Friday, May 11, 2007

Gaza, Robbed Love

Today I moved around Gaza City from meeting to meeting. On the streets movement was limited, as it is Thursday and at least for schools and government institutions the Hamas government has added Thursday to Friday to make for an unprecedented two-day weekend in the Gaza Strip.

This morning once again a new security plan was reportedly taking effect. One taxi driver told me the success of the plan would be seen only after 10pm tonight. I caught a hint of cynicism in his voice. If the lawlessness can be retained after dark then there might be some truth to this new “plan,” or else it would prove to be talk like the last one. Another driver told me, “I see no change, what security plan?” And yet another explained to me that the real issue was an economic one, as long as there are no jobs, there are no opportunities for the future, nothing, no matter what sort of plan is developed, would ever change anything.

The streets once again are littered with garbage as the municipality employees are on strike. Just two weeks ago the same garbage piles were littering the street, just higher, but I was told, since the workers never received what they were promised. They are now striking again. The stench of burnt waste fills the air.

Every taxi I entered today was old and worn, and somehow represented something of the state of the soul of this place and its people. One car had a metal bar welded behind the two front seats, I imagine, to keep them up. The owner of a car, which had the steering wheel held together with tape told me at night cars older than his were being stolen and still they say they are implementing security. Hopelessness could be heard in every word spoken to me; someone pointed out that still no one really knew where the British journalist was, is this the way we treat guests, he asked. In one vehicle there was talk about the owner of a shoe shop being kidnapped, when ransom was paid for him, the perpetrators took his brother and demanded further ransom.

In Gaza, these stories are told like the weather or sports is discussed in other places.

And the sense one gets is that it is inevitable that this society will implode like it did early on this year. How to reduce the hate for the murderer of your brother, how to suppress the anger one feel towards one’s government, towards the perpetrators of crimes, towards one’s occupiers? Israel’s policy of conquer and divide is succeeding. And the world is not listening and the misery, the frustration, the unemployment, the endless cycle of despair and the search for an ordinary life goes on. I have to confess that somehow all this is beginning to rob me of my love for this place.