living amongst the dead I

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

it was the first day of ramadan and after a week in gaza, everyone was starting to show weaknesses. half of the convoy was fasting and fasting in palestine appeared to be a challenge for many. it was very hot, 31Âșc most days, and the lack of sleep added to the lack of food and water had reduced part of the group to stay in their room and sleep until nighttime would come and relieve everyone from the heat. 

the muslim members of the group were not the only ones struggling, we were all exhausted from the past eight days including myself. i stayed in bed that morning longer than i would normally do as i had the flu. when i came up on the seventh floor of the building at midday, but only about ten of us find the strength to work. the truth was we were all feeling pretty rough as the week that had gone by had been intense both physically and emotionally.

i finished working on my video with harry the night before so i started working on another project. later in the afternoon, we travelled to two cemeteries which struck me by their contrast.

the first one was a clean and perfectly maintained cemetery, gaza war cemetery, a place of heaven in a war-torn city. the cemetery is financed by european countries in honour of the palestinians who fought during the first and second world wars.

the memorial was located at the end of a conifer tree-lined avenue. the perfectly aligned rectangular grave stones looked similar to the ones you can find in the war cemeteries of normandy, in the north east of france. the place carried the same feeling of peace and respect for those who fell in combat.

we then drove to a second cemetery where we visited two families. this time, there was no tree-lined avenue, no gate, no green grass. the rubbish replaced the flowers and its putrifying smell was asphyxiating. 

some of the poorest families in gaza settled in this place after they were displaced from their homes during the nakba. they share what resembled houses with up to 20 members of their families as well as  animals for some of them including horses, sheep, goats, chicken and ducks, living in terrible conditions. on the ground outside one of the home laid a children's book from the unwra. on the walls by the staircase of another of the houses, the arabic alphabet was written beside the english alphabet. children here don't have much access to education apart from the one provided by the UN. 

that night, i fell asleep to the sound of the prayers from the nearby mosque, wishing in my prayers ramadan kareem to the palestinian people who welcomed me on their land and hoping we could visit again and spend more time with the families living there.


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