Resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine comes in many forms: every Friday, Israeli, Palestinian and international activists gather in the village of Nil’in, near Ramallah, in the Palestinian West Bank, to protest peacefully at the construction of a new slab of Israel’s so-called ‘Barrier Wall’ that will slice through Nil’in and separate the villagers from their land. And every Friday the activists are teargassed by Israeli soldiers, and sprayed with a foul-smelling liquid: they are often shot with rubber-coated bullets too.
As she scanned my overgrown eyebrows, tweezers in hand, the beautician
berated me for my laziness. ‘You should have come back here weeks ago.
You’ve left it too long, and now it’s going to hurt.’
The month of Ramadan began about ten days ago. Most of my colleagues are fasting, as are most of my friends, though – as you may already have guessed – I am not. Abstaining from food from sunrise to sunset would be OK, because the weather is still hot and I don’t feel like eating very much – but going without water is really more than I could bear. So I eat and drink discreetly, and observe Ramadan from a subtle distance.
When two small fishing vessels sailed into Gaza Port on 23 August with their renegade crews of international solidarity activists, thousands of Gazans came to greet them. It was a glorious sunny afternoon, and the 46 activists on board the boats had done something amazing: after sailing more than 30 hours from Cyprus, they’d broken the siege of Gaza. Few of us who live here thought they’d make it, and we were delighted to be proved wrong.
Four months ago, on April 16, the Israeli military carried out two separate attacks against groups of civilians in Juhor al-dik, a village in the middle area of the Gaza Strip. In the first attack, Israeli troops fired two missiles from a helicopter into a crowd of adults and children who had gathered together during an Israeli incursion into Juhor al-dik. The first missile killed two children, and when the crowd ran screaming, the soldiers fired a second missile that landed inside in the garden of Mahmoud Ahmed Mohammed. He was killed instantly, as was his brother, and four other children.
I got back to Gaza a couple of days ago. One afternoon I was standing in a central London supermarket, trying to decide what brand of chocolate to buy for my Palestinian friends – and the next morning I found myself standing outside Erez Crossing, the border crossing into the Gaza Strip, feeling very hot and slightly dazed. My brain does not travel at the speed of an airplane. Anyway, I had no problems at Erez, and less than an hour later I was at home in Gaza city, unpacking my suitcase.
I was starving after work today, so I went straight to the Al-Deira Hotel for a sandwich and a cold glass of melon juice. The Al-Deira is on the seafront, next to the old Gaza harbour: it is an elegant old hotel with swish rooms and a huge terrace overlooking the sea, and the local hang-out for delegates and journalists who come to Gaza. Now that it’s midsummer, the Al-Deira is packed from dusk onwards, but the customers are mostly local.
As we plunge into summer, I expect many of you are thinking about having holidays, either in your own country or abroad. After six months in the Gaza Strip, with its lush Mediterranean climate and conservative Islamic culture, I’m looking forward to going back to England for my holiday. But in Gaza people do not go on holiday, because the overwhelming majority of Gazans can’t leave the Strip, and there is nowhere to take a vacation inside these walls. Khalil Shaheen is a well known local human rights activist and I’ve been talking to him about freedom of movement.
It’s 8.30pm, and I have just returned from lunch. I was at Hannah’s house; she is a friend and colleague, and she invited eight of us over for lunch after work today. Gazans love their food, and so they should; it’s a wonderfully succulent and sensual diet of vegetables, meat, fragrant rice, salads and fruit, laced with garlic, lemon and olive oil, and served on enormous, tempting platters. Hannah cooked enough to feed about 30 of us.
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.
The Arabic word tahdiya means ‘calming’ or ‘quieting.’ Hamas and the Government of Israel agreed to a six month tahdiya a few days ago, just after the first anniversary of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Hostilities on both sides would cease, and the Israeli siege of Gaza would gradually ease. The Tahdiya started at 6:00am on June 19. I was startled out of sleep about fifteen minutes beforehand by a familiar sound– the pounding of bombs. Israel was bombing the northern Gaza Strip, just a few miles away from where I live. At six o’clock exactly, the bombing stopped. But it didn’t bode well.