When boredom feels like slow death, what is left to lose?

Young men and women out of high school have one of two options: pursue their degree, or get married. For men there is a third option — be lucky enough to connect your way to someone who is high up enough in one of the Palestinian factions to be bribed to find you one of the few jobs that exist, and magically you will be transported into the 15% of people who have found work here. This is the zahag. “Zahag”, an Arabic word for this long, heavy boredom that feels like a slow death. Laura Gordon writes from Rafah. 

Broken Crystal

There are no prayer mats to be found in this empty border apartment, only years of sand accumulated on the empty floors. A chandelier’s broken crystals spread in wide sunrays in the salon from the underground explosion some few meters away a few weeks ago — the army blowing up the imagined tunnels of its dream, those phantoms. Everyone knows they don’t exist on this street, which has meticulously rid itself of armed resistance and smugglers. Still, the army blow up dirt meters below the ground many times a week just next to the border homes, shattering their windows and shaking their foundations. Laura Gordon writes from Rafah. 

Redemption in Gaza

I’ve become enthralled with births and weddings — the creation of family — redemption from the ache of a war that systematically removes the most beloved burdens of a person’s full hands. A house, a brother, a mother. I count the marriages and the births like a high school student crosses off the squares of a calendar, measuring the distance between the dredgery of institutionalized education and the open arms of vacation. Every marriage is a triumph of construction in the face of this violent waste. Every birth is red ‘X’ on the calandar of the Occupation. 

Tension and depression

The plot of Abu Jameel’s life unfolds like a tragic drama. His street, Abu Jameel Street, named after his grandfather, once the richest man in the area whose grandson used to scorn farmers, walk through the street as one known by face only, the untouchable man in the suit. Abu Jameel inherited the riches of his family and built a row of forty stores and several apartments with his two cousins and married a beautiful Egyptian woman who bore him a son and a daughter. These days fade to memories in black and white. Laura Gordon writes from Rafah. 

Normal life in Rafah

Most of the time life in Rafah seems normal. A bustling city — taxis honking and speeding through the crowded streets, schoolchildren in their uniforms on their way to and from school, merchants of all types with their colourful wares lining the streets — fruits, clothes, household items — the perfume of life filling the air. Everywhere things seem normal, then all of a sudden something will happen and the facade of normalcy will disappear, and the ugliness of the reality will show through. Melissa writes from Rafah. 

The Monotony of Chaos

Even the incursions began to feel monotonous. The same stories. The same devastated families with nowhere to go. The same phrases to express anger and helplessness. Each story felt like a shadow of fatigue on the waves of an ocean. In the first months, my heart had broken daily and with every story, fresh catharsis bleeding onto paper, revelations in bright red. Now, eight months after my first step in Rafah, the pain is a gray weight on my stomach, always there. Laura Gordan writes from occupied Rafah. 

Eyewitness account of the invasion of Rafah

Then the streets started screaming and we were running almost without thinking, down the edges of the street around the people who had lost their fear, around donkey carts loaded full, ran until we fround a corner to turn into and then we ran past families and children, through narrow streets far enough from the main street not to know the worst, far enough that we were the ones spreading the news that the army had come back. When it left, it left not through the streets as it had come, but by creating a path through the homes still standing in Yibneh, demolishing anything in its way and driving over the remains. Laura Gordon writes from Rafah about the invasion. 

The mirror of fire and tears

Tanks cut off the main road between Rafah and Khan Younis (the city just north of Rafah) by driving ten tanks right in front of the European Gaza Hospital, the only decent hospital south of Gaza City, and the road has been closed for days. The week before this closure, Rasha spent 5 hours one day waiting for Abu Holi to open so she could go home and the next day it closed all night, leaving her to sleep at her friend’s sister’s house in Gaza City after waiting for 4 hours in a hot taxi in line with hundreds of cars waiting for the checkpoint to open. I compare our worlds, like parallel universes, squinting at each other from both sides of a mirror. Laura Gordon reports from Rafah. 

Fear of the sky

Already, things have changed here. I hear that in Israel security is stepped up. It’s big news on the web and the TV — “Israel readies itself for another attack.” Maybe people in Israel feel the same way we do here. Last night in Rafah, an Apache flew over the border area all night, keeping me awake long after the five bombs shook our house. i could hear it clearly and was too scared to sleep, thinking that it could strike at any minute. Friyal couldn’t sleep either, and this is a family that sleeps no problem with all night shooting. In the few minutes I managed to sleep, I dreamt about Apache helicopters, that whole ‘sound-getting-integrated-into-your-dream’ thing. 

Fragments of Rafah

The shooting from the tower dominiates the night, louder than angry men, louder than demonstrators. Earlier tonight, an ambulance’s urgent wail, me holding my breath praying. Death is so close now you can smell it. Already it has come like a rain storm beginning in Hebron, like the time I watched rain come towards me from across a lake and ran toward the forest and my feet were not faster than the rain. Laura Gordon writes from Rafah.