A few weeks ago, the sun was still warm, and although it was November, we could still go down to the beach. The water was warm and gentle. And as you may know, here, the beach is everywhere, and this is one of the most beautiful things in Gaza. Wherever you are in the city, it’s a 10-minute drive to the beach.
I was preparing for my classes at the school next to Salah al-Din Road. I don’t know if you know of this street, but it's like a main highway here. It connects Gaza all the way from north to south.
Anyway, I was planning some exercises for tomorrow's theater class. I usually give theater classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The kids will be performing before the Christmas holidays and they are super excited.
I was thinking of starting the class with some breathing exercises, and then playing hide and seek as a sort of warm up, before letting them improvise. Children are talented creatures; they can sense the tiniest of emotions and, as usual, it won't be long before they begin to come up with the weirdest ideas.
In any case, the weather was great and I was tempted to go to the beach. So, I paused my desk work and drove towards the beach. I don't know – I don't know, it just felt like a “no-rush day” today. I drove very slowly, to enjoy the scenery around me. The car window was open… the warm breeze was gentle on my face. It’s a damn good day today.
I drive by Al-Shifa hospital. I don’t know if you've heard of it, it's this huge medical complex. Something to take pride in here in Gaza; highly experienced doctors, advanced equipment. They say whoever is admitted there will surely leave alive… right?
I drive by Al-Shifa hospital. I don’t know if you've heard of it, it's this huge medical complex. Something to be proud of here in Gaza. Highly experienced doctors, advanced equipment. They say whoever is admitted there will surely leave alive.
I suddenly heard an ambulance siren coming from behind, so I parked on the left of the road to let traffic pass, and stayed parked to see what was the problem. I hoped it wasn't serious, like a car crash or something. I usually don’t like to see such images of people injured from accidents. I am not one for blood and gore; I actually prefer not to watch horror or action films. The violence is too much for me, comedy is more my speed.
Anyway the ambulance stops. Damn this curiosity that we Arabs have. I needed to know what was going on. I thought of sneaking a peek, and at the slightest glimpse of blood, I'd just leave. So here I am, as I look on with hesitation, my hands gripping the steering wheel. They start sweating a little. The ambulance parks next to the ER entrance, two paramedics come out rushing from the front and open the back door of the ambulance. They pull out someone. I contemplate whether to look or move on. “Yalla,” I tell myself, “just a few seconds and you will know.” And as they pull out the stretcher, it turns out to be a pregnant lady being admitted to the hospital.
I breathe out a sigh, phew, I guess this is one of the few times where a trip to the hospital actually brings good news.
I look towards the waves, the blue sky, the horizon, where the sky meets the water and close my eyes. I drift away with the sound of the waves. Such a serene moment. It feels like heaven.. Then I wonder if it just feels like heaven or if this really is heaven?
Hopefully it will be an easy birth. I am sure Bisan will make a video out of it and share it on Instagram within the hour. Have you heard of Bisan?
Bisan is this Instagram influencer from al-Rimal. She is a talented storyteller, capable of transforming any event in Gaza into a beautiful Instagram post. I am sure that in a few moments, she will be rushing to the hospital to start an Instagram Live and interview the screaming pregnant lady. On her page, you will see many similar posts, her instagram is a daily memoir of the city.
Anyway, time to keep driving.
I make it to the Al-Rashid highway. From there, the view of the seaside is captivating. The sight of the horizon gets me every time: it’s like a meeting between heaven and earth.
I don't know if I believe in heaven anymore; I only know of earth and water.
As you may know, the beach is everywhere here, and this is one of the most beautiful things in Gaza. Wherever you are in the city, it’s a 10-minute drive to the beach.
I park next to the beach, which is filled with children and their mothers, and an endless number of kites. I think Gaza could win the Guinness record for the largest number of kites. Not sure why everyone over here finds them so fascinating.
After finding the right spot on the beach, I take off my white shirt and gray pants. Today felt like a good day for wearing light colors, even though I know they can get stained fast. I know I'm clumsy, and I'd spill some coffee onto my shirt. I already have my swimming shorts on under my clothes. That's a thing for people who live by the sea; they always have swim shorts at the ready.
I sit there, in my perfect spot next to the water. On my right, a 4-year-old girl is building what should have been a sandcastle. Well I can tell you it is not the most geometrically aligned one, but she is only four and can barely lift the sand bucket and flip it. She makes these sounds while building it. You know, those noises? The ones that seem like a child is having a long and deep conversation, but without a single intelligible word.
It is unbelievable how all children are the same.
See, when a two-ton bomb gets dropped on you, your perception of space gets a bit hazy. I am not sure what happened. Am I in heaven or am I still on earth? It is suspiciously quiet though, it’s too serene, too warm, too boring. Something is not right..
I look away towards the waves, the blue sky, the blue sky, the horizon, where the sky meets the water, and I close my eyes. I drift away with the sound of the waves. Such a serene moment. It feels like heaven.
Then I wonder if it feels like heaven or if this actually is heaven?
See, when a two-ton bomb gets dropped on you, your perception of space gets a bit hazy.
I didn't feel anything, it was quick and sudden. My body disappeared in less than a second. I am not sure what happened, but what I am sure of is that I no longer know where I am. Am I in heaven or am I still on earth? It is suspiciously quiet though: too serene, too warm and too boring. Something is not right.
Honestly, it doesn't matter, the sun is warm over here, Gaza is safe over here, the children are safe, the women and the men are safe. Here we are free from the free world. Here, nothing will happen to us ever again. No more harm can be done.
I breathe in and breath out, to release all this overthinking and be in the here and the now.
I’ll just lay here on the beach, my eyes closed, while the 4-year-old child builds her wonky sandcastle.
From time to time, I'll open my eyes to look at the beautiful horizon.
It feels like the right thing to do.
What more could I possibly want?
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