[News] Heavenly Gaza

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 9 17:06:37 EDT 2017


  Heavenly Gaza

Omnia Ghassan - August 9, 2017
August 9, 2017- See more at: 
August 9, 2017- See more at: 
August 9, 2017- See more at: 

Sometimes when I feel hopeless about pursuing my dream of traveling or 
having a proper job, I ask myself: “Do I regret living in Gaza?”

Many Gazans, if not all, ask themselves this question. We are so 
desperate for employment and a dignified life and Gaza, the largest jail 
on earth, keeps us from the outside world. It’s hard not to feel like 
Gaza is hell. But unlike most Gazans, I was not born here; my family 
chose to return when I was 17.

Ninety-six percent 
of Palestinians are literate, but unemployment in Gaza is the highest in 
the world 
About 42 percent 
<http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/westbankandgaza/overview> of the 2 
million Gazans don’t have jobs—and the number of out-of-work youth is an 
estimated 60 percent. Many students who obtain scholarships to study 
abroad are not able to leave because the Israeli government refuses to 
give them a permit to leave, while Egypt keeps its crossing closed. Two 
friends recently lost their scholarships because of this. I recently won 
a short story competition organized by the Cultural Association in 
Matera, Italy, in collaboration with the Palestinian Embassy, and am 
supposed to travel to Italy in September. But it is unclear whether 
Israeli authorities will approve the trip. How I would hate to lose the 
chance to visit the homeland of pizza and pasta!

But at the same time, there are things about Gaza that should be 
appreciated—as only a “newcomer” might realize. As someone who has lived 
both in and out of Gaza, I feel qualified to tell you about them.

    *A different childhood*

I lived in the UAE until I was 17 because my father found a job there. I 
felt alone there. Our relatives were all in Gaza, and our neighborhood 
was in a border area, with few Arabs. It was full of Indian families, 
and I couldn’t communicate with their children because I wasn’t yet 
fluent in English. Those who did speak Arabic were older; while they 
were friends of my family, I couldn’t play with them because of the age 
difference. My sister is also seven years older, so the two of us had 
the same problem. I had imaginary friends and even mastered speaking to 

However, if you want to live a memorable, social childhood, live in 
Gaza. Every morning I wake to the voices of kids crowding the street in 
front of my house. They turn the street into a field for football or a 
track for bike racing. During Eid [one of the major Muslim holidays], 
men in each neighborhood give young people and women money as a gift, 
called /Eideyya/. Kids 10 years and under knock on neighbors’ and 
relatives’ doors and get money! It’s kind of like Halloween, but without 
costumes. I enjoy watching the children carrying small bags as they go 
door to door. I never got to experience that and I regret it.

Although children in Gaza experience these warm, playful rituals, they 
also are incredibly responsible and independent. They are allowed to 
leave their houses without their parents at a young age and even go to 
school by themselves. When I was growing up in the UAE, I rode a bus to 
school and I never went places without my parents. It is Gaza that has 
taught me how to be independent. When I first arrived and understood I’d 
need to take taxis by myself, I was nervous and asked for a personal 
chauffeur. Of course, that didn’t happen – and now I ride in taxis so 
much all the drivers in my area know me!

    *The color black*

At some point in our lives, we fear darkness. When I was a child, I 
could never sleep without a glimpse of light. When the lights turned 
off, I would feel as if I was turning into a statue. I’d scream, run to 
my mother or start crying. That is, until three years ago, when Israel 
attacked Gaza 10 months after I moved here.

Israel’s violence sparks many fears in Gazans. Yet it also has spurred 
us to overcome some of them. In the 2014 war, Gaza suffered a massive 
electricity shortage, with the lights rarely coming on. We basically 
lived in candlelight, moonlight or complete darkness. It was during this 
period that I realized it was time for me to embrace my fear of 
darkness. Now, when my sister pranks me by turning off the lights, I’m 
like, “Seriously?!”

Today, Gazans are still in darkness. The electricity cuts are worse than 
they’ve ever been. Power only comes on for four hours a day at most. But 
even with this, and with Israel’s blockade, three wars – and maybe more 
to come – and unemployment, we desire to live. As the 
Palestinian-Canadian poet Rafeef Ziadah said, 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wad5h5K38ms> “We Palestinians wake up 
every morning to teach the rest of the world life!” Regardless of the 
continuous crises we live through, we know how to find a bit of light in 
the darkest of tunnels.

Yet Gazans themselves often do not appreciate their home. Although this 
is understandable, Gaza deserves to be loved. It may not be the perfect 
place to live, but its imperfections are what make it perfect – at least 
to me.

I even wish I’d come home to Gaza earlier than I did.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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