Here again are the children of our Jabalia friends, one of the many lovely families I spent last week saying goodbye to. The wheelchair belongs, not to any of the kids thank goodness, but to the father of the oldest boy, who lacks both legs, yet continues to tackle life with humour and enthusiasm. It made me smile to watch them use the chair for their games. But it reminded me of something I saw recently; two young friends, boys of about 12, going down the street side by side. One was on his bike, the other in his motorised wheelchair. This is Gaza.
I tried to give people short notice of my last visits, in the hope of avoiding gifts. But you can’t stop Palestinians giving you things, because if they didn’t (or can’t afford to) buy something for you, then they will raid their own belongings for something they think you might like. Last week this included a fancy bra, which I was instructed to quickly hide before the menfolk came back into the room! But most valuable to me are the many dear friends who quietly announced themselves to be my brother or my sister, only waiting the chance to help me with anything I might need in life.
Something I particularly felt proud of was my last tea-drinking with my Tai Kwon Do teacher. He speaks almost no English, and our mutual friend S (who does) and my classmate E generally are the conduit between us for easy chatting. Neither of them could make our last meeting, and my teacher and I later admitted to uneasiness about facing an hour of communication by ourselves. But we were proud of how great we did! I can talk Arabic now – ok, not loads, and no doubt my conversation contains a lot of nonsense and some appalling grammar, but I can communicate, and I’m so happy about that.
I am writing from a Cairo cafe. The cars run the place here, and it’s all a little overwhelming. My ISM colleagues still in Gaza tell me that yesterday Israel kidnapped four more Gaza fishermen and stole two more fishing boats. In my next post, I will write something for you about the crazy place that is the Rafah border crossing… (so don’t start missing me yet, A.Vawda!)
Here above is the smallest one of the family. You first met her sheltering from the Israeli air bombardment in the basement, at just a month old. She’s becoming a real little person. And two more babies are on the way…