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Friday, July 07, 2006

 

Today You Will Read About the Horror

From Lama Hourani, Gaza, (Co-ordinator of the Palestinian Working Women Society for Development)

I began an hour ago to write something to explain why my previous piece seemed as if everything were normal. Then the news came one by one.

Today you will read about the horror.

Hanan, a field educator in our organization, lives in the northern area of Gaza City. A beautiful, happy, funny lady, who loves to imitate people, which she does very well. A lady, who makes you laugh in the most terrible times. Hanan is a lady with great pride. She is a refugee from Al Khisas, a village in Al Majdal, which is now in the southern part of Israel. Her parents, like many other Palestinians, fled in 1948 to the Gaza Strip. Hanan was born in Gaza in 1967, married Ali in 1985, after his liberation from an Israeli jail, in which he spent 14 years (he was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released in an exchange of prisoners for the bodies of Israelis between a PLO faction and Israel). They have now four beautiful kids: Maisa, 20, Rima, 18, Muhammed, 16, and Wisam, 12.

Hanan has been working in NGOs since 1999. Ali was working in UNRWA after his release from prison until the foundation of the Palestinian Authority, after which he started working in one of its security forces. They were living in a small house in the Twam area at the north of Gaza City. They could save some funds from their work, added to the pension Ali took from UNRWA when he left it and were able to buy the house. Then, with some savings and loans, they could buy a plot of land more to the north. Later, they decided to sell the house they lived in and build a two story house on the land they had bought. They left half of the land to be planted with different kinds of fruit trees. Figs, grapes, Jummase (a special Palestinian tree) and some vegetables and olive trees. Ali and Hanan had to take loans to build this house and furnish it and they are still paying. During that time the children grew up and Maisa is now in the university.

After finishing the building we had two nice parties in their house. We went twice for a barbecue in the garden. It is a very nice garden, which Ali spends most of his time taking care of. Since the international sanctions imposed on the Authority Ali does not get a salary, but Hanan is working and they are trying to manage all the expenses, the loans and the bills with one salary. Ali could receive 300 $ from the Authority last week. Hanan's sister in Amman sent her 300 Jordanian Dinars two days ago. She was very happy yesterday that this month they have enough money made up of three currencies: Israeli Shekels, Jordanian Dinars and US$ to make the kids enjoy the summer holidays. She was making jokes all the day, as usual about the bank she has in her pocket.

When I woke up in this morning I heard that the Israeli tanks were near her house, so I called her and told her not to come to work. She said, “I am getting dressed. Don’t worry, Lama. They are one kilometer from our house. We all O.K. I will come. Besides, Maisa has an examination at the university so she has already left and I don’t want her to be alone in Gaza so I will come and wait for her to finish the exam and take her back home.”

When I came to work half an hour later Hanan called and said, “The Israeli tanks are near my house. I can't come.”

Around 9 .00 a.m. Hanan called and said, “The tanks are destroying our garden, all of the trees and everything. We are all sitting in the basement.” We could hear the sound of the tanks and the shooting. She asked us to call Maisa when she finished the exam and tell her to go to her uncle's house. The line was interrupted.

Four days ago, Hanan came with two acinuses of green grapes. She said, “You always ask me about them, Lama. I know you cook them with grape leaves and Raghda (a volunteer in our work) likes to eat them with salt. When she was talking on the phone about their garden I immediately told her: “Don't worry. I still have my acinus. I will give them to you to plant after they leave.”

Now the mobiles of both Hanan and Ali are closed for some reason. Maybe they didn’t have electricity yesterday in order to charge them.

At 11 a.m. Maisa called, crying, “Aunty Lama, what happened to my family? The land phone is not working and the mobiles are closed.” We calmed her down as much as we could and asked her to come to the office. She came and until now she doesn't know that their garden has been ruined.

All of this was going on while the funeral of yesterday's martyrs was passing by our office with all the shooting. The Apaches were shooting from their machine guns with a loud voice, the F16s were flying, and the no pilot planes, too. The electricity was going and coming. Still I had to take care of a volunteer in our office to make sure that she got home safely, in the south of Gaza City. I had to make sure where my husband was, like everybody in the office was making sure about the position of each member of the family. I asked the employees who live in the north to go to their families and stay with them.

I'm worried about Hanan and her family and I'm worried about everybody else living there now. Especially when I hear the news about the ambulances that are not allowed to go into the area, and that they are shooting at them and not allowing them to enter.

I hear also in the radio the people asking the ambulances to come and pick up a girl that was shot by the Israelis while she was filling water for her family. They don't know if she's alive or not. She's 15 years old. Her name is Muna. People are calling the radio stations, saying “What is going on? They have arrested all of the men. They took their mobiles and are shooting at anything moving.”

But still I'm working; I have to draft an appeal to the international community about the situation here. I have to write my quarterly report to my supervisor. Today is Thursday. Tomorrow our weekend begins and I will plan something to do outside the house with my friends.

Yes, don't be surprised! No matter what they do to us: bomb, destroy, kill, wound, cut electricity or water, whatever. We will not forget that we are still human beings and have the right to live normally under normal conditions. We have the right to love, make love, work, sleep, hate, eat, dance, and enjoy our lives. And all of this is proof that we are still here, living.

(Lama wrote after sending me this article that she called Hanan's neighbour, who said that there were two tanks in Hanan's garden and that the soldiers had entered their house and that was why they could not reach them. While Lama wrote this two were shot dead in the area.)

Lama

6-7-2006

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