New Internationalist

beach life

Ten days into the Tahdiya, or ‘Calm’ between Hamas and Israel, we haven’t seen anything change here inside Gaza. In fact the only real difference I’ve noticed is that over the last couple of weeks the power cuts have been worse than ever. Like many other people, I have power cuts at home for eight hours at a time now. So the food in my fridge gets ruined and wasted.
Please tell me how that contributes to security in Israel.   

Beach Life. Photo by Louisa Waugh
Photo: Louisa Waugh

On Saturday, a group of us decided to go to the beach for a picnic. This being Gaza, a culture where people enjoy doing things together in large numbers, there were about 25 of us, women and kids, and except for me they were all locals. We decamped en masse a few miles outside Gaza city, on a long strip of tranquil beach, where the Mediterranean looked clean and enticing. The state of the Gaza Mediterranean Sea has been creating a stink over the last few months. Because of the ongoing Israeli siege, the Gaza Water Utility is operating on a third of the fuel it needs to clean Gaza’s sewage and waste water, and is also chronically short of essential spare parts. To avoid flooding residential areas with sewage, it has been dumping 50-60 million litres of untreated and partially treated sewage and waste water into the Gaza Mediterranean every day for the last six months. Some of the beaches around Gaza city are now, literally, swimming in sewage.

This sewage dumping is a tragedy for many reasons: the local sea, and sea life, is being slowly poisoned, while families have nowhere else to go to relax and enjoy a sense of space. My friends assured me our strip of beach was clean – and after a lengthy picnic we plunged in. The water was warm as a bath, and we all became kids, splashing and wriggling in the water as more women and children joined us in a rabble of laughter and life-affirming fun. Five-year-old Sandera grabbed my hand and jumped up and down, drenched and beaming. ‘Hurriyah!’ she shrieked. ‘Hurriyah!’ Freedom!

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