Friday, March 16, 2007

These are My Neighbors

Ayman is the head architect at one of the universities in Gaza, he is married and has a daughter called shams, sun. Mohamed is a law student and the head of security at the same university Al-Aqsa. He grew up in Alexandria and the West Bank and then moved to Gaza five years ago. Mohamed hopes to leave Gaza one day. He is very critical of both of Gaza's main parties Fatah and Hamas. He is engaged and longs for the day he can raise a family in a peaceful nation.

Alaa lives in Beit Hanoun. He grew up in Jordan. His family moved to Gaza in the early 90s when there was much hope for a peaceful future for the Strip. Alaa is one of about 60,000 Palestinians in Gaza that have no national ID or passport. Jordan did not recognized his family as full citizens and when they left the country the lost the IDs they did own. Alaa studied computer science but due to the lack of jobs he works as the guard and caretaker of the building I live in, the Mecca Tower. As a natural comedian he is a constant source of joy and laughter, making the lobby of the Tower a welcome place to come to. I am saddened to hear that he will be leaving his current job soon in order to open a computer store in Beit Hanoun.

Sameer is my tailor down the street. He is actually a sheikh as well as a tailor, but he is the only fatah sheikh I have met in the Gaza Strip. He speaks highly of the days he spent working n Tel Aviv in the 90s where I believe he gained some of his sowing skills. With the poor state of the economy in Gaza Sameer recently moved his shop to his home, a small shack by the side of the road, and rented out the space previously used for his tailor shop for the opening of a falafil restaurant.

I am a regular at Mohamed's family's vegetable and fruit shop just around the corner of my house. I have the tendency to fill a bag with all sorts of vegetables and fruit, onions, potatoes, avocado, apples, pears, tomatoes and then Mohamed will give me a rough estimate of the price. This is my favorite shopping experience in life. I have taught Mohamed and his brother to juggle with oranges. Mohamed is in his last year of high school and hopes to study English at university. They also make fruit juice. My favorite is carrot and orange.

I don't remember the name of this little boy. He is from the Abu Amra family which reside in shacks on the road near my building. They are beounis that once roamed the Negev desert but since the closure of Gaza and the forced migration of Palestinians in the region to the Gaza Strip they are out of work and have lost their living space. He too is my neighbor.