the al qassam brigade

Sunday, 14 July 2013

on our way to visit the former site of the international airport near rafah, we bumped into an al qassam brigade demonstration. i had never been this close to this many armed soldiers before. i ran out of the bus and stood by a group of kids, right on the pavement by the soldiers, capturing what i could. no harm was intended, this kind of demonstration aims to secure the support of the public and shows the ability to protect the people; and this experience has made a lasting impression upon me and will be one of the most groundbreaking moments of my time in gaza.

we went on the ground of the former international airport. our moves were limited as many explosive ordnances were yet to blow up. 

as we drove away from what remained of the airport, i stayed at the back of the bus, away from the group, thinking about what i had just witnessed; but i wasn't alone. wallid, one of our translator, was sitting next to me. he looked through the window, lost in his thoughts. i engaged the conservation as i could feel these thoughts were far from happy ones. he told me how he comes here sometimes to escape. he drives his motorbike around, and gets as close to freedom as he can. 

he explained to me how he used to watch the planes as a child and how, for him, a country without an airport is not a country. 

more than just a point of exit, the airport was a symbol: a symbol of freedom, something that gave the palestinians a little bit of hope. but that hope ended up crushed like any sparks of it by the israelis.

he told me about resistance. never looking in my eyes but talking to me like he could talk through me and reach out, so people could understand about his suffering and the suffering of his people, understand about the siege and how this war is unfair. 

he told me how a mother waving at her child goodbye to school was resisting, how children playing were resisting, how life carrying on was resistance and even though palestinians might not win in the end, that was the best they could do to be faithful to their rights and their country.

later on, i found that i share the exact same birthday as wallid. it is something surreal to think how different our lives are. he is stuck in gaza with very limited freedom of movement living under siege, he has small job prospects, has worked in the tunnels when he was younger and is currently looking for a wife. on the other hand, i have lived in three different countries in the past five years, i share my life with my loving boyfriend jack, and i am about to start my final year at university. there is a world between us.


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