels, not that he digs such tunnels to infiltrate into the Israeli side. He ran to the wall. Gluing himself to the lengthy concrete wall, he was shielded, though partially, by the wall.
On the Israeli side of the wall stood an Israeli farmer whose wife, too, has predicted rain (and warned him against the Palestinians infiltrating the security fence). He wanted to run to the concrete room he built a couple of weeks ago, but as the wall was closer, he trotted towards it. If they both had listened carefully, Abu Samy and the Israeli farmer would have heard their hearts beating against the wall. Or maybe they did hear the heartbeats but thought it might have been the rumble of distant thunder striking somewhere nearby.
It was one particular drop of rain, a very tiny one. It could have directly fallen on Abu Samy’s bare head had it not been for a sudden gust of wind that pushed it to the other side of the wall; it fell on the Israeli farmer’s helmet.
Other drops, however, were racing towards and seemingly preferring the unshielded head of Abu Samy.
That drops of rain begin their existence as ice crystals seems, to Abu Samy, very possible. But who cares to Abu Samy’s views. He is not Israeli.
The Old Man and the Stone
– ….And I want you to bury it with me. That’s my will. I have had it since ages. I never let it out of my sight or my pocket. Do you remember your uncle Sadek who, God bless his soul, passed away when you were 5?
– Only vaguely
– He brought it from Jerusalem. He thought I am crazy. He thought I was being silly because I kept asking him to bring me a stone or a handful of sand when he goes to Jerusalem. I am never silly or kidding when it comes to Jerusalem. So when I say bury it with me, I mean bury it with me. Make sure to slip it in my hand. I am sure my grip will hold onto it. But if it does not you can either glue it to my hand or tie my fist up.
– Dad, you are still young. Why would you want to die this young?
– And make sure everyone knows about it. It is no secret. And it should not be kept a secret. I know you would be ashamed to tell others about a stone thinking I am insane. But even your uncle the most stubborn man that ever walked on earth was finally convinced and brought it. Maybe he wanted to make me stop nagging or maybe he did not want me to leave home heading in a long arduous journey to Jerusalem to get a stone. I do not care. He got a stone for me. From Jerusalem. A stone from Jerusalem. Unlike those people you see everyday, I am better off than them all. I own part of Jerusalem.
– Dad, if everyone who loves Jerusalem brings a stone, a rock or a handful of sand, we will no longer have Jerusalem. We will run out of Jerusalem. A picture would have saved you all the trouble and the embarrassment caused by that thing.
– It is not a thing
– Ok, ok, dad, ok it is a stone. The stone!
– A picture is not going to be like a stone that has been subjected to the rain and the heat and the cold and the dirt and the smell of Jerusalem. This stone is Jerusalem
– How so?
– I have never forgotten Jerusalem for one day since I had it thirteen and two months ago. When your uncle gave it to me I was..…
– Dad, do you still want to go visit my sisters next week?
– Yes. I would swear that sometimes this stone wakes up me to pray Alfajr.
– Of course it will. If you sleep with the stone in your pocket and you turn as you sleep on the side where you put the stone, it will wake you up.
– You do not understand. You really do not. It is not like that. I mean…
– Can I hold it, dad?
– Ok, but careful.
– Careful I say.
– Dad, that is too much. This has really become embarrassing and annoying. The stone! The stone! The stone!
– Shut up!
– Tell you something. Your nephew Ahmed told me long ago that uncle Sadek lied to you.
– What do you mean lied to you?
– He told his sons before he passed away to tell you the truth about the stone. It is simply not from Jerusalem.
– What do you mean? What do you m-m-mean not from Jerusalem? If he told them why did not they come to tell me?
– They were afraid that the truth might kill you! He said he felt too stupid to bend down and pick a stone. So he got you one he found in front of his house. An ordinary stone.
– STOP lying to me!
– I AM NOT LYING!
– Screw him! May he rot in Hell. Too stupid to bend down in .. in Jerusalem? Now he is rotting in h…he is …give me that stone… give it to me.. ahh ahhh
– DAAD! DAD! Dad stay with me! Stay with me! Daaaaad!
by: Refaat Alareer
But what is their reason. We are Gazans?
The Gaza Crisis in Gaza is no crisis. The poverty of Gazans is not poverty, their ailment is not an ailment, and their need is not a need. Everyone in Gaza is living happily. Gazans whose houses were bombarded by the Israeli war machine and could not build new ones due to the Israeli tightened siege do not sleep in ragged tents under the clear skies of Gaza, clear sky if you do not count for the Israeli drones and warplanes. And those tents are first class: in the summer mosquitoes can’t get in from the holes made by the sun shining on them for the past two years, no, neither water in the winter. For Israel’s propaganda machine, Gaza is the ‘Roots’, a fancy restaurant that serves very expensive meals that even some Israelis can’t afford. The Roots, though very few Gazans know it or ever heard of it, is the destination of hundreds of thousands of Gazans who love to throw 50 bucks on a meal. 70% of the people in Gaza, for the Israelis, do not live under the poverty line but are soaked in sumptuousness and comfort. That the majority of Gaza people live on a dollar a day is a viciously fabricated lie.
In the previous aggressive election (I mean military) campaign on Gazans, Israel did not kill 1500 Palestinians. It certainly did not destroy hundreds of houses and for sure did not injure thousands. The Israeli Camera and IDF official clips showed us the trucks loaded with humanitarian aids allowed, by Israel, into the Gaza strip. We saw pictures and videos of the Israeli warships targeting places they claimed were weapon caches. Although the clips had so many cuts and so many big question marks about their authenticity, the Israelis as well as peoples of the world are fooled into taking them for granted. For the Israelis, Gaza was floating on weapons. One clip on YouTube shows an Israeli missile targeting a gas tank. In the aftermath of the explosion fire erupts. That is taken as a clear-cut proof. The target was a weapon store. Period. The clip soon hits over 200000 views and ZERO comments. IDF desk has disabled comments. No one has to ask why the IDF YouTube channel disabled the comments. Just take it as it is served to you. And say Amen.
The Israeli hermetic seal imposed on the Strip for the past four years is not a siege. It is self-defense. This act of self defense, guaranteed by international law, enabled Israel to deprive everything and everybody of the main traits they possess. Students can’t travel to study abroad, fishermen can’t fish, farmers can’t farm, teachers can’t teach, merchants are not allowed to engage in trade, businessmen do no business, Gazans can’t live in Gaza. And what is their reason. We are Gazans?
And now what is the Flotilla? It is a bunch of Turkish, Algerian, European, Jordan, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Kuwaiti, Egyptian, Yemeni, American, British, Irish, Lebanese, Moroccan thugs on deck of a ship holding daggers and knives ready to stab, and kill, the Israel commandos. We have not seen how the clashes started. We have seen an Israeli soldier beaten and kicked. We have not seen tens of peace activist shot dead or injured. We have not seen pictures of Israeli soldiers attacking but being attacked. We have not heard the Israeli machine guns, but heard the people on board shouting ‘Allah Akbar’. We have seen the activists holding broomsticks, yet did not see the Israeli army soldiers holding electronic stick. We have seen the Israeli soldiers very gently escorting the activists out of the ships but have not seen them attacking the participants smashing the cameras, breaking the limbs, or confiscating the cameras and tapes. We have not seen the bodies of the unarmed dead activists stacked on the deck, but rather we have seen the injured ones, very carefully and benevolently, taken by Israelis to the hospitals. We have been following no news agency but the Israeli Army Radio and press releases. We actually do not know how many were killed. 7? 10? 20? The press release is both accurate and elusive (yes you have to be accustomed to flagrant contradictions when depending on Israeli media): “the dead are more than 10″!
Commenting on videos and pictures is not generally allowed by Israeli media. No one has to question IDF clips. No one has to ask about, for instance, the doctored pictures of the Yemeni Sheikh holding a long dagger that even haaretz posted as a proof that the people on board started the fight and violated Israeli sovereignty. One is not supposed to comment on the picture either. Even if the dagger, which seems transparent, is not fake, he is a Yemeni after all. A Yemeni’s dagger is like the air he breathes. A Yemeni without his dagger is like an Israeli soldier without his mini M16. A Yemeni not holing a dagger is as unfathomable as an Israeli soldier not shooting at unarmed innocent people. Also they claimed the picture was taken during the clashes! What kind of clashes when people are sitting, calm, cool, and collected, and some are even smiling and posing for the picture? Was it a chessboard clash?
Israel’s storming of the Freedom Flotilla came as a shock to everyone except for the Palestinians particularly the Palestinians who have been living in Gaza for the past four years. It is no wonder when Gazans remember Israel as the Israel that bombed, destroyed and/or bulldozed Gaza bridges, schools, universities, thousands of houses, mosques, farms and fields, trees and greenhouses. Israel, for Gazans, killed thousands and inflicted injury, pain, deprivation, poverty, and disability on tens and hundreds of thousands. No matter how many clips they post, no matter how many pictures they claim to use as evidence, no matter how many millions of dollars they spend for the cover up, and no matter how many arrogant spokespersons, who by the way have a habit of never answering any question, appear on TV.
Israel swots up on its homework to be done in Gaza. It spends billions of dollars on propaganda and thousands of hours of meetings and preparations. However, In Gaza and only by Gaza, Israel’s true face is revealed in a blink on an eye. There is no homework done well for Israel in Gaza.
Gaza Beauty in pictures