Saturday, January 2, 2010

Really Just Survival

January 1st 2010
The UN guards were waiting for us with smiles and assistance. Our Hamas keepers figuring we were safe with the UN and not likely to go anywhere left us alone to work. I was about to go hysterical when I realize that the thin set was not there, it was 10:30 already and I had been promised that it would be there by 9:30. Just then a car came barreling around the corner towards us at an alarming speed; it was my smiling faced UN security guard with my bag of thin set. When I asked to pay for it he refused, saying it was a gift. I reciprocated by pulling bracelets out of my bag and giving him one for each of his four daughters and one for his wife.
We had 3 tedious and long tasks to complete before the mural would be completed and it looked like we would never get it done with all the socializing that was going on. Thankfully Kit form Codepink arrived with some others, Kit got to work beside me and Bill and we let all the other foreign nationals do the socializing. Rae brought us a fantastic lunch at mid day which later made Bill ill. Later in the afternoon Hannar arrived which was a blessing because she is bi-lingual and was better able to answer all the questions of our local observers, finally women and girls started to come with the lack of Hamas and Hannar bravely standing there being an ambassador, she insisted on working on it for a bit even though she was wearing a very beautiful; black gown with silver and gold beading..
We finished early enough to have dinner with Hannar much to her delight, as we were cleaning up and making dinner decisions our Hamas security force showed up again. They were not at all happy that we were going to go off with Hannar and Yosef; we were able to go by exchanging cell phone numbers. Hannar’s sister insisted that we go to her house for dinner, which I did not fully understand until we got there.

Hannar’s sister’s name is Brook when translated. She and her husband and three kids live out on the border with Israel in a town called Khanjunas.

Brooke is in a horrible marriage, her husband is verbally abusive, she lives way out on the border with out access to transportation, or the internet. She is an educated woman who speaks English and has and industrial design degree. Her husband will not allow her to speak English in the house and she will probably get in a lot of trouble for our visit. When we arrived he was surprised, she had not told him we3 were coming, she wanted us all to eat together, but he insisted the women eat in the kitchen separate form the men. This turned out to be quite fun for me, we did lots of girl talk after our more serious conversations about her marriage her nightly prayer that god will take her husband because she could leave him but he would get to keep the children and she could not bear to leave her babies. We talked about the difficult of life when the water has to be treated before you can use it and how simple things like baby clothes are scares and very expensive. The sisters made me put on some traditional outfits and take photos; we laughed and had a lovely time together. Meanwhile Bill was stuck with the men who were smoking and speaking only Arabic, luckily for him the children found him to be amusing and he held them him lap and played games with them.
Our Hamas keepers kept calling and finally urged us to come back to the hotel. We met up with ‘Abd at the hotel, he had been waiting for us for a couple of hours, and on top of that we were his guests which h meant that we could not pay for any of the drinks we needed to have to sit in the there and talk with each other. ‘Abd\is the high school English teacher we met in the march. Both of his parents are university professors, he is bright and articulate and so interesting to talk with. After an hour or so of chit chat and talking about family and passing back and forth pictures we got to some more meaty subjects. We talked about prejudice and racism, and how now it is ok to have mixed marriage and that in the past it was forbidden and taboo, and while it is now OK in Gaza it is very unusual and he does not understand why a white woman would marry a black man, I must have looked aghast, because he became thoughtful; and he said, yet I know that we have talked about all of us being brothers and I am sure that there are black ,men that have good hearts so if a white woman agrees to marry a black man it must be for love of his heart. We ended up talking about the gay marriage fight in the USA and he said that there were no homosexuals at all in Gaza, we looked at him skeptically and he said that well maybe there were some but of there were they were in hiding because they would be killed for it. Eventually we got the Israel Palestine problem and I have to say it was sobering and depressing, what he feels would be a reasonable solution to the problem is so far off form what any Isreali Jew would ever accept. I asked if he could make an estimate of the people in Gaza who hold similar beliefs to him, what percentage would be willing to compromise more and what percentage less. The end result of that conversation was that I was depressed. The road to peace in the region feeling impossibly long.

As so I remind myself that I came here to offer love, Friendship, beauty and hope. I carry back the message that 1.5 million people are being held in an open air prison without the ability to take care of themselves, they are reliant on the charity of others to survive and it is really just survival, it is not a life. This prison is bordered by Israel and Egypt. It is also very heavily funded by the USA. I am culpable.

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