When asked to introduce myself, I do not really know how to do it. I simply say “I am a Palestinian girl living in the Gaza strip” because that says it all. Being a Palestinian living in the Gaza strip means a lot; it means that this place will shape not only your life, but also who you are. Living in Gaza made me a dreamer, a seeker, a lover and a believer. Above all, it made me witness wars, siege and division.
I am finished now with the first year of my English-French literature BA. It is time for me to have a relaxing vacation. To be more specific, it is a Gazan vacation. A Gazan vacation is unlike any other vacation in the whole world. A Gazan vacation means that if you are planning to travel anywhere, you have to go through a long path of suffering troubles on borders and checkpoints. A Gazan vacation means that if you get an opportunity to travel for a conference to represent Palestine or merely for recreation, your visa will be denied.
My brother Majed Abu Salama received an internship opportunity in the USA with Al Jazeera International. He persisted to go to Rafah border for two weeks clinging with hope to travel. He also paid 700$ to get an Egyptian coordination. Unfortunately, all his efforts failed to facilitate his travel. He finally gave up on traveling to the USA as he has already missed one month from the internship waiting to cross Rafah borders. Even if he did, he would have to wait more time for his visa to be issued in Egypt.
You spend your vacation in Gaza under constant Israeli attacks, a typical life for a Palestinian in Gaza. Israel targets Gaza with no consideration to civilian houses. They murder and wound civilians, including children, women and the elderly, in the name of self-defense. In two weeks in June, Israeli warplanes dropped forty-one missiles murdering sixteen Palestinians; including four children, and injuring more than seventy. Therefore, you spend your vacation visiting funerals of martyrs who were killed by the Israeli offensive attacks.
A vacation in Gaza means that the only possible destination to run away from the reality is the beach. However, the beach became a dangerous place, and you may lose one of your family members there. Huda Ghalyeh witnessed the danger of Gaza beach while she was sitting with her family peacefully and enjoying the beautiful waves hugging Gaza shores. Her happiness was disrupted as Israeli navy shelled the beach. Huda Ghalyeh was the only survivor of her family due to the aggressive attack.
If you are a Palestinian in Gaza and plan to travel, your government will fill your path with as many obstacles as possible to make your journey difficult. My cousin Sarah Salibi was prevented by the Hamas government from passing through Erez checkpoint to go to the American Consulate in Jerusalem for her visa interview. Her only charge was that she participated in the youth movement demanding an end to the division between Fatah and Hamas in March 15, 2011.
A Gazan vacation means that you have to adapt to 8 hours a day without electricity. Imagine how unbearable your hot summer would be without power to turn on air-conditioning and fans. A Gazan vacation means that you may not find water to shower or drink during the summer. We have air-conditioning at home, but we barely use it due to power cuts. Moreover, I hate it when I return from university and do not find water to shower or when I find heaps of dirty unwashed dishes left in the kitchen due to water cuts.
Khalil Gibran said, “out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls.” That’s exactly the case with us. We, Palestinians, are exceptional and special in everything even in the way we spend our vacation. Despite everything we go through, Gaza residents still continue their lives with determination. They try to find the simplest ways to find happiness. This is how we Palestinians teach life!