Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What I've been up to: talks, travel guides, and other things

I realize I've been absurdly negligent of my blog lately. My poor, poor blog; once a daily visit would not even suffice, now I'm lucky if I get around it to it even once a week.

But hopefully that will change soon: I'm happy to report I'll be returning to Gaza for a few months in November (assuming the border is open by then).

I've been busy-this time not with potty training, but with making arrangement for various upcoming travel.

I'm scheduled to give a series of talks in the coming weeks: on Thursday, in UNC Chapel Hill with Marty Rosenbluth; the Kessel Memorial Lecture in Minnesota State University on October the 18th, and then speak at the Norwegian Social Forum on October the 20 through the 22nd.

So last week I travelled to DC to apply for my Norwegian visa, which I got in a record two days (I figured the whole "this passport was issued pursuant to the Oslo Accords" line in it might help). I was also meeting with my colleagues in the new Aljazeera International bureau in Washington, arranging for a neat-and bold- project I'll be working on for them on my way to Gaza: a self-filmed "video diary" of the journey to Gaza, across Rafah, with Yousuf.

I've also been working on updating the Gaza section of a (fabulous) travel guide published by the Bethlehem-based Alternative Tourism Group. Its one of those kafkaesque type experiences, an exercise in the absurd.

I write about all of the wonderful experiences in Gaza, where to stay, what to do, and of course, an update on the humanitarian and political situation; yet as I write I realize in the back of my mind no one can GET IN to Gaza in the first place, unless they have a Gazan, Israeli-issued Palestinian ID or are UN staff or diplomats.

And if you try and get a permit through Israel, you are taken on a wild goose chase where, as in Alice's Wonderland, no one can provide you with clear answers and nothing is what it seems: We aren't responsible for Gaza, and therefore don't issue permits to travel there; yet we still occupy it and control its border-including what and who pass through there.

Yet I continue to write anyway, and with conviction at that; Yassine thinks its an exercise in defiance to the occupation, to the political status quo. I think I agree.

Its the same sort of experience I go through when I read about various restaurants or travel agents in the West Bank or East Jerusalem in the al-Quds daily paper: its not physically possible, yet everyone likes to pretend it is. I think its part of trying to psychologically imagine create a reality other than the one imposed upon us.

So in a nutshell, that's what I've been up to. That and fasting Ramadan of course, which is simply not the same as it was in Gaza, where stores fill up with Eid candies, dried fruits and nuts, and other Ramadan staples faster than you can say "bismillah". That, and Atayif stations on every corner. mmm.

But of course there is a black shadow cast over Gaza this Ramadan,quite literally. My neibhour told me today they went 24 hours with no electricity in Gaza City, with generators overburden the limited supply they have. And its bound to continue like this for a while. I'm anxious to get back to tell you more, firsthand.


Blogger Heba from Gaza said...

Laila I admire very much what you do, particularly, writing about Gaza as a place you want to visit. However, dear I can't hide it that life in Gaza now is soo harsh ..so harsh to the degree that people like me, who like Gaza so much and never thought they will reside elsewhere, are thinking of leaving !!!You have missed the worst part of it ever as far as I can remember. I had electricity cut-off for whole 3 days and a half in Ramadan ..You know the iftar and Sohor are done in darkness... the problem of internal fractions and so on..I hope that I am not frustrating you with my pessimistic words, but honestly endurance has its limits. I feel with people who are suffering financial problems or loss of beloved. I pity myself for my paralysis and impotence. I wish that by the time you come things would be altered to the better..

8:45 AM  
Blogger Asad Ramallah said...

im really happy to hear that you want to keep bloging..!
dont neglect your blog!

how is your tourist guide going?
good luck!

Asad al nimr


2:47 PM  
Blogger Nakia said...

Don't fret about neglecting things- you've got a son, and Ramadan, I'm realizing, is a part-time, temporary job. (Make that full time if you have the duty of organizing Eid prayer-yikes!)
Pretending that the world is less insane than it is has been used as a coping mechanism for centuries, in situations crazier than Gaza's- hard to imagine, isn't it? Either way, it's a form of defiance, hope, and a far more positive expression than some I've seen lately.
Happy trails to you, but will you be with Yassine for Eid?

4:03 PM  
Blogger LadyCroc said...

So nice to see you´re back writing; I have always admired your vivid English - proud to know a Palestinian sister with such a flair for the English language.

HAppy ramadan to you and your lovely son!

8:18 PM  
Blogger Amelopsis said...

Laila your new projects sound excellent. For what it's worth, I concur with you and Yassine...it's a work in defiance of the Occupation.
I for one certainly hope to one day be able to see for myself all the beauty of the Palestine and if I ever do, I'll be sure to keep your travel guide handy :)

9:37 PM  
Blogger Abu-Issa said...


I hope to use that tourist guide one day...the last time I laid foot in Palestine I was only 2 and will surely need a guide to get around.

I was contacted by 'The Institute for Middle East Understanding' (IMEU) just today and thought I would pass their link on to you.



4:46 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Salaam Abu-Issa
IMEU is amazing, I work with them often!

Heba: stay strong...ina Allahu ma3 al sabireen... just keep thinking of the tests of the Prophet saw, that is sometimes what keeps me going and makes me realize its all IBTILA2 min Rabb il 3alameen...wi leeki jazak2ik inshallah

we must get together inshallah once I arrive...email me your contact info

9:39 PM  

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