Gaza, Palestine, an oceanic jewel of the Mediterranean. Once a thriving, industrious, prospering and beautiful sea port; one that welcomed the world. Now, Gaza is a place that possesses remnants of its former self, a paradise now in a surreal existence between living and hell. An open air prison and active practice target range for IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces).
The people of Gaza continue to impress me, amaze me, inspire and humble me. Gazans are so strong, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually; forever holding onto and believing that Palestine will be free. A people that in spite of incredible odds, challenges and despair strive to better themselves, educate themselves, and preparing themselves for a better future.
For some that means leaving the land they love so dear to pursue better opportunities for higher education and employment. This is easier said than done for many, but the ones who do make it out, do so with every intention and purpose of making their way back home to help others, to help their families and build a better future for Palestine.
What I find frustrating on behalf of those who have honored me with their individual stories of their lives in Gaza, is that Occupation goes to extremes to exterminate the Palestinian people at every turn, and yet, when those fortunate enough to be accepted into Universities outside of Gaza, outside of Palestine all together, or are granted international Visas, are often denied exit from Gaza to pursue these opportunities. This is a living contradiction of what the Zionist Occupation desires most.
Ongoing strife and conflict, hardship and for many displaced still after aggressive IOF action in the last four years, the choices to be made are difficult at best; people being forced to choose alliances in order to survive, something that is directly unspoken, but indirectly implied. Forever cautious of what they speak and how they speak, especially to outsiders, I have come to gain greater respect for the Palestinian people. Trust has been betrayed all to often, and broken beyond repair in many cases. It is not easy for Palestinians and those especially living in Gaza to speak freely about their lives and existence. Especially with ever-increasing threats from the Zionist Occupation Regime to control and eliminate those that speak out against occupation and its actions against Palestine and her people.
I am ever protective of those with whom I have the honor to speak with, whose trust I have earned and been granted with great care. These are amazing people, from those with families to those still hoping to one day have families of their own; the level of ambition, dignity, integrity and pride are qualities they all possess and ones I admire and look up to. People who have so little, yet give of themselves so much to those who have even less is commendable and speaks to the true human spirit of compassion.
Gazans are happy, strong and dignified people, that in spite of tremendous loss, tragedy, ongoing daily conflict and intimidation at the hands of IOF, they still find reason to be grateful and to smile. The more I get to know the Palestinian people, and those specifically in Gaza, the more I am deeply touched emotionally.
It is quite a surreal existence to live in such a compacted, high density population and yet, not have hatred and bitterness, at least not on the scale we on the outside would assume they should have. This is the very nature of a peaceful people and the Palestinians are a peaceful people at the core of their being.
The conflict and resistance actions that most of us see in mainstream media, when put into perspective really forces you think. You too would fight back when you and your entire existence has been controlled and dictated to brink of breaking your very will to live. One point I continue to try to make for you the reader, is to put yourself, allow yourself, to actually think and feel what these people have had to live with and against now for three generations and beyond. To have your every move, every action, thought, effort to be controlled. Occupation in Palestine is occupation not only of land, but of the people themselves, every aspect of their day-to-day life existence is at the hands of their oppressor, the Zionist Occupation Government of Israel.
Imagine also the dire circumstances of living with government factions of Palestine who cannot agree among each other how to rule fairly and justly. This creates a triangulation of control with the Palestinian people caught and trapped in the middle. Professionals that work within Gaza, and in the West Bank, some who have not been paid regular wages and salaries for two years and beyond; why? because one faction insists the other is responsible. It is common sense knowledge that a house divided surely falls; but it is obvious that common sense in government and governance is not a common occurrence. Who suffers then? the citizens, the innocent people of Palestine.
Is it not enough to suffer under Occupation? let alone suffer at the hands of your own leaders who cannot agree on how to best help to unite and strengthen their own country. Yet, Palestinians strive to unite, to become one, of like mind and purpose and as long as these efforts are continually made, Palestine will be free and strong.
*Photo credit: M. Baroud
*Photo credit: I. Abu Hewella