I did not feel like writing about #GazaBlackOut because I felt like my lonely tweets did the job that night. However, under peer pressure, I’ve decided to write something up.
It happened on Tuesday, August 9th. I remember the day and date precisely because that day marked the third year of Mahmoud Darwish’s (prominent Palestinian Arab poet) tragic and surprising death. We were supposed to hold a poetic night at Al Mathaf (Gaza’s only archeological museum, and one of the few in Palestine)- everything was perfectly ready minus the usual final details: making a few last minute phonecalls and checking a few e-mails. Nothing could go wrong.
But it all did! Within a span of 5 minutes, there must have been at least 1/1.5 million collective curses directed at Jawwal, the only cellphone company in Gaza. We all thought the problem was limited to our phones but found out that the cellular network was down. And so was the internet. And so was international calling. And Voila! Gaza was now completely disconnected from the rest of the world.
We bitterly postponed the event. It was unbelievable the complete chaos that the city was stormed with within a few hours. Some people were panicking, thinking that because there was no Israeli network coverage (Orange and Cellcom), the problem was not limited to Palestinian communication service providers: flash of red light, possible massive attack?!
At home, my family spent of board games and TV (and I decided to seize the oppritunity and start re-reading the Harry Potter books). I was irregularly interrupted by the beeps of my blackberry phone, announcing an e-mail or a new BBM message. Huh?!
The signal was very weak and it kept disappearing. I tried to log on twitter, and it took me about 2 hours to write my first tweet and not less than another hour to see the replies (such as “how do you know that there’s a blackout?!” and “how come you’re online?!”) I learned, after hours of trying, that I had to keep my BB still if I wished to catch even the weakest signal. If I moved it by one inch, I was going to lose connection and re-start.
And so it began, my #GazaBlackOut adventure and the first time I really used twitter (and my BB, for that matter) for an urgent matter. Within less than an hour, I was overwhelmed by the amount of tweets/mentions I was recieving, as wonderful people from all over the world were extremely concerned and worried for their relatives/friends in Gaza, and were fearing that a new war was in order. I felt a huge responsibility on my shoulders as I was the only person tweeting/online from Gaza, and hundreds of people were counting on me for news. But I didn’t have any! If anything, I was expecting to hear the news from people that were outside, because we were simply disconnected!
But I think that people just wanted to know that we’re still alive. Amongst the “updates” that I was able to provide was the fact that at least we weren’t hearing any drones/F-16s and electricity was on. I think that reassured people a bit, although an explanation for the #GazaBlackOut was -and still is- missing.
Right, so I still don’t have a logical explanation to explain the #GazaBlackOut, and neither does any one really. Exchanging blames and coming up with bizarre theories was the direct outcome of the blackout. Regardless, I must say that the outcome of the blackout was that I met new wonderful people on twitter and was honestly taken by the genuine concern that people I knew and did not know were showing. Oh and I also believe that I ran an excellent marketing campaign for BlackBerry (c) and believe I should be equally rewarded. Just kidding! )