Saturday, July 22, 2006

life in wartime


Laila El-Haddad calls her blog "Raising Yousuf: a diary of a mother under occupation." She's Palestinian and lives in Gaza. She's lately been to the US and has appeared on NPR. Her blog puts a face on the events we've grown used to reading about and watching on TV, including the events unfolding in Lebanon right now. It also shows in the everyday details of family life, the impossible reality of the politics of the Middle East, the pure whackness of basing anything on the unapologetic desire to see whole other nations, cultures, people simply go away and never come back. That's the path that always ends in border security walls, ethnic cleansing and final solutions, and that makes routine family life-- ie, life-- impossible.

Here's an excerpt:

Things are bad in Gaza. Very bad. Not to mention of course in Lebanon, where Yassine's family lives, in the Wavel refugee camp in Baalbeck, a Hezbollah stronghold.

They, of course, along with all of Lebanon, are blockaded by an air and sea, so Yassine has sort of become a double-refugee now: he can go back neither to Palestine, nor Lebanon. It brings back very bad memories for him, having grown up during the civil war there, and narrowly escaping mass slaughter at the hands of Syrian-backed, Israeli-advised, Phalangists in the Tel Zaatar camp, where his family originally lived, and where his uncle went missing.

Of course, what's happening in Lebanon provides some uncertain relief for Gaza residents, where 82 Palestinians have been killed in the past 12 days, 22 of them children.

I was finally able to reach my Aunt who is doing an amazing job updating her blog under such duress, and who recently published an op-ed about the situation in the Boston Globe. She was dazed and anxious, but had her wits about her. They had not gotten electricity in 24 hours when I spoke to her; people have been standing in long lines to purchase candles.

And of course, Rafh is still closed; 8 people have died waiting to get home. Egypt, following Israeli orders, is refusing to open the gates.

The nights are turning into days, and days into nights, as the sonic booming shocks them awake, shattering windows and terrorizing the population. The stress is taking its toll, but to quote my Aunt, though they are not living with ease, they are living with resolve.

Medicines are also running dangerously low. And to add to the misery, Israeli tanks have blockaded northern Gaza-- where my Aunt lives, and where our house is-- from southern Gaza-- where my 84 year old grandmother lives on her own.

I think of them every day. I still cringe when I see news helicopters; or fireworks; or thunder; Today we had a thunderstorm, and the thunder was so loud it scared Yousuf, who thought it was gunfire and shelling, as I tried to assure him he was safe. But I wondered, inside of myself, does safe have an address?

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