Monthly Archives: November 2010

Gaza, in Gaza, Fourteen Years in Gaza

Republishing a pretty old article of mine.

Gaza …

Fourteen years in Gaza have taught me to believe that it is inconceivable for anyone who, on a Friday morning, hasn’t been walking up and down the bustling aisles of a public market while the sweating traders, at each side of the aisle, are calling at the top of their voices in well-rhymed phrases with the prices of their commodities, it is unimaginable for them to appreciate the enormous capacity and the charming power of the small word, and that to perceive how far significant these four letters are is next to impossible.

Gaza … Fourteen years are too much for me to make me realise what an improper behaviour that is, having visited a friend, you leave your cup of tea, not untouched, but rather unfinished, your plate of candy, no matter how stuffed you are, not finished. The more heartily you devour it, the more pleased your host is.

In Gaza, you and your friends meet together at home; you take issues with them, and they yell at you, but you never yell at them; they throw the pillow behind their backs over at you, and you never respond. Meanwhile, your mother knocks on the door of the guests’ room and calls out to you from behind, rebukingly bidding you to lower your voice, although she knows it for sure that your voice was hardly audible and that it is your friends who are making all this fuss. All this fuss, in Gaza, is about the day of the “Tasha” – the Arabic for a small trip inside the town – you and your friends will be going on. The trip will be to nowhere special but to a street! A mere street. All that which makes it differ from other streets is a statue standing upright in the middle of the island separating the two sides of the road; the statue is called “Al-Jundy Al-Majhoul” The street is special, for it is a little wider than all other streets in Gaza. With all these privileges, the street, therefore, becomes a destination for you and your friends; and, for its own sake, you and your friends spend hours arguing to decide on a date where everybody is free that you can gather and visit the statue, together!

Gaza …

Fourteen years have taught that I should not be staying up late at night the eve of Friday. They have taught me how much I would regret if I dared to do it. Continue reading

I am Szpilman…

The Pianist is a movie that tells the disheartening story of a Jewish pianist who struggles to survive during the holocaust along with his family in Warsaw. Although it is primarily the story of one man, the movie tremendously inculcated in me the notion of the universality of the human suffering. He is Jewish, and that is all which makes me reflect on it. How I felt? I cannot really remember, but certainly an avalanche of conflicting feelings surged through my chest and thoughts of every possible indictment to be directed toward a Muslim declaring himself to be Jewish for brief moments; thoughts of the like invaded my mind as the movie drew near its end: a shabby racked Władysław Szpilman adeptly runs his feeble fingers over an abandoned piano playing before a Nazi officer who rescues his life later. I desperately wanted Szpilman to survive. For a moment, I was Jewish.

Szpilman’s father walks down the street when he has to pass by two Nazi officers who just harass him, punch him, and ward him off the pavement. There is nothing that would have given me more pain than such unfeeling harassment. For a moment, I was Szpilman’s father. I knew how it felt to be treated with disgust. To be humiliated. To be discriminated against as such. And later, the Jewish population of Warsaw are herded to be taken off the city and put in a concentration camp. Szpilman’s family has to wait amidst dirt and rubble having not the least slice of bread to eat. A Jewish woman carrying her baby comes over  awfully begging Szpilman for a drop of water for her child. Mournfully, he looks at her, apologizes and goes off. For a moment, I was Jewish. I recalled when an old woman has to sit on the rubble, her sick baby on her lab, waiting at a checkpoint for an entry access to get through. My mind wandered to where I passed through the debris of one area thoroughly razed to the ground on the wake of last war; distress was everything I could see wherever I cast my looks. Afflicted people were everywhere around me, and, not looking back, I only walked on. Continue reading