‘Look where the world is and where we are!’ an exclamation I very frequently heard at home, and even expressed myself at some points. Going out to this world though, makes this thought invalid. It is a world where a major concern is offering dogs a better life, healthier food and softer napkins because humans do not have problems to worry about. In this world, brains are squeezed to figure out what problems may occur in 2050, and how they can be solved because there is nothing to solve at the moment other than the fact that there aren’t comfortable couches and free Wi-Fi in shopping centres. People are not worried about water supply or power cuts, when to do the laundry or how to charge the laptop. All the basics are available, and what is sought is only to better the quality of life.
People work so hard so they can get the best most comfortable life they can get. They are very concerned about enhancing the quality of their lives, some very precious ones, and this is what really makes the difference. I was once with a French friend at some park, and a lady stopped by to take some information for a questionnaire. One of her questions was what we thought that park was missing. My friend answered “music”. I was staggered by the answer. No water, no benches, no entertainment for the kids, no other parks to take some of the huge loads of people off this one, just music. Music!! I would not give such an answer in a million years. Although I do have the same current life as this friend’s, but my previous life and my family’s in Gaza dominates my brain and my way of thinking. Music got me to think how relaxed and restful one needs to be to come up with a similar answer.
Here in Europe, cycling is promoted, and it would be better if you walk. Special lanes are paved, and traffic signals are placed for cyclists all for the sake of healthier generations and a better greener environment. There, in Gaza, we walk and ride bicycles not for the environment, not even for our health. We do it because there is no fuel for our cars. We read books and we socialize because there’s no power to watch TV or to surf the internet. There, it’s the 21st century, and my medicine-studying brother reads his books under the light of candles. On many days, he has to sleep during the day, and stay up all night to celebrate that the power is on and study. My only way to see my mother is Skype, and very often I can’t see her for days, simply because when the power is on, she has laundry, hovering and baking and other chores to do and 6 hours a day is hardly enough to finish.
Here, they watch TV, do the laundry, and freeze their poultry whenever they want, for months if they want. There, we equip our houses with the most expensive electricals, and in seconds we feel the futility of it all. In seconds, they are no more than dead plastic and metal boxes and everyone is in the dark, back to the Stone Age and the most primitive ways to get light and heat that ended hundreds of years ago. I’ve been there, and by primitive I mean candles and charcoal braziers simply because there isn’t even fuel to start the power generators. And if it is found, it’s too expensive for an average family to afford. Not to mention the hidden diseases it adds to my people there; my family and friends one on top of the other.
However, here, the real disaster comes when we are treated differently because we come from there. Here, we carry our passports and travel the world. I have a red passport, I am a human being. In my case, I am labelled with my Palestinian passport. Last time I travelled abroad I was pulled back by my husband when the airport employee confused my passport for a travel document. I was willing to fight but he held me back. ‘It is a PASSPORT’, I wanted to say, ‘just like yours but another colour and another place of the world that you don’t know even exists’. Another previous time, the employee brought a big book and started turning its pages looking for the passport that looked like mine in order to identify it. I could not but smile. She was trying to insult me in an indirect way. All because I’m not from here, and I won’t state the obvious, my headscarf.
To be honest, however, they are not to blame as we Palestinians receive a far worse treatment by people of our language, religion and kinship; our neighbours the Egyptians. During a 6 hour long ride from Cairo to Rafah crossing, we were stopped last year close to 10 times by soldiers to check our passports (which doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world, “do you have Palestinians?” as if looking for rats). And the situation has gotten much worse after the military took over in Egypt. I was told by a cousin that they were shot on their way to Cairo airport. Now, visiting my family in Gaza, or my cousin leaving Gaza to study, has become a journey where you risk your life. Now, I cannot go home this year and I don’t know when I can return.
Here, people are so sensitive, so tearful. They cannot take the pain due to the very relaxed style of life they have, no wonder psychiatrists make a very good business here. Impulsively, sometimes I trivialize their pain when they cry for the simplest reasons saying: ‘what have you seen of life?’
Here, a respectable life is taken for granted. However you still have the right to complain, and when you do, you will be taken seriously, and you will see a difference, a change for the better. You will see Parliament members resigning for traffic violations. You will see governments asked to bury their heads in shame for not offering the expected aid to Syrian refugees. But clearly Gaza is the only place that this world forgets or more accurately pretends to be forgetting about. And the greatest witness to that is the late humanitarian crisis that happened in Gaza. A two day rain filled the Strip with sewage water that drowned hundreds of ground floor apartments and ravaged their contents, as well as fertile agricultural patches that were the main source of livelihood for many families. Due to the blockade and fuel shortage, water treatment pumps could not be operated and the residents of the affected areas were left displaced in the UN schools for a week. And after the water dried out, they went back to their houses (which in any other country would need to repaired and the damaged furniture replaced before inhabited again) and they will have to pay for it all.
There, in Gaza, people are deprived of life for the living. All the necessities of life are being taken away from them one after another; power from 8 hours down to 6 and then to 4; water unfit for human use (contaminated water used to irrigate the crops we eat in Gaza). And we have to buy our drinking water, scarce gas and fuel supplies. And even after the mentioned rain, caused and made worse by man-made crisis, nothing changed. And we DO complain, and we DO shout, but the world gives us a deaf ear, and the situation keeps getting worse.
And the question remains: Until When??