The last time I went to Gaza was 17 years ago. It was a school trip and we were very excited to go there. It was a more-or-less cold day of April but when we got there we were so delighted to see the sea. Most of us saw it for the first time and it was amazing.
Gaza city was full of life, horns honking, vendors shouting, and pedestrians bargaining and busying themselves with shopping.
After so many years, my memory of the trip is blurry but I remember that we were very happy, one thing in particular, everything was cheaper than it was in the West Bank. This was not a coincidence and economically speaking it was not strange. They are indeed the occupied Palestinian territory but the fragmentation between Gaza and the West Bank happened long time ago that they are no longer contiguous in anyway.
One thing to keep in mind, no matter how hard Israel and others try to separate these two geographical entities, no matter what methods they use, the Palestinians are still one people with one cause and one aspiration for freedom.
Back then we bought meat, salads and loads of bread; we didn’t know that 5 shekels would buy us 3 times the amount we would get for that money in Bethlehem. After going home, we had to divide the bread between 3 of us and it was plenty.
A barbeque at the beach was more of a dream for many of us; although Palestine has a stretch of coastline on the Mediterranean it was, and is, inaccessible for us. I believe I got so excited and crazy enough to jump in the chilly water. It was not the smartest thing to do, I got sick and I had to stay in bed for four days after that.
Seventeen years later, Gaza has changed a lot, the people of Gaza have changed the war-torn Gaza is consumed by poverty and despair.
The Strip has suffered endlessly since the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000 and the people of Gaza’s agony was multiplied after the Israeli blockade which has been imposed since 2007 and the three Israeli wars against Gaza; the last was launched in 2014 and left over 2200 people dead and tens of thousands injured.
I am not going to dwell on the injustice that has befallen upon the people of Gaza nor the politics of the conflict; the reason I am writing this is because the sands of time are running out for the people.
I was having coffee with a couple of colleagues recently and you could see tears crystalizing in their eyes when they talk about the people in Gaza. There is a wind of despair in their speech and although they seem unable to put their feelings in words, their eyes tell the whole story. Their hearts were filled with sorrow and their basic humane feelings come out to speak on their behalf.
They speak of the frustration and despair of the people, all of them, even children who had their childhood stolen from them. They speak of fear, paranoia and trauma. They speak of horrors, of despair, poverty, and death. But, despite the difficulties and the dismal prospects, people are not defined by their situation and the occupation. They live and love and laugh and live as best they can, provide for their children as best they can
I haven’t been to Gaza for 17 years but the small strip on the coast of the Mediterranean has been subjected to inhuman cruelty, which has intensified over the past decade. One can simply imagine what blockade and war can do to almost two million people who are trapped in prison-like walls with minimal access to electricity, and water that is mostly polluted and unsuitable for human consumption. Medical services are minimal; education is collapsing and economy, well, what economy?
The only thing that is keeping the society together is the resilience and the strength of character of the people. Their endurance has been tested to the limits but they endured, till now.
Lack of opportunity is what really worries me. A UN report published a couple of years ago claimed that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 and that was no empty claim. Gaza will indeed be devastated. All the economic, social and humanitarian indicators will lead to the same tragic conclusion, if we do not act soon, nothing will remain of Gaza.
The people have a legitimate call for justice and freedom. But, if things remain the way they are, the only justice they will ever get is the justice of the grave.