T.I.G – This. Is. Gaza.

الخميس 17 أيلول 2009

A View of Gaza Beach Refugee Camp

GAZA CITY – Sometimes its not even worth asking why in the Gaza Strip; why the electricity is cut, why the water is dangerous to drink; or why the banks barely functioning.

It is better to understand a simple rule taught to us in the movie, Blood Diamond or in K’naan’s song, T.I.A. – This. Is Africa. You don’t try to understand why, how, or who, you just understand that,

This. Is. Gaza.

You know you’re in Gaza when cash money is in short supply. Banks don’t have USD, or Jordanian Dinars, despite being widely used currencies. UNWRA pays its employees in US dollars, yet they are barely available on the market. The story goes that this money either gets stashed away, or taken (smuggled) outside.

This. Is. Gaza.

The money that you do find looks like its been through the washing machine. Fifty times.

So few are the actual bills available in Gaza that the same ones get re-used, recycled, smuggled, or laundered over and over again. When I was handed a newer looking 20 Shekel piece earlier in the week, I was startled to see it in such a fine condition without any rips. Most banks I know wouldn’t even accept most of the bills here.

T.I.G. You know that Gaza is under a serious siege, and that things are desperate when you here stories of desperation. Really desperation happens when the woman of the family sells her gold. Gold is usually paid as a dowry or given to her as gifts when she marries. When she starts selling her gold, you know the situation has gone from bad to worse.

You know you are in Gaza when you buy a name brand candy bar, a KitKat for example, and it costs you a week’s wages. I stopped asking why, but it is because the authentic products have been smuggled through The Tunnels.

Gazans have a lot of pride. They have figured out ways to be more efficient, to fix the unfixable and to manage with the situation. Some responses are turning in to points of pride. I capitalize The Tunnels, because they are known in Gaza as if they were the first ones to invent tunnels. And they might as well have been the first. Well, at least the first to smuggle cars, cows, electrical appliances through elaborate and expansive tunnel system in the south of the Strip.

So when the power goes out during the middle of a training session, or the money you receive is barely recognizable, or you part ways with your left arm for a candy bar, you have to stand back and understand that you don’t ask why.

You don’t ask why, because This Is Gaza.

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