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.