My birthday in Jabalya refugee camp

I spent my 25th birthday in Jabalya, Gaza’s biggest refugee camp. I have known Jamal, a taxi driver in Gaza, for almost two years. I could only protest so many times at his neglecting to host me in his home. In spite of the pleas of his children, whom I had met on a number of occasions outside his home, I realized today why he never did. I have often entered the homes of refugees while distributing food across the Gaza Strip and yet what struck me that day was the familiarity of Jamal sitting by my side against the unfamiliarity of his home. 

"We don't need either Hamas or Fatah"

Internal unrest in Gaza City since last Thursday, manifested in clashes between Fatah and Hamas supporters, has claimed 25 lives, wounded dozens of others and caused destruction to many public infrastructure such as universities and governmental buildings. Movement in Gaza city is almost paralyzed. The United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) announced it would keep all its schools closed starting from February 3 until calm is restored. The Palestinian Authority institutions were almost empty on Saturday, as employees refrained from going to places of work out of fear they might come across fire. 

Hope is a scarce commodity

It is an all too familiar sound. Gunfire and explosions echo accross the night in Gaza City. Yet, this evening, once again the sounds are not caused by fighting between the Israeli military and the Palestinian militants. Instead it is Hamas and elements from Fateh and some of the associated criminal fraternity who are fighting. Tonight all of Gaza is in flames. Every street, every area, is consummed in what can only be described as a civil war between the main two factions here. At eight-thirty we leave a friend’s house to return to the area where I am staying, Tel al Howa in Gaza City. 

Review of Identity

Mary: Why don’t you buy a car and get an international driving license? We are having a month-long permit to visit Jerusalem and now we cannot find a taxi driver who is going to bring us with my mother, who does not walk easily, to Jerusalem. The taxi drivers are all busy. Only a few have permits and the right licenses. Toine: Do you know what I read in an email here? Persons driving a yellow-plate Israeli car cannot anymore take Palestinians from the West Bank as passengers. So if I am going to rent a car in Jerusalem and come over here into Bethlehem, I will refuse you on behalf of the Israeli army the privilege of sharing my car. 

The Coming Storm

It is the dead of winter here in Palestine. Slick rivers of mud and sewage drain into the gutters as hot tea is served in small glass cups, over and over again, to ward off the biting cold. People sit huddled near the gas heaters, rain pounding against the windows and steel doors as they brace for the next storm — not just the one coming down in a torrent from above, but the one just five miles up the road, past the illegal checkpoints, where Israel is planning the next step in its project of ethnic expulsion and sanitization. Six months after my last trip here, and I am once again in a permanent state of shock and fury. 

The hate that dare not speak its name

Topography here is in constant fluctuation. From one visit to the next a whole area, or just a small street, can look completely different. In Gaza, maybe it has been destroyed or, sometimes, rebuilt. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, a flow of ongoing construction manifests itself in the wall, in the illegal settlements and in the construction of the discriminatory road system. Today, while driving through the western edges of the West Bank, we began to understand what the “forbidden roads regime” actually means — through an intricate series of road systems Israelis will travel on one set of roads while Palestinians will travel on roads built underneath them. 

Strawberry fields forever?

Let me take you down, ‘cos we’re going to … Beit Lahiya in the north of the Gaza Strip, to go strawberry picking. As part of Trocaire’s work here we want to make our response to the humanitarian emergency as sustainable as possible. This way we can ensure that people who have had thousands of donums of land demolished can recover in the long term. In the northern area of Gaza strawberries are the main produce. Strawberries like you’ve never eaten before, sweet and juicy. The big ones look like something from a strawberry ad campaign but the small ones are the sweetest. 

This is what democracy looks like

For the past few months the biggest issue for people in Gaza has become the security situation caused by the the clashes between Hamas and some ‘leading lights’ in the decrepit Fateh party. People felt unsafe to leave their home. One friend lives near a hot spot — her house has bullet holes through it. Her children are so afraid that even when no fighting is happening they are crawling from room to room. In the centre of Gaza City, in the square of the Unknown Soldier a movement has sprung up. Partially out of desperation, partially out of a desire to end the violent internal clashes and provide some protection for Palestinian civilians. 

The "Normal" Violence of Everyday Life in Palestine

I arrived from the east on a busy road and we stopped at an intersection, one block from the city-center. There was a large amount of traffic at this intersection and horns were blaring. I gradually became aware of an increasing level of intensity and anxiety. I was on the right side of the bus, looking out of the window and I noticed several women running frantically into a store. It dawned on me that something was wrong. I looked out the windows on the other side and saw two Israeli armored jeeps immediately beside my bus. Just as I registered this, guns began going off, firing short quieter bullets in quick succession and then huge, enormous bangs. 

When Birds are No Longer Birds: An Allegory

In an imagined (but somehow very real) countryside there live various kinds of birds, living in peace and enjoying their life among trees, waterfalls and gardens. Once, the birds had an idea that they should elect a chair-bird with a board, all the birds responded positively to the idea, so they set a date for such an election process. They day they set was a winter day, while they are all hibernating. All the birds were involved actively in the electoral process, although the rains were falling heavily overhead, but they appeared very happy for such a remarkable day, unlike any they had ever experienced before.