Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Safa's notion of a calm day in Gaza

Even from Jerusalem, a two hour drive away, the contrails of F-16 jets were etched in the crystalline blue sky this morning and looked ominous. When Safa was able to get online briefly in Gaza, she got annoyed and dismayed by some vicious hate e-mail, yet now wants her family surname noted in public as a byline. After all, Safa Joudeh recently was tele-interviewed by CNN and is an aspiring journalist. This articulate twenty-something Palestinian woman continues to share the view of the conflict in Gaza City from her family's apartment with Israelity Bites and a growing band of admirers. Read her post below:

I woke up to the smell of freshly baked bread, at around noon today. I stay up most of the night and catch a few hours sleep after the sun rises.

The house was freezing cold, as it has been for the past few weeks. I put on a number of heavy sweaters and a robe and wrapped a scarf around my neck, readying myself for yet another day if incessant drones and constant nearby explosions.

My mother has taken to making homemade bread the last ten days. Thanks her careful management of the small amount of cooking gas we have, and to her idea of buying a gas oven in anticipation of an Israeli invasion only days before the attacks began, she is able to bake occasionally. Furthermore, we had found a store with its doors partially open in our area a couple of days ago and were able to stock up on flour.

Having lunched with my younger siblings and my parents on bread, cheese, eggs and some leftover pasta, we all went out onto the balcony, and what a beautiful sunny day it was! The iciness had dissipated somewhat with the early day sun, the few trees outside were green and luminous and birds were singing!

We all stood for about half an hour, looking out through the metal railings like caged birds. We could hear an occasional explosion in the distance but that did not deter us from standing there breathing in the fresh air we so longed for.

It was time for the daily chores. My 3 brothers took 3 containers downstairs, where the residents of the 14 floor building we live in crowded around a small tap that had running water. Luckily we are on the second floor, most of the others had the task of walking up and down the stairs. All of our area has been without water for about a week. When they got back me and my sister poured some of the water into pails in the bathrooms and in the kitchen, and tried to tidy up the house as much as we could.

My father, a physician whose medical center is located on the ground floor of our building, went down to see a few cases. During this time his patients try to keep in touch with him via phone only, but some emergency cases manage to make it to his clinic.

The first few days of the attack we were all glued to the radio, but for the past few days, being confined to our home, we have begun to become restless and agitated. I have started to read again, and write using a paper and a pen instead of my laptop, then type up my writing when I'm able to. My brothers are spending time with the neighbors kids inside our building and my sisters try to keep the phone occupied for as long as possible (very inconvenient) . We have also began to spend a lot of time together, and value each other as people, friends and companions instead of just family.

Later that evening we all gathered around are television, after turning on the power generator, which we do for only an hour a day, due to the extreme shortage of fuel. Today was different however. There was non of the usual excitement, the rushing to charge cell phones and check emails, the flipping between TV channels… The atmosphere in our home, which had come close to being gay earlier in the day, was somewhat downcast and gloomy. We all understood what the other felt, we had lead the exact same life for the past 11 days, we had grown into the exact same state of mind, and we were experiencing the exact same emotions. Instinctively, and by the collective mentality of a people living under tyranny, not to mention the feelings communicated by family and friends, and the surprisingly similar courses of speech and action we knew that the state we were in was reflective of every single household in the entire strip at the moment.

It was a state of unease, a state of nervousness, disquiet, dissatisfaction and need to experience life again. It was a state that made you feel lost in limbo and wandering if the real world ever existed. It was a state of wanting to be anywhere but here, wishing that the clock would turn back and things were as they had once been before. It was a state of missing your school, your friend who you will never see again, your office that had been destroyed and the corner store that has been turned into a pile of rubble.

My mother looked at us all and, in a soothing and understanding voice said "its ok, at least we have our home, at least we're together, at least we're safe".

"But what does that mean if you're entire life has been taken away from you" asked my 12 year old brother.

At that moment a news report was telling the story of the the Samouni family in Alzatoon area of Gaza city. 60 people living in one large building. Several families, brothers, their cousins their children and their nephews and nieces, their elderly parents. 60 people. Israeli tanks entered Alzatoon last night and called on the family to stay within the building through microphones after posting a tank outside their front door. 60 people in the house. Israel proceeded to bomb the house, striking it through artillery fire. At least half of the 60 people died, the rest were seriously injured. One young man who had survived was sobbing hysterically as he lay in the hospital bed and the camera rolled.

I looked at my younger brother, I admit I was a little hard on the young boy but I couldn't help saying somewhat distastefully, "that's what it means"

That morning our relatives had left in order to clean out the rubble from their home and try to make it as habitable as possible. We worried for them, but the activity on the street told us people were ready to resume their lives, at least partially, despite the ongoing offensive against the city and its people.

Cross-posted on La Repubblica

Here are some typical Gazans who, as refugees, live in more crowded quarters than Safa's family and don't have the means for a kitchen bread-baking session. They risk their lives to line up in the street for bread outside a bakery in the Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images for CARE International)


Anonymous said...

It is becoming quite obvious after reading some of these "Safa" posts that "Safa" is this fictionalized character that the Blogger has made up.

Izzy Bee said...

Ms Safah Joudeh is very much alive, at least for the time being, and not a figment of any blogger's imagination.

In fact, you can listen to a podcast on on the ground in Gaza, talking about the extent of the damage so far;

"01:00 Israel's Genocide Against Palestinians in Gaza
Sameh Habeeb, freelance journalist, humanitarian aid worker –
Dr. Haidar Eid, professor at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza City
Mohammed Ali, humanitarian aid coordinator for OXFAM
Safa Joudeh, blogger and journalist"

She was interviewed by CNN as well, and the Italian daily La Repubblica
ran the diary above.

Anon, why not get a name and drop you grudges. Truth often is harsher than fiction

Um Tareq said...

Inshallah, Safa will survive this assault and be with us to write for a very very long time. We need voices like hers.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling that one of her brothers is going to die soon as that would add to the drama of her accounts.

I don't know if it will be that one who was making that "electric car" that was going to free the world from fossil fuels (but those damn Israelis destroyed that chance for the world) or if it is going to be the 12 year old.

I would think that the 12 year old would be more dramatic.

Anonymous said...

The story also has a sister in it.

Perhaps that would even be more dramatic as females make for even more sympathetic victims than males for some reason.

It should be while she was doing something innocent and beautiful like perhaps trying to save a cat or something like that.

Anonymous said...

Though right now the writer is foreshadowing the 12 year old brother.

Nappy said...

I just saw "Anonymous"'s post from 2 months ago questioning Safa's actual existence...& I just want you to know that she is real,I have had many great encounters w/her when she lived in New York(before returning to Gaza in 2007),I just finished reading an email she wrote me yesterday,AND she is now a contributing writer for TIME Magazine!! So...Mr.Anonymous(I'm assuming you're a guy,because of your ignorance),you were very wrong. And even though this reply is late,I didn't want your stupidity to go unanswered. Viva Safa Joudeh & all the people of Gaza!