Gaza Dispatch: Leaving
I always feel a sort of melancholy at the end of a long trip. But tonight, my last in Gaza, feels different than those other last nights. This is because leaving Gaza is a privilege afforded to very few. For all the anxiety of crossing Erez back and forth – the gathering of permits and press credentials, the long waits at security checks, the uncertain openings and closings – no Palestinian resident of Gaza can step so lightly across the line. This may be the greatest injustice of this place and it saddens me more than anything.
When my residency at the Palestine Writing Workshop ended in 2012, I wrote a post about all things I would miss about my time in the West Bank. This is what I will miss about Gaza:
I will miss the free-range children. I will miss the wedding bands who play every night from the back of moving flat bed trucks. I will miss buying pomegranates from donkey carts. I will miss the deserted November beaches – too cold for Gazans but just fine for Canadians. I will miss my fixers (and friends) Lara and Nedal who had little in common aside from their enthusiasm to reveal the truths and contradictions of this incredible place. I will miss the dill seed and chili. I will miss those impossible green-amber eyes. I will miss my man at Karawan Café who, after only my first visit, brought me my coffee and waterpipe without my having to order; being treated like a regular when far from home is a gift. I will miss Haneen, her musical children, her charming mother, and the chef who lives next door to her. I will miss sitting under orange trees and smelling sage in every cup of tea. I will miss the coffee at Mazaj and the falafel sandwiches from my falafel guy up the street. Everyone needs a falafel guy. I will miss sunset sheesha on the seashore at Baqa Café. I will miss how simply making eye-contact with another man, friend or stranger, results in a salam aleikum. I will miss the graffiti that announces engagements, graduations, or the birth of a child. I will especially miss the authors and poets, the women most of all, who transform longing and trauma into art. This is Gazan alchemy.