13 November 2005

Remembering Arafat

I had picked up my son from school a bit earlier. Now we both stood by the street waiting for a suitable transportation to the city. As there are no public transports, people on their way stop to pick up people in need of transportation, for the cost of one shekel. They pull over to hear which area you want to go, if it suit them they stop the car, if not they just continue. After some time we got lucky and jumped into a car and we were on our way. I had not told anyone that we were going. I wanted it to be my own day out with my son. My relatives, being overprotecting, would have either joined me or stopped me from going all alone. However, I knew that I at this point had gone along many times enough to know what to say and how to handle certain situations that might appear. I wanted to test my wings.

Soon I realized that there was something going on, because streets were blocked by police and we had to take other streets than usual to get to the city centre. The taxi had to stop a bit earlier and as we walked the last part I was suddenly face to face with thirty something masked men with machineguns who were lining up on the street. I heard music coming from the park were we had just been the other day and saw yellow flags and palestinian flags all over the place. I realized I had chosen the day of Arafat’s death one year ago as my first day out on my own. I reached for my camera in my handbag and realized another thing; it was still on my kitchen table at home (sorry guys!). As we tried to cross a street a minivan pulled up in front of us, full with armed and masked men, wearing black clothes, army clothes, some had the Palestinian scarf rapped around their face. The man closest to the window looked at me for a second, then pulled out a rocket as to show off and you will realize now that I’m totally ignorant when it comes to weapons, but my feeling when I saw it was that it’s that kind of rockets that land in Israel… When he didn’t see me I stuck out my tongue to him. In my imagination.

At first I of course got scared upon seeing all this and I would have turned around if it wasn’t for the fact that there were many families walking around the streets. In general the people seemed excited and happy, they were waving the flags and singing along with the music. In a park nearby a man was giving a speech. All I could think about was that Judy would have really liked me to take photos here and now…

Me and my son went shopping as the people marched the streets. Being ejnabiya (foreigner) I usually pay too much and I hate to bargain, but I figure it’s still cheap for me comparing to the prices in my own country. My son bought some toys for his Eid-money and I bought a new table-cloth for my kitchen table. We drank chocolate and strawberry milkshake at a little coffee house.

Upon returning I started doubt my skills since we couldn’t seem to get hold of a taxi. No one was going our way! Or did I do something wrong? After waiting for almost half an hour by the street, being rejected by car after car, we finally got lucky. The driver asked if I was thinking to pay for one passenger or two (my son usually sits in my knee and we get away with paying for only one seat) Now we had two big bags with us as well so I had already prepared two shekels that I was holding in my hand (I wasn’t gonna fight over one shekel, that’s for sure). Upon seeing them he stopped the car and we were on our way home.

We made it. The next morning I saw Arafats picture upside down on a t-shirt hanging in the sun to dry.


UmJannah said...

Hey I'm really happy to have found your blog. I wish I could visit Gaza and have this experience as well, its so interesting. I would have loved to see pictures though, try not to forget your camera next time. By the way do you speak Arabic?

leandra machado said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Living Away said...

once again, i really enjoy reading your blog.
do you know, today i saw some gaza's news on tv and i said to myself: well, better wait for Imaan's post!
i'm sorry about the pictures.
Have a wonderful weekl!!

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?

lisoosh said...

Great post - add me to the list of people really disappointed that you forgot your camera.
So far I think you are doing a great job with this blog and many of your observations are incredibly important and I hope that they receive greater exposure - primarily because of the sheer ordinariness of your experiences - even the gunmen are a surprise and in the West this is envisioned as an everyday occurrence.
When you show how normal things are there (both the good and bad) you tear down the dehumanization that people who don't want peace rely apon to push their views - it is harder to fear an "enemy" who is intensely familiar. Hopefully you can help mmake things better in this way - and without ever getting political - congratulations.

Kasparsohn said...

Imaan, ignore what jd said. My impression is that you are a fantastic mother!

Judy said...

Whooaa, Imaan, that's some post. Yes, it would have been good if you had had your camera, but your description is so vivid, that it brings the whole scene with the gunmen to life. You're a brave soul, aren't you?

What you actually did was an act of resistance...

Anyway, I love your photo of Arafat's image hanging upside down beside the rows of identical socks. Says it all.

And I'm glad that you still did manage to give your children a treat.

ontheface said...

Imaan, my favourite creative writing teacher once told me that great writing is characterised by honesty, an original voice and real insight. You are a great writer.

I enjoyed reading this post so much - it flows beautifully and the story is fascinating.

P.S. "JD" doesn't really deserve a response, but just in case you took him/her seriously for a few seconds - don't. Some people are just miserable, and they write nonsense to make others unhappy because misery loves company

Inna said...

Hi Imaan, Thank you for a wonderful post and a great blog. In a way I am not sorry you forgot your camera; your words were so evocative that I think photos might have only distracted from the images you created in my head.

Thank you,


Laila said...

Salaams Iman-its me Laila (aka a mother from Gaza!). I'm still stuck in the US, since Rafah crossing has not re-opened, but I 'm dying to get back to work, and to meet up with you. I'm glad you have taken to writing in your blog more frequently-keep it up sista!

Imaan On Ice said...

Thank you all for wonderful comments! They mean a lot to me.
I do speak arabic, UmJannah (bass mkasser kethir).

UmJannah said...

Imaan, if you don't mind me asking how did you learn to speak Arabic? Did you take a class or was it from your husband's family? I'm searching for a good Arabic class, having such trouble finding one to suit my needs. My husband keeps telling me that I need to go and study in a country where Arabic is the mother language (he's Moroccan), he is already tri-lingual. Anyway thats great that you speak Arabic its such a beautiful language, and I just want to say I really look foward to your posts.

Anonymous said...

Weren't you afraid of something happening to you while you were out and everyone had their weapons? In the US we hear about weapons accidentally going off and injuring people during these types of demonstrations. I would have been afraid for myself and my son.

Anonymous said...

Hi Imman,

I am an Israeli who does reserve duty and reads your blog to understand how it feels to live in Gaza on your side of the fence.
In this last post you spoke about an parade of rockets but you glossed over your feelings about this type of public display of weapons.
Please tell us what you thought or felt?

MomTo5 said...

jag ääällsskkkaar att läsa din blog
Kram Johanna

Imaan On Ice said...

Shalom anonymous israeli on duty - please send me an email. //Imaan