Saturday, April 08, 2006

Just another Gaza Friday

I’ve always loved Fridays in Gaza. In the mornings, save for the lone garbage collector futilely sweeping the abandoned streets and Municipality park, littered with plastic cups, watermelon seeds, and mangled straws from the night before, the hustle and bustle of the city comes to a standstill.

It is a serene if lethargic time, an escape from the sea of chaos, uncertainty and violence that grips our lives each waking day and night. For a few hours, things seem ordinary in a place where ordinary is an illusion. And it doesn’t seem like anything can disrupt those moments, as if some force is saying to the madness that envelopes us: “come back another hour!”

Slowly, the streets come to life again as evening takes hold. This is Yousuf’s favorite time. He likes to go out to the balcony, as we did yesterday, and “people watch”-just take in the incongruent and cacophonous sites and sounds of another Friday in Gaza.

In the park in front of us, children boisterously played football, women licked ice cream cones and chatted, and wedding motorcades ( “zaffit sayyarat”), which, no matter what the season or situation, you can always except to hear on Thursday and Friday evenings like clockwork-made their way to beachside hotels and lounges. They tirelessly honked their horns in sync with live wedding dabke music, blaring out from portable speakers or played by live for-hire bands seated in the back of rented pick-up trucks decorated with carnations.

Boys and relatives clamored for a standing space in the back of the trucks, dancing and clapping feverishly along with the music. Young children chase them down the street to join in the fun. If the wind is just right, the sky becomes a showcase of homemade kites, dancing and flirting with each other, challenging the physical bounds imposed upon this battered area’s residents, reaching to places they can only dream about, allowing them to navigate freedom, no matter how purposeless, for just a little bit.

In the distance, the ubiquitous double-thuds of artillery fire could be heard exploding a few kilometers away, increasing in number and intensity, it seemed, as the evening progressed, only to be drowned out ever-so-slightly by the cacophonous symphony of Friday blitheness, as if to say-“not today! Today, you will not steal our moment.”

The evening passes, the clock strikes midnight, and suddenly, the carriage tranforms into a pumpkin again. The magic dissipates. The missiles strike. And 6 people are dead.

Just another Gaza Friday.


Blogger shlemazl said...

Come on, it's not just any "six people"

6:11 PM  
Blogger shlemazl said...

Come on, its not just any "six people". You cannot really expect Israel to sit still while missiles are being fired at it.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ouch! I was living the day with you and enjoying it as well & can see it in my mind and then the last sentence hit me. Very sad, I hope someday peace will be there, I have prayed/hoped/crossed my fingers & toes/voted for a chang(but the wrong president was elected in the USA) and am still waiting for the day we have peace.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed the sixties.
When people had a problem with something, they joined together on masse and just sat around demonstrating. You can't ignore that!
Those were good times. I think the middle east needs its own Timothy Leary

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You write beautifully.

Thank you for being so courageous and writing your truth.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Zita (Um ibrahim) said...

Allhamdullilah... thank God it's heart it's with you ya Um Yousef.. everytime i read your blog i got teary eyes. Allahmaaki.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Calgacus said...

Shlemazl: But Israel expects Gaza to sit still when it kills six. Fanaticism is redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.

2:18 PM  
Blogger solitarioh2005 said...

Saramago is much worse than Abu Mazen.
And he is not beautifull either.
And he is antisemite.


" Nobel winner: Ramallah being turned into concentration camp

By Amira Hass, Ha'aretz Correspondent

Renowned Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize-winner Jose Saramago, drew comparisons Monday between Israel's blockade of the West Bank city of Ramallah and the Holocaust. On a trip to Ramallah, Saramago said that "the spirit of Auschwitz" was linked to what was going on in the city. "This place is being turned into a concentration camp," he said, referring to the IDF's siege on the city.

Saramago was part of a delegation of the International Parliament of writers (IPW) which had come to visit Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, one of the parliament's founders, and other intellectuals. The delegation also met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on Monday.

Saramago said that, before his visit to Ramallah he knew there were Israeli tanks there and that Arafat had been confined to his offices. "I didn't know that two colonies with army posts overlook Ramallah," he said. "I didn't know that every Palestinian settlement is under a separate siege."

Asked by Ha'aretz where the gas chambers were, he replied; "So far, there are none." He added that, as a writer, it was his prerogative to make emotional comparisons in order to shock people into understanding.

IPW executive director Christian Salmon later told Ha'aretz that the comparison did not reflect the views of the parliament.

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein told Army Radio on Tuesday that Saramago's comments were a display of "ignorance" and that any reasonable person knew they were baseless.

Click here to see his picture

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Noa Raz said...

It was just another Friday, three years ago. My little brother, then 20 called me in the noon. "I won't come home today, we have a serious alert, please tell mom I got stucked". He knew what He was saying. Our mom couldn't bare the thought of an alert onvolving her son. Me, the journalist, "suppose" to understand. Few hours later came the awfull call from my boss: "Come to work right now. Emergency in Rafah". Shit. That's where my brother is. Few hours later He called again, all crying. His best friend died in his hands. Few weeks afterwards the army released him, Post-Trauma and all.

Occupation sucks. It sucks not only for you, but for us as well. I don't want my brother tho handle terorists, I don't want your son to hate my brother. Yes, 6 ppl died, 2 of them aimed to kill me. Yet, I don't want them dead. I wish we could have found a solution. I wish you and Yusuf could come and play with me in Tel Aviv. I wish we were not in deadlock. I wish that We still can find hope. More of all, I wish you well.

Saalam Aleik
Noa, Tel Aviv

2:30 PM  
Blogger shlemazl said...


This is NOT a vicious circle. Just for a second imagine a situation where there is no attacks or threats to Israel from Palestinians. In this unlikely scenario, Israeli measures to defend themselves would cease without a shadow of a doubt.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous ratttu said...

sorry shlemazl but i can't see how bombing an empty football pitch can be counted as self-defence.
What is wrong is your 'you started' approach, which unfortunately is shared by many in Israel/Palestine. It's a children's way of looking at things. Are you intersted in blaming or are you interested in understanding reasons and finding ways to move beyond this stage?

3:34 PM  
Blogger shlemazl said...


You are absolutely right that the way out of it all is to put the past behind us and to look forward.

I believe that the way Irish situation got (almost) resolved is a good example to us. It involved a resolute approach by the British Government of not negotiating under fire. International parties (mainly US) stopped helping the IRA after September 11th.

Once the violent forces were isolated and agreed to a permanent ceasefire, both sides could negotiate successfully and progress is being achieved.

12:06 AM  
Blogger Randall said...

Excellent post..;)

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

um yousef your blog is brilliant
solitarioh2005 i never heard of saramago till now - thanks - he sounds interesting
shlemazl are you serious? israel has repeatedly commited unjustified violent attacks against palestinians - they started this war in the first place
i hope one day there will be peace

1:39 AM  
Blogger shlemazl said...


We must be reading different history books. It was all started by Arafat's uncle Al-Husseini, who initiated pogroms of Jews in 1920s. He ended up fighting for the Nazis and was eventually caught by the Brits.

When Israel decleared independence, several Arab states attacked her.

It goes on and on... The latest round of increased violance was initiated by Palestinians with terrorist attacks running at one point at a rate of 1 a day.

How can you possibly state that "Israel started this war inthe first place"????

1:58 AM  
Anonymous ratttu said...

Shlemazl, the British Government started talking to the IRA after they shot a mortar at Downing 10 and bombed Canary Wharf (a main financial centre).
Also the Mufti Hajj Amin was not caught by the British.
In short, you don't know what you're talking about, but don't let it stop you.

2:18 AM  
Blogger shlemazl said...


Good point on al-Husseini. You are right - he's never been captured. Does not make any difference to the point I was making.

As for the British Government's relationship with the IRA, I am sorry but you got it wrong. Events you are talking about took place in 1991 and 1995.

It was only on Friday 29th August 1997 that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, accepted the IRA ceasefire as genuine and invited Sinn Féin into the multi-party talks at Stormont. The British Government steadfastly refused to negotiate under fire until that point.

4:27 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Interesting place to have a discussion on the IRA and the British Government. If listen to the Unionist, they will claim that the British government has capitulated to the demands of the IRA! IRA hardliners would be ironically the only folks who would view the agreement as IRA capitulation.

I would also say that the Canary Wharf bombing really brought home to the British financial establishment the damage the IRA could cause. I always speculated that it was instrumental in creating the momentum within the British administration for a negotiated settlement.

The IRA and the British had long had back channel discussions. From 1994 on, it is clear that the IRA and the British Government were attempting to negotiate a settlement.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Abu Shaar said...

>>Israeli measures to defend themselves would cease without a shadow of a doubt

Well, no.

You can look it up: Barak built more settlement housing, destroyed more dunams of agricultural land, under the relatively "hopeful" Oslo era, than Netanyahu.

And what was Oslo except the world allowed Israel to take more Palestinian land without having to abide by past UN resolutions?

The Security Council has yet to impose sanctions on Israel for violating UN resolutions

8:22 PM  
Blogger سامية said...

I'm still browsing your blog, reading old posts and I can't help but say the same thing I said before: I'm so thankful to have found your blog. This piece made me feel so nostalgic to a place I've never been...

Not only are you reflecting a picture which needs to be exposed, but you also do it so beautifully.

Thank you

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your beautiful words. Your message is so important! I will share your blog with everyone I know.

2:21 AM  
Anonymous bartleby said...

The cowboy icon is not an accident for a blogger like Schlemazl- Native Americans know this

4:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see where you come from, I can empathize but none of it is right, do you expect Israel to just not protect itself? do you expect us to just allow suicide bombers- what I dont understand (and no I am not telling you to go to these other countries just because we are here) is that the arab countries are many , they are huge and Israel is a tiny little sliver in between. We as jews dont have much land like you as arabs do and we need to show that we will go to any strengths to protect ourselves and bit of land which we have built up , we have provided all these new facilities and buildings -Look at the state of Tel Aviv or other Israeli cities 60 years ago and look at them now, look what we have done.
I dont know what is right, you losing people is just as horrendous as me losing friends and cousins in the Israeli army .
None of this is right but no matter what, the jewish poulation is so small in relation to the arab and we have to protect it.
I dont want it to mean killings you and your son look like beautiful people but what about me and my family?

4:57 PM  

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