Feb 23: The wrong way round

Sunset over Gaza sea, 6pm today

Sunset over Gaza sea, 6pm today

Today is the second day I have gone to spend the hour before sunset on a small pier that juts into the waves of the silver Gaza sea. Small lights bob from fishing boats brave or desperate enough to brave the gunboats. To my right is the crumbled concrete of the port. To my left and behind is the crumpled concrete of the government buildings whose destruction made my apartment shake on December 27. I turn up Ani Di Franco’s Swan Dive very loud.

Everyone was talking today about the deafening noise of the F16s flying low over us this morning, in Rafah as well as here, so maybe all over the Gaza strip. Netanyahu saying hello, people were joking. A, from the Israeli Campaign to End Housing Demolition, was texting me yesterday to recommend black humour as an antidote to self-pity. It occurred to me that I don’t know how to tell the difference between self-pity and healthy sadness. I tend to suspect most forms of sadness or depression of being self-pity. It’s impossible to feel any kind of sadness yourself here without thinking of the thousands of bereaved parents and children, and how irrelevant and self-indulgent your own emotions are. Of course that doesn’t make you feel better, just guilty.

I can’t even feel sad with proper content. Ask me what I’m feeling sad about, I’ll not be able to tell you anything in particular. It’s a real and incapacitating feeling, because it makes it hard to do anything but creep back into bed where you can pretend nothing can get you (except F16s and tanks, which got many people in their beds in January). But it’s missing its subject. Am I feeling sad about the aforementioned dead children? Specifically the ones in my ambulance? Probably. At a guess.

Give me content to concentrate on, and immediately there is an accessible feeling: not sadness, but horror. If I am thinking of the realities of life here, I just can’t get past blank horror. Did you see the picture of the baby (the video clip keeps being taken down) that was first burned and then had its legs chewed off by dogs during the Gaza attacks, perhaps the same Israeli army dogs that attacked a bedridden 100 year old man during Israel’s incursion into the West Bank this week? The ambulance men holding the baby, they are two of our friends from Jabalia Red Crescent. What kind of dreams do they have at night?

What do we do? You tell me. I don’t know. You think I’m doing something, but right now, I’m not. I’m stuck in the fallout of January, and I’m not particularly useful. I know you as my readers don’t mind. I know even my donors don’t mind. I know just continuing to be an international in the area, when attacks might start again anytime – what am I saying, they haven’t stopped – might increase anytime, is enough. I know I am getting the occasional useful report written, and I am making locals happy by drinking tea with them, which says nothing about me and everything about how much Palestinians delight in visitors.

I know people will email and say it’s ok, and that I sound like I maybe have post traumatic stress disorder. I think I’ve had that for years, I probably wouldn’t know where I was without it. And alongside 1.5 million people who probably have had it for years too, I feel at home. But we’re still shouting at each other and crying for none of the real reasons and then reverting to blank, numb horror.

And we’re still going out farming tomorrow, in Khoza’a this time, which we heard had a visit from Israeli tanks on last Friday. And, on Wednesday, six of my group are beginning First Responder Medic Training in the Palestinian Red Crescent Training Institute in Khan Younis, 3 days a week. At the training institute they have one of those training dummies you can practice resuscitation on. His limbs move bonelessly, you can fold his legs back on themselves and pack him into a suitcase. EJ and I looked at him, then looked at each other, thinking the same two things:

1. We seem to be doing this the wrong way round, starting with the real people and moving onto the pretend people.
2. We had real people in our ambulances whose legs did that.

I am trying to do the right things. I am listening to music, and playing guitar, and today we went to dance dubke (and I spent the whole class feeling extremely angry about the steps I couldn’t get, see what I mean about all the emotions being in the wrong place!) and tomorrow E and I might manage to set ourselves up a karate class, which I think could either be a very good thing or a very bad thing, we will see. And I smoke shisha every day (sorry Nav) because I can always blame the phosphorous gas for cancer now, and it brings me the small amount of peace that I am very hungry for, but that is not to be found anywhere in this broken place.

I mean to tell you a little while ago that it looks like 6 year old Saja’s gunshot wound is doing ok and won’t need further treatment. We almost have the Paypal account ready to go, so I was wondering if people would like to donate money to go towards Saja’s dad Amer buying a new delivery truck, to replace the one Israel destroyed when they destroyed Saja’s house, along with her grandfather and baby sister. Amer still has 3 kids to support. Some donations have already been given to me without specified uses, so they could start the fund…

There go those F16s again, frightening a thousand small children awake.

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3 Responses to Feb 23: The wrong way round

  1. Mae says:

    PTSD? No idea. I am no psychiatrist and you all have been through things I can’t even imagine. What I have read about and seen (yes, that poor wee mite, too) has been haunting my dreams for weeks now, so I have no idea how you cope with experiencing it first hand – but you are still sane enough to write a coherent, deeply moving post. I am deeply sorry I can’t help you; I wish I could take your pain and that of the Gazans away…

    When the disconnect between the Israeli spokespeople and the carnage shown on the BBC became so obvious I had to question the official narrative, it was your blog I started reading, from your old posts (the Xmas service was a good one) to the recent ones, esp the posts about the families and children you met, about the medics, about the shelling of the hospital. Even now, I come back every day and your blog helps me understand that the oppression goes on every day – the farmers, the fishermen, the blockade…

    The world media has largely moved on and if it wasn’t for blogs like yours we would be unlikely to know just how unbearable it is to be under occupation every single day. Even though you feel terrible, as long as you can keep bearing witness and showing that there are those in this world who care about their plight, you are helping the Palestinians.

    Through your blog I have also come to admire them, their steadfastness, kindness and hospitality come through very clearly. It has completely negated the (Western) media image of a brutal, vengeful, irrational people.

    I hope you might find a little comfort in knowing that the Palestinians have one more friend in this world thanks to you. Be as strong as you must and as weak as you can, and know that I am keeping you and the Palestinians in my heart.

  2. Friend says:

    > Be as strong as you must and as weak as you can,
    > and know that I am keeping you and the Palestinians
    > in my heart.
    Echoed x infinity.

    Your kind words made me cry, thanks for helping me feel along with the blogger

  3. lily says:

    thank you. please continue to look after yourself and each other. xx

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