24 December 2005

In Cairo...

We got through Rafah! At first they stopped us and I'm not sure what exactly got us through but I can tell you there was 2 swedish (EU) policemen, some phonecalls and many questions involved. We made it safely to Cairo and are now staying in a beautiful apartment with some relatives. After a few days we'll continue...

22 December 2005

Off we go...

In Gaza things never happen they way you plan them.

We're leaving already tomorrow. Early friday morning me, my three children and a cousin (a 30-year old big policeman - good travel company!) will set for Rafah with our four big bags. You might remember my last visit in Rafah, so you know I'm not looking forward to it. Of course, now things are completely different (so they say anyway). However, this crossing is now ONLY for holders of the palestinian ID "hawyia" so actually I'm not allowed to go through. We have spoken to the egyptian embassy and they said "no problem - she will pass", I've spoken to the swedsih embassy and they said "you might pass, you might not - give it a try!", some of my friends said "surely you will pass" some said "surely you wont pass". Needless to say I cannot sleep at night.

If I don't pass I will have to rearrange the whole trip to Erez and arrange for permission to go through there...

If I pass we will continue to Cairo (which will take us the whole day) and stay at a relative's house (the sister of my husband's sisters husband) until end of december when my flight will leave from Sharm el Sheikh (also another day's trip) in the evening, arrive at midnight in Frankfurt where my husband will meet up with us. We'll take the flight to Stockholm from there a few hours later and arrive in the morning. Somehow "InshaAllah" suits very well here.

So we have a loooong trip ahead of us.

Of course I will need to blog some last impressions later on. Thank you all for this wonderful time and as soon as possible I'll continue blogging!

A letter...

Today is Maryam & Amal's last day at their kindergarten. The teacher of Maryam wrote her this heartfelt letter;

In the name of Allah
Dear Maryam
I love you, your face and I love to see you smiling
Everyday, every morning, every moment I love you
Hope to you happy life with your family
I will miss you tooooooo much

21 December 2005


These last days have been filled with SHOPPING! Let's hope my husband doesn't read this post... Seriously, I cannot come home without some hidjabs for my friends and some for me, some abayas (oh, I found some really beautiful ones!) and some other things that you wont find in Sweden. It was also nice, now that I manage the art of going with a taxi in Gaza, to see some more of Gaza City on my own (well, of course I had my little man with me) and let me say I've had some interesting taxi-travels. One man insisted to know the name of the area I wanted to go to and all I knew was to say "I want to go to the end of this street", so then he gave me a whole lecture of the names of all the areas and as I went out of the taxi he explained what to say when going back, very thoughtful of him! I also manage by now the art of pressing prices, an art not easily obtained by europeans, let me tell you. First you start by asking how much it is, in you very best arabic. With hidjab and all I have been able to fool a few arabs. But then some make it all complicated and answer "basita" which is like "oh, it's nothing". It actually means "it's free" but they mean sort of "it's not that much", so even though you insist to know the price they want you to try it on first (if you're for example shopping for an abaya), knowing very well that once you've tried it on and it suits, you're stuck. Even though they do try to play me because I'm "ajnabyia" (foreigner) I've also tried to play them with the same fact; "Pleeeeaaase, give me a good price, I came all the way from Sweden!" An eye for an eye... Here's me shopping hidjabs.

Some images from Gaza streets.

After some serious shopping me and my son had a nice cup of green tea at Laila's house, talking about life in Gaza and of just being a mother. So nice to finally meet her! Here's our sons playing together.

20 December 2005

Blogotherapy: Lead her to a place...

Yesterday I went to the principal of my son's school to tell them that he's not coming back. Although it was an emotionally hard thing for me to do, because of the fact that Ibrahim did not like the school, it had to be done. Arriving in her office she started saying how very well behaved my son was compared to the other students who beat each other, and she showed me where in the face a boy had got kicked yesterday and how big of a scar he got and how much blood there had been. Then she made a face complaining about the noisy and cruel children she had in her school and told me that she wished they would all be quiet and kind like my son. Well, all I did was treat him like a little human and I didn't beat him.

Then we went to the schoolyard since the kids where having their break and Ibrahim wanted to say bye to some of his friends. Suddenly we were in the middle of fights and kicking, beating and pushing. Even though I was shocked by the EXTREME behaviour, I've learned by now that this is how children "play" here. All they ever see is violence, if not inside their family, so from TV or computergames or even just from above - airplanes in the air.

Once between all the kids, Ibrahim decided quickly that it was enough and he ran before me out the gate and stood there waiting for me (as you can see in the photo above).

For my faithful readers you know by now that the trend in my blogotherapy is music lyrics. This one describes very well how I've felt for a long time and which I'm now living by. It's by Celine Dion this time. Beautiful, beautiful.

as darkness falls each night
remind her where you are
every mother's prayer
every child knows
need to find a place
guide her with your grace
give her faith so she'll be safe
lead her to a place
guide her with your grace
to a place where she'll be safe

19 December 2005

Go see this...

Actually I found this blog at its begining, but then my computer suffered from a virus and the favorite-tag disappeared. This blog is the story of Bob, an american man who's teaching english in the West Bank. Beautiful photos, nice stories. Just read this post on the highly unusual event that a local ask him - the american - for directions...

"It was the first time, and it may have been the last: a Palestinian asked me for directions. The other day, as I was walking home in the dark and a van pulled up beside me. The driver rolled down the window and started as most conversations start here: “As-salam alaykum,” reaching his hand through the open window to shake mine. He was either desperately lost, or actually thought I was a Palestinian. In either case, he continued. I caught enough to realize he was asking for directions, but wasn’t sure where he wanted to go. I answered that I was a foreigner – “Ana ajnabee” – but that I would try to help. I pointed to the next thoroughfare and explained that it led to Beitouniya, a neighboring village to the west. That seemed to make them happy, and they thanked me and bid me farewell. I was stunned, but pleased. It was perhaps some small benchmark of my knowledge of Arabic, and of Ramallah.

Palestinian embroidery

I couldn't leave Gaza without buying some beautiful palestinian national embroidery.

P.S. I bet this woman doesn't know she's being blogged.

17 December 2005

Amal & Maryam's kindergarten

Today I went to bring my girls from the kindergarten and took some photos. This kindergarten holds a good standard and my girls are happily going there everyday. I also wrote about it here.


Here are some chosen parts from Laila's experience of the sleepless night;

"Just as my mother and I were chatting nonchalanatly, putting away the small plates of za'tar, olive oil, goat cheese, and persimmons, an enourmous explosion erupted following by the loud swoops of fighter jets-unlike ANYTHING I had ever heard- shaking our kitchen windows off the their hinges...the sound of Israeli fighter jets breaking the sound barrier over Gaza in a psychological war of terror.

I cannot begin to describe the sound except to say it penetrates into your very heart. Our whole building shook. I rand outside of the kitchen, fell down to the ground crying in hysterics, then screaming. My father woke up and held me tight, "its ok its ok", as my mother trying to calm me down. "what's happening, what's happening" I remember repeating hyserically. "We are being bombed, we are being bombed!"It is that feeling of uncertainty, of vulnerability and fear in the face of an unseen, seemingly formiddible force, of feeling that death is at your doorstep, that gets to you...that strikes morbid fear in your heart and soul.

I tried in vain to go to sleep after taking a benadryl. I brought Yousuf to sleep with me (who now, if asked what sound a plane makes, says "BOOM!"). Exactly at fajir call to prayer, it started again. Two more insane sonic booms. I cry now when I think of them. I can't get the near windows, I'm too afraid to be alone... I really dont' think anything I've witnessed here has had this kind of effect on me. Nothing.

I found this description by someone who has also experienced them: "You never get used to it if you're not prepared for the flypast. It's the scream of a thousand banshees which come immediately before the crash that unnerves. If you believe the aircraft is gonna attack, you're completely disorientated."

Read the posts here and here.

UPDATE: This particular night my children slept through most of the noice. When the first two hit, my daughter had just woke up and was luckily sitting in my knee. All you can do is hug her shaking little body and tell her that everything will be ok. Laila's description "it penetrates your very heart" is exactly how I have described it to my friends in Sweden. It feels like your heart is breaking.

It affects your mind (thereof the title "mindblowing"...), makes you do things totally out of character. The most scary thing is that IT MAKES YOU HATE. It makes you hate your life, you get depressed.

Laila's Yousuf now says "boom!" when asked how an airplane sounds. My 3 1/2 year old daughter asked me last time they dropped sonics on us, what it was that made that boom-sound? When I stumbled for words to explain, my 2 1/2 year old daughter filled in for me saying in arabic:

"Amal, hadha jahud!" - "Amal, it's the jews!"

Where's the hope in that?

16 December 2005

My lovestory is all over

I may have expressed some looove for Gaza in a recent post. Here's (some of the things) what woke me up again;

1. My son, who never is allowed to go out to play (too dangerous) spent some time just outside our building playing fotball with two neighbour-kids. So I thought. Being a few years older than him it turns out they took his fotball and kept playing between themselves while my son desperately tried to be a part of the game. He came home crying after a while. Kids here simply don't learn how to be compassionate.

2. Some days later he wanted to go with one of his friends from our bulding to a nearby park (the only playground in Gaza, I repeat, the ONLY one), that is just a few minutes walk from our home. I personally didn't allow him, but my son is soooooooo bored that he begged and begged, so I asked my realtives. Here's what they answered -"Oh no, there's two families in fued right now so they are outside shooting eachother and they might pass by the playground and start shooting." Nice, really nice.

3. Having only a short time left in Gaza I romatically thought that when my husband called me from Sweden and said -"Imaan, now that you have just a short time left please please please..." the sentence would finish something like "... please spend as much time as possible with my relatives", the sentence actually finished "... please listen (read obey) carefully to what my realtives advice you (there had been a question of how my children should spend their time that I took as interference and they considered as advice).

4. Another sleepless night. From Haaretz: "The Israel Air Force shelled Gaza Strip targets Friday in response to recent rocket fire from the Strip. Before dawn, IAF planes shelled 13 ground targets in the Gaza Strip that were used either as launching sites for Qassam rockets or paths leading to the sites."

1. Too unkind
2. Too dangerous
3. Too conservative
4. Too unsafe

Note to self: Don't live in Gaza

14 December 2005

A Jihad for Hajj

Once upon a time there was a sweet old lady,
palestinian origin but saw the world,
Kuwait and and the West.
One day she returned to the beloved homeland,
and growing old she wanted to preform the Hajj.
Seeing Mekka and Medina - oh what a joy!
They told her "yes, sure you will go!"
You will be one of the lucky ones who can go this year.
Then all of a sudden she got a "no".
She said "What the...! What is this?"
Are they lying to an old lady?
Disapointment. Anger. Sadness.
She took it she didn't have an important enough family name.
What has become of us?

A true story from Gaza.

PS. Jihad means effort.

Gaza images

All of these photos are taken just outside my house. In fact the photo just above shows my house.

12 December 2005

Eating falafel and blogging

I really don't know how to start... Perhaps I'll just get straight to the point.

I am going home. We are returning to Sweden. There is a million things I would like to tell you about why and what has been going on in my mind. But how can I?

Here are the main reasons: I am convinced that this invironment is not healthy (in any way) for children to grow up in. My children managed by living an isolated life between family and friends during this time and got to taste the positive things of living here. Getting to know their father's family and learning arabic (all my children are more or less fluent in arabic by now). Getting to know the palestinian culture and way of life will surely be a invaluable asset as they grow up and create their own individual characters.

We were supposed to stay one year. And then see. But the other reason that we are leaving, and leaving earlier, is that my son's school is not living up to their promises. He is not happy. Staying would change him in a negative way, not in a positive way.

Do you remeber this comment:

jd said...
You are a mother. Your responsibility is to grant your children the best and brightest future possible. Right now you are floundering and failing at your sacred duty as a mother. Something has eroded your maternal instinct and common sense - just look around you! How did you convince yourself to move there?
13 November, 2005 20:28

I would like to address it again. To some extent I agree with jd. To chose Gaza is not wise. And as I said in the beginning there is a million reasons for that. And what I am about to say now is not simply to defend myself, but to show another side to it.

Each person have a destiny. I married a palestinian man from Gaza. My children are half Gazans. Our family and our childrens identity needed this stay. We have learned immensly from it and have grow as a family and as individuals. We came here to try. We tried.

At this point we are enjoying our life. However that is possible only beacuse I have learned over the months that they only way to survive here is to close your eyes and ears (and nose) to the outside world. The world outside my window and the world outside Gaza. You have to become selfish. And I don't want to live my life like that. Seemes like for each good thing there is a bad thing, but also that for each bad thing there is another way to look at it. There is understanding.

At this point I LOVE GAZA, for better or for worse. I love that when I prepare breakfast in the morning my neighbour's birds are singing happily into my kitchen from my open balcony door. I love the noise and the sandy streets. I love the farmer coming to sell fruits and vegetables with his cart and donkey outside our building. I love the busy markets (yesterday I bought jeans to my girls for 10 shekels each (around 2 dollars)!). I love all the fantastic and creative ways the women wear hijab, niqab, abaya, jilbab. I love the men in muslim clothes and beard. I love the polite taxidriver who call me "sister" when I get in the taxi (that he drives like a lunatic is something else - as I said: for each good thing is a bad thing). I love my relatives tasty food. I love going down to my kind neigbour for arabic coffea. I love eating fresh, warm falafel-sandwich with salad in the morning, that my son bought for me from our street this morning for one shekel before he went to school, and eating it while I'm writing this post.

This makes me think of a famous swedish fotball-player from the 80's, Torbjorn Nilsson. Me and my mother used to love watching fotball games on TV together and I have a vivid memory (not only of my mother screaming loudly on every goalchance, but...) of his last game. He said something that stuck with me for the rest of my life, explaining why he left the world of fotball when he was at his peak, Sweden's most famous and popular fotball-player; "You should stop while you are at your best".

PS. Of course I wont be able to give up my new addiction. I'll continue blogging living in Stockholm :-) so please follow me there. And stay tuned for my last month in Gaza.

11 December 2005

My girls are praying

This is Amal, 3 and Maryam, 2 pretending that they are very big girls. For my girls the experience to live here has been good. They like their kindergarten, they enjoy spending time with their father's realtives who all adore them, they like arabic music, they love all the beautiful girly clothes that we buy here, they love that their aunties put lipstick on them (well, I have my opinion about that...).

After the prayer Amal danced a little bit!

10 December 2005


This photo, that I really like so much, was taken just shortly after we arrived to Gaza this summer. My husband's father used to be a big land-owner and this house is located at his farm. There he had planted, with his own hands, mango-, orange-, peach- and apple-threes among other things. Today the land is devided between the eight brothers and sisters, and two old mango-threes is all that is left. My husband sold his part long time ago.

Arriving to this old farm was very emotional for my husband. The whole family used to spend time there during summer-weekends, eat and sing together. His father had built a small pool on top of the roof in which the children used to play.

To me this photo represent much of our experience coming to Gaza. I love my husband and he's a great man. But he came looking for something that is no longer here. Just look at my two children standing in front of their grand-father's empty old house.

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one...

01 December 2005

The school

For my Socialanthropology studies I had an assignment to be a part of an environment for a couple of days, to observe. I chose a private school that I had heard som rumours about from friends. Of course my motives behind the stydy was also very personal, having just put my son in first class. Here is what I learned and out of the 150 photos I took, also some of what I saw. I put more photos here (for the assignment).

Inside the classroom

I got to follow Miss Jinan, one of the school's english teachers. She is a very proffessional teacher, managing the classroom with great control but yet some flexibility. She was very well-spoken and it was easy for us to get along. She took her job very serious, prepared her lesson into detail (which is required, but still) and she said she enjoyed it very much. She start her work at 7.30 after a twenty minutes drive to the school and finish at 13.30, thereafter she have around two hours of preparation to complete. Her sallary is 200 dollar a month.

She teaches grade 1-3 (6 years-8 years). The lessons always start with "God Morning Teacher! How are you?", and she let the children sing a lot, play games and act, listen to the lessons, write on the blackboard, write in the textbook, read - she keeps them busy. What surprised me is that the children are very active during class, everyone want to answer Miss Jinan's questions. All the time you hear "Me! Me! Me!".

This school opened just recently with the ambition for a high education level and no punishments. It is strictly forbidden to beat the children which is otherwise very common in Gaza, unfortunately. During my 3 days stay I saw that they however do not live up to their ambition, although this school is much better than others. The yearly fee is around 1000 dollar, whichs includes schooluniforms, books, transportation. Needless to say that this is not a representative school for Gaza, but it is one of the progressive schools.

This school is different in that regard that they have invested in the classrooms (they have quality chairs, desks, curtains), the teachers have a room to sit and prepare their work which is unusual (yes!), the teachers are provided with aids such as taperecorder, and they work with the Brittish Council and use their DVD for showing documentaries for the children. This school does not stand still, they try to learn and develop, which can not be said for other schools in Gaza who still use the same way of teaching as they used for todays students parents.

Having a break

The teachers seemes very much interested in each student. Miss Jinan tells me often about each students personalities "He is a very active boy!" or "She likes to read a lot!" or about their family situation "This father's boy died last year" or "His parents split up" and she tries to help them accordingly. In the teacher's room they discuss improvment of the students, who need extra help and what they can do to improve their classes. They take eachother's opinions. The prepare activities for the lessons and - of course - drink tea.

In the teacher's roomAnother unusual part of the school is the children's art exhibition. They have a special classroom just for arts and here is some of the results. The whole school have posters on the walls with images or wise words like "Qui Cherche Trouve!" in french and arabic. The three with the photos are the best students of each class.

Inside the school

After each break (they only have two during the whole day) they line up for some handclapping and singing on the schoolyard. It's very important to stand in straight lines. Then it is back to class!

Lining up!
Over all the school was very nice. I liked many things. They have invested in quality and have a good ambition. The reality however didn't quite match up which is very sad and left me very hopeless.

To finish this post is a photo from the school's entrance. Says something about the reality of this young generation.

27 November 2005

Face to face

Me and my son had another day out on our own again! We had a long walk through the city. The weather was nice and hot. This time I gave the camera to my 6 years old little boy and this is what he noticed. Here's me starting off our walk in our neighbourhood.
A flower shop. He liked all the colours.
A three. There are not that many of them here in Gaza, so my son noticed this one.
Well, you can tell he's a real swedish patriot. A VOLVO TRUCK! Of course, he had to take a picture of that one! Notice the donkey coming up beside it.
Here's a roundabout. He thought the man resting on a stone near this busy street looked funny.
The entrance of an apartment building. Almost ready.
A busy street beside a University.
The inside of a beautiful mosque.
Mummy having a mango juice in the park in front of Al Azhar University.
To end the story of our day out I would like to tell you what happened as we passed this mosque. You might see just behind the red van the shape of a woman in black sitting outside of the mosque. She's begging for money. It is strange how you've become used to that image. We passed her. Another woman was sitting on the other side of the mosque, having a child in her knee. We passed her too, as she was calling out to us, begging for mercy. Having passed her my son said to me "Why don't you give her money?". I couldn't come up with any good answer. I took out my wallet from my handbag, thinking first to give her some coins. Then I thought, why not give her a twenty, she will be really happy. Not having any twenties in my wallet, I thought, well, why not give her a hundred. She sure need the money more than we do. I let my son run back to her and give her the money. Upon recieving them she pointed to her heart and to the sky as to say "Allah is surely great". We walked on feeling very happy about what we just had done. After a while I heard somebody following us and calling out for us. It was the woman. I thought she had come to thank me. She told me that her husband had died and that she had no other family. She had four children. Her son who looked like 4 or 5 years old stood beside her. Their clothes we're torn and very dirty. She seemed to be begging me for money, I couldn't understand all what she said, and I felt so sad that she wasn't pleased with the hundred I had given her. After she insisted for a while I told her "but my son gave you money, didn't he?". Then she said "No, that wasn't me. It was the other woman!". Then I realized that there had been TWO women sitting at the mosque's two entrances and that the woman who recieved the money first had gone to tell her friend, and the friend came running after me. Of course my heart gave me no choice but to also give her a hundred. A hundred is not a lot to me, but a lot to them. She was so happy and thankful. She kissed me and blessed me and my children.
Coming face to face with poverty in that way really makes you think. With a very little effort I could change that woman's life and the life of her children. What if I was to collect money to let her children go to a good school, to buy them clothes, to bring them money for food?
I encorage all of you to go out today to face poverty. Give to somebody who really need it. Don't wait.