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.