My top ten list
As the Israeli disengagement from Gaza draws to a close (we still got those pesky soldiers watching over us like guardian angels), I’ve reflected on my time here, Yousuf in hand (and in womb at one point) as I covered every aspect of Gaza (and I mean that….from rowing refugees to Gazan rappers to archeological digs to assassinations to home demolitions to artifical insemination). I’ve come up with a *tentative* list of my top ten most memorable moments of the past two years, in no particular order:
1. Having to spend the night in Rafah in a stranger’s home during an Israeli seige of the area, while 5 months pregnant with shells flying over my head and sniper fire all around, because Israeli forces had sealed it off and I unable to return to Gaza (at least not the same way I came in...sneaking through someone's farm under a rain of fire).
2. Chasing down Sheikh Ahmed Yasin (before he was assassinated) amidst throngs of Hamas supporters in a rally of 10, 000 people down Gaza city’s streets, while 8 months pregnant, in my maternity jeans and sneakers. When I finally caught up with him, heaving, sweaty, and ready to fall over, I was invited into his simple home, given a seat and an open-ended interivew. Yasin was extremely nice, and answered my questions, oddly enough, with verses of poetry. “Aren’t you afraid of being assassinated,” I asked forbodingly. “A swimmer is never afraid of drowning,” he replied.
3. Being lifted up into the air on a rooftop by an enthusiastic resident of Jabaliya during Operation Days of Penitence, who, while trying to be helpful, put my life in danger, so he could show me an Israeli helicopter gunship that appeared out of no where and began firing at his neighbors a few meters away from us. Over 120 Palestinians were killed during the brutal operation, nearly 1/3 of them children.
4. Riding a donkey cart down rocky slope and across the beach with a then four-month-old
Yousuf strapped to my side in a baby carrier to make it to Rafah crossing on our way to the
US, in a trip that would stretch out to over 48 hours. Israeli forces had sectioned Gaza into
three parts, closing off the coastal road in front of Netzarim to all traffic.
Then, Waiting four more hours in the August heat for a very fickle Israeli soldier to open the
Abo Holi crossing. Letting Yousuf run loose in the nude because it was so hot.
5. Seeing my mother lose her sanity at the fence at Rafah crossing separating us from the Israelis, threatening to walk out in front of the Israei watchtower with her hands raised in the air if we weren’t allowed through. Seeing the expression of the palestinain officers-who seemed more scared of my mother than of the Israeli soldiers.
6. Despite all this, seeing Yousuf giggle at Israeli troops stamping our passports in Rafah
crossing, and my mother's joking response: "no no Yousuf dear, don't giggle, that's the enemy."
7. Spending 55 day’s of imposed exile in Cairo with a jet-lagged, crawl-crazy Yousuf, in an unfurnished, cold apartment (that managed to grow on me) after Israel closed down Rafah crossing, the night we arrived back from a trip to the US.
8. After the Crossing finally opened, yelling at an Israeli soldier after waiting 5 hours in that stinkin’ border bus with my face smashed against a window and having to change Yousuf’s poop-bomb on the ground in a no-man’s land with tanks in front of us, and recieving no response when I asked why the delay if the terminal was practically empty. Then, being told by a superior officer that my behaviour was “not proper”.
9. Forgetting my role as a journalist for a moment and crying alongside the grieving parents of 10-year-old Noran Deeb, whose life was taken by an Israeli sniper as she stood waiting in line, singing with her classmates, waiting to to enter her classroom in the besieged town of Rafah.
10. Thinking of my own son every minute of every day. Knowing he was always there at the end of the day to give me his little koala hug and wet smooches, no matter how many terrible things have been. Being unable to imagine my life without him. Knowing, how wonderful life, now that he’s in the world....