“Peace is the opposite of war.
War is the opposite of peace.”
That was how my English teacher at school first taught me the concepts of war and peace. My teacher never explained what each of them means. I realize now that no matter how hard my teacher would try to convey the meaning of war and peace to me, she would never do it as excellently as life in Gaza did.
I am 22 years old now; and three times in my lifetime wars have taken place. The first war was the hardest and the most shocking to me since it was the first. Later I tried to get myself “used” to the worst so that reality will not blow me out. I can blissfully say that I am now desensitized to wars. Yes, it is a bliss indeed because as a Palestinian living in the besieged coastal enclave, you should expect the flames of an Israeli war to engulf you and your beloved ones at any time.
My grandmother one day told me that everything has a good side and a bad side, even a war. Everybody knows the dreadful face of wars. Those who have experienced wars, like Gazans, know best! “What good side, for God’s sake, could be in a war or a siege?” I stood still and asked myself. After three bloody Israeli wars, I found out the answer!
Appreciate everything in life
Old people say: “you never know what you have until you lose it.” We, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, never had a normal life; hence a Gazan values life like nobody else does.
This reminds me of what my friend Sarah, who went to pursue her MA in Durham, UK, wrote on her Facebook some days after she settled there.
“When you experience aggression and war and then come to what you consider as a luxurious place, you think, “What can those people possibly be sad about?” I am guilty of this too. When someone here says “ugh I have to write this horrible assignment” or “uh my boyfriend broke up with me”, I instantly recall what I believe are more serious manifestations of human misery and just inadvertently think, “Oh please shut up.”
You see? We do not spend time thinking about fiddling matters. We appreciate everything and every second in our life. We have been so unfair to ourselves that we consider the disheartening life as the norm, though.
Electricity is one of the things that people in Gaza appreciate very much. Every day, we calculate when the electricity would come on or go off. Electricity cuts have taught us to have a plan B, always. I always iron my clothes the day before even if I am supposed to have electricity the next day. In Gaza, you should always expect the worst to come and to act accordingly.
Electricity cuts become a privilege when it comes to family relationships. When power is off in my house, we gather in one room where a battery-working lamp is lightening the place. We talk. We laugh. We play with the kids. However, once power comes back, everyone of us rushes to his room to check his Facebook and email. Everyone grows busy starring at his phone or at his laptop. I remember my psychology teacher at university told us that he feels weary when electricity has not been cut for three weeks. He is not used to such huge amount of electricity. The funny thing about that is that he was telling about how to cope with whatever faces us in life and he himself was unable to cope with having electricity for three weeks without any cut. Life in the besieged Gaza has been unfair to us. A lot.
During the summer’s Israeli assault, being exposed to horrible scenes of buildings falling down, of people losing their lives, of memories and dreams fading away, I just wanted to survive. I told myself I no longer need electricity. I do not want to “dream” to travel abroad to pursue my own dreams anymore. I do not want anything. I just wanted to survive. To survive was all what I needed. Luckily enough, I survived.
Coping with the most difficult situations
Another advantage of living in Gaza is having the ability to cope with the most difficult situations. Despite recurring Israeli assaults, power cut and fuel shortage, life in Gaza goes on. It always does.
I used to tell my friend that people in Gaza, including me of course, are incredibly extraordinary. I could not fathom how we can endure such suffering! Humorously speaking, I doubted if Gazans have some genes inside their bodies that give them such infinite patience and incomparable strength; that was the only logical reason I could come up with.
Israeli siege and wars have brought me about new dimensions to life. Many thanks to Israel for providing me with all these extraordinary abilities.