Wednesday, December 6, 2006

two sides of a coin- hospitality & lawlessness in gaza

Today I got lost in town. I was thinking too much and walked right past where I was meaning to go. When I asked for directions at a sweats shop, one of the people recognized me and gave me a sweat pastry. I knew his face, but couldn’t place it. I love these people. Even getting lost is a good experience here.

A few days ago my friend Jamal, who is a driver, had his car stolen. I called him and his usually cheerful voice was anything but that. The customary niceties lost their sense and he told me he was down. While Jamal had stopped his car to make a quick purchase, leaving the key in the ignition, a group of gunmen had driven off with it. When he tried to run after them to recover his car one of the men hit Jamal in the head with the butt of his gun, leaving him wounded on the side of the road. It didn’t take Jamal long to find out who had done it. In Gaza this is the easy part. The police were informed and today Jamal is still waiting, hoping the problem will be solved peacefully. A few nights ago security forces recovered twelve vehicles from a group of known car thieves at the end of my block. Eleven people were injured in the course of it.

In a place so volatile, the gun has become the natural remedy for every ailment.

Jamal is one of the first people I met in Gaza. Almost without exception he has taken me to the border when leaving Gaza and picked me up upon my return. One of his closest friends, Ibrahim, sold his car over a month ago, upon receiving a visa to travel to Sweden. He was planning to immigrate there. Then the border didn’t open for week after week after week. Ibrahim had sold his source of livelihood to realize a dream and for over a month was stuck without work, living off his savings, fearing that his visa would expire. Last week Ibrahim finally got out. Days later Jamal lost his source of income, only, he had no choice in the matter.

this is jamal's car on a main road in gaza that was bombed by an f-16.