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Peace... maybe

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.

Nonetheless, I hoped my friends and colleagues would finally have something to celebrate with the beginning of the Tahdiya. Some of them look grey with stress and exhaustion these days, after a year of the grimmest siege imaginable. But their skepticism is overwhelming. ‘We have literally heard it all before’ said my friend, Yosef. ‘When they [the Israeli army] lifts the siege and opens the borders, then maybe things will change,’ he added. More than anything, people in Gaza want the borders open. Being free to leave the Gaza Strip is more important to every single person I know here than having fuel for their cars, electricity in their homes and brand goods in the shops.  

My Arabic teacher, Munir, lives in a refugee camp in Jabalia, northern Gaza, which has seen more than its share of death and deprivation during this ongoing siege. ‘In Jabalia we have almost no cooking gas because of the siege, so now some people are collecting scraps of wood and paper to make fires at home,’ he told me during our last lesson. ‘We used to negotiate with Israel over the [Israeli] settlements and the final status of our capital, Jerusalem– now we hope the Tahdiya means we will have enough fuel to cook at home. What kind of peace is this?’

But the Tahdiya does mean something to both sides, by the simple fact that it hasn’t yet been broken. There hasn’t been any bombing for five days now, and no-one has been killed. New goods, and fuel, are slowly arriving in Gaza, and, most importantly, there is talk of the southern border with Egypt opening, so people can leave Gaza without having to enter Israel. ‘I love my country so much,’ says Yosef. ‘I don’t want to live anywhere else but Gaza – but I need to know the gate is open.’      

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