Friday, January 14, 2011 at 8:40AM Gilad Atzmon
Although I'm not a fervent advocate of using technology in every aspect of our lives, I have chosen to open my laptop and type this piece instead of writing it in my notebook first, just for a change, and may be to please my ears with the clicking sound of my fingers striking the keyboard. I guess this shows that I'm in continuous pursuit for change even in the tiny aspects of life. Change; something referred to as being healthy nowadays is, by all means, a vital part of life for all those living in the tremendously stressful life of the 21st Century.
Seeking this change from the ordinary and mundane schedule of mine here in Gaza, I chose to go downtown today, a place where I seldom go and to amuse myself with just walking around and examining the faces of the people and what life looks like in that part of town. Downtown Gaza is a place where the majority of the population of Gaza shops. It's lined up with stores on both sides situated on a fairly narrow street, as well as small vending huts where one can find almost anything. As I treaded up and down the street, I held my hand over my nose as I passed the rows of power generators placed in front of literally every store. Their roaring and screeching makes you feel as if they are somehow venting their anger at you. No sooner did I put my hand down when I suddenly felt a gush of fuel combustion hit my face making me choke. My mind suddenly tries to picture the days when the only mean of transport available were horse drawn carriages. Although our streets are full of donkey and horse- pulIed carts today, there are still outnumbered by the monstrous vehicles and you won't find anyone wishing they owned one. "I wish these nasty vehicles would just disappear and be replaced with primitive carriages", I thought to myself. I would get one of my own and take care of my horse as if it were one of my children. The fresh air, the sound of horses trotting along, oh how peaceful it would be indeed! I could easily breathe fresh air and relieve myself. It's so ironic, I thought to myself, we tell ourselves: " I need to go out to get some fresh air", but from what I'm smelling as I walk up and down the streets here, I'm convinced that I need to by a pack of medical masks to protect my lungs.
My imagination was spurred at that moment and more images appeared before me. I'd buy a cow and drink from her fresh milk every morning. I'd buy chickens and ducks and a dog to guard them. I'd let my kids fetch the chicken eggs without screaming hell if they got dirt on their clothes.
The dozens of shops displaying all sorts of items failed to lure me into buying anything except for the item which I especially came for. I felt a vacuum; an emptiness inside which could not be fulfilled by merely buying and possessing items. So instead, I walked a long way to a bookstore, a place which gives me a sense of freedom, enlightens my mind and uplifts my soul. Reading, the only daily pastime of mine which takes me to faraway places. I see myself beyond the deep oceans and soaring high into the skies above, may be flying with the migrating birds. How lucky those birds are for possessing the freedom to fly away from the earthly life of human beings. The siege may imprison our bodies, but I must learn to discover the world where my mind lives. My soul will not be crushed when I'm denied material needs, for the soul is a lofty being which can enrapture my own spirit.
Over sixty years of hardships and abominable suffering of my people cannot in any way be underestimated and deemed as sixty years of failure. If the people of Palestine had minds only accustomed to physical and mortal needs, they would have been dead and defeated long ago. But, it is the life of the mind and soul which keeps them going, holding on to their rights no matter how long the path to freedom is.
Interpreter and Writer
Photo: Sameh Habeeb