Turn Towards The Sea

الأحد 13 أيلول 2009

View of Deira Hotel, Gaza City

Written By Ramsey Tesdell

GAZA CITY – Every time I look around this place, I think to myself, my God, this is a beautiful place. Views of the sunset, the beach, the sea, the people – all exceptionally beautiful. Even the chaos embraces its own sort of insane beauty.

Looking towards the sea you forget about the poverty (90% of Gazans live under the poverty line), the destroyed buildings from The War, as its known, and the blockade that traps the Palestinians in an open-air prison. Looking at the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, you forget that for the last 3 years no new cars have been imported, few if any consumer goods enter, and just a fraction of the humanitarian supplies and construction materials that are needed are allowed into the Gaza Strip.

As I was gently reminded of the privilege I hold, being able to travel in and out relatively freely, it is sometimes difficult to imagine that such a beautiful place can bear such a grotesque reality. Easier to look towards the sea and forget, than to confront our responsibility to humanity in applying pressure to end the inhumane blockade.

I have found Gazans to be warm people, many of whom are looking for an alternative to Hamas and Fateh, who simply want to live and experience the world they’ve been cut off from. I have been invited in the homes of many of the people I’ve met, invited to share their limited resources, but more than that, simply a chance to converse with someone who isn’t from here.

Conversations have been frequent, intense, and lengthy. I am often cornered and questions lobbed at me quicker than I can answer. Each evening, on the roof of the hotel, the scene transforms from quiet and relaxing rooftop café, to intense discussions over cups of tea and fresh squeezed juices. Politics, religion, governments, culture, the latest movies; nothing is left untouched. Mostly, curiosity of the outside world dominates the discussions.

There are a few avenues of relief from the closure. Satellite television provides a lifeline, as does the internet. Ramadan TV programs provide a short escape from the grim reality, as do chatting programs and Facebook allow contact to the outside.

As is true of many of the experiences I have, I often learn more from the people than I expect. Simple conversations uncover new ideas and new ways of thinking. This is the beauty of traveling and meeting new people. And this preciously what is being robbed of Palestinians in Gaza.

So when my new friend Hamza kindly reminded me of the privilege of being able to travel, I used the new tactic I’ve picked up in Gaza. Turn towards the sea, breathe in the beauty, and pray for the future. It’s a beautiful view; but a beautifully grotesque reality.

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