09 November 2005


Yesterday I met a woman (clearly from the looks of it not palestinian) who came to pick up her son at the same school my son is in. I had already seen her in the morning when she and her husband had left their son (who turned out to be eight years of age) in the care of one of the teachers. As I come to the school daily I understood that this was their son's first day. They told him good bye and he stood beside the teacher. As I had witnessed the first weeks of starting school I knew very well that there would be no warm welcome for this son. In fact, he followed this teacher around until she told him to stay put and wait for her, until she would show him his place. He stood waiting, looking at the other children, who were all lining up in front of their classrooms. I heard some girls beside me wondering which class he would end up in, they went to eavesdropp beside the teachers who were speaking together, found out and return to their group and said "Not our class. It's enough, we already have one from England!".
As I returned to the school I saw the mother again. I introduced myself and found out that she was from Ukraine, she and her palestinian husband had just arrived to Gaza a few weeks ago and was now looking to establish a life here. Of course he was a doctor, what else do palestinians do in East of Europe? I asked her what her opinion of Gaza was so far, and she told me she was very satisfied and pleased with her new life. Oh, I thought to myself, could it be? But I actually think that speaks more of Ukraine than of Gaza, to be honest.

There are many east european woman living in Gaza. Usually they are not that optimistic as the woman I just met. Another Romanian woman I spoke to some months ago said that "any foreign woman who (have to) live in Gaza will go straight to paradise". That's another view.

The next day I spoke with another, this time palestinian, mother at the school, and she of course asked me what my opinion of Gaza was so far? When my face turned ugly, trying to find a not too unpolite answer while still being thruthful - it's haram to lie!, she said "Oh, I know... it's not easy. I've lived twenty years in Egypt and just moved here. When you are outside of Gaza you dream of living in Gaza, but when you are living in Gaza it makes you very tired". Then she added "Not because of Gaza itself (referring to the "situation") but because of the Gazans!".

Over the months I have come to the same opinion. I can manage the dirty streets and the electricity cut-offs, the closed borders, even the sonics (which in my other world used to be a game caracter... eh, not anymore) and the fact that my DVD is broken and the little technical thingy that is broken doesn't exist in Gaza but in Israel so I have to wait... I can live with all that (for some time at least), but I cannot, and I repeat cannot, live with people who behave badly.

I am of course complaining out of love, so then I ask myself why this wide spread bad behaviour exist? I know some answers, but it's never that easy. It may in fact be what I miss in their caracters that is the most difficult thing to bare.

Having published this it rang on my door. A woman, a friend of my relatives, greeted and kissed me and invited me to her daughters wedding party tomorrow. She looked into my eyes and made sure I promised her to come and that I would also bring my lovely children. She was so warm and friendly, I liked her at once, and then suddenly I felt so bad over what I just published for the world to read about Gazans (yeah, I have great expectations for my blog) on the world wide web. It's true that I've come to learn first hand that there is too much kalam fadi (empty words) going on here, too many lies told too easily, too much surface and cheating, too much beating and hard hearts, people driving like lunatics, too little evaluation. But also people like her.

I just hope the "good guys" will win.


Daphna said...

I really am not sure exactly what sort of bad behavior you are referring to, as I have no knowledge of Gaza nor of individual Gazans. However I moved to Israel a number of years back, and still go through the same type of frustration at times, as do most of my fellow immigrants.

One suggestion--assuming that there may be some similarity between our situations--is to differentiate between actual improper behavior and cultural differences. The first is bad, the second is just...different. A case in point--Americans tend to complain that Israelis are rude. There is some truth to that. On the other hand, part of our conceiving of Israelis as rude is that Israelis are more direct/honest than are Americans. That is not necessarily a bad thing. For their part, Israelis look at Americans as being "fake" and insincere because we are not as honest! We look at ourselves as being polite.

Obviously, you don't want to whitewash. But if you can see the pluses in the Gazan personality, you will have a much easier integration.

I hope this helps, and hang in there. Your kids are lovely, by the way!

Imaan On Ice said...

This is not an easy subject... having said A I guess I have to say B. They ar so hard, lie and cheat too easy, to much "kalam fadi" (empty words), beating, shouting, driving like lunatics, too much surface.
At the same time I do have great respect for the "well behaved" Gazans and I am married from one.
I think it has to do with the fact that Gaza is (due to the occupation mostly) a closed society. People seldom travel to experience other ways of life and therefore becomes very conservative and closeminded. Maybe?

Abu Sinan said...

This isnt just a Gazan thing, let me tell you. I am a Westerner married to an Arab and it is a cultural thing. Telling and saying things that just arent true is very common. They think it saves face and the like, but it does. Kalam Fadi is a cultural iseue and yes, it gets VERY annoying. Why dont they just say it how it is?

lisoosh said...

As daphna said - Westerners living in Israel have a hard time too so I think it is a Middle Eastern thing rather than Arab or Palestinian although maybe the closures in Gaza exacerbate this - you may be right about the effect of a lack of travel.

You said "It's true that I've come to learn first hand that there is too much kalam fadi (empty words) going on here, too many lies told too easily, too much surface and cheating." I wonder what you mean by that. Could you provide some examples?

Hang in there. As you collect a circle of like-minded friends you will feel better.

Judy said...

It is really difficult to take bad behaviour when you are in an isolated situation, and you may not feel you have people who sympathise.

It is so interesting to read of your meetings with these other woman and the different ways they react to your situation and you.

Your determination to live honestly and by the highest standards of your faith does you a great deal of credit.

I hope you have many more positive experiences where people surprise you with their warmth and kindness.

Savtadotty said...

As an immigrant to Israel from the USA , I sympathize with your feelings about Gazans' behavior. Learning to sort out what is cultural from what isn't takes many years. Thanks to your husband, you know that each individual can be exceptional, and as time goes on you will find people who meet your standards of behavior. You may also inspire others to impove, to be worthy of your friendship.

UmJannah said...

This past summer my husband and I took a trip to his parents homeland which is Morocco. When we crossed the border (we drove from France) he said "say goodbye to civilization". I thought he was joking but he was for real, I do believe that it is largely Cultural more so than bad people. Every society has there own characteristics and behaviors, more or less, for example in Casablanca everyone (and I do mean everyone women, babies, men, young, old, even animals) walks in the middle of the street and cross the Highway. For me coming from the New York area, this was ridiculous, I couldn't figure out what are they thinking, wheres the order? Another example is that nobody ever forms and sort of lines any where everything is always done with this chaoticness like lack of manners or something. I'm just trying to share with you a simmilar feeling I had in my first visit outside of a western society. I think that we all hold expectations of what everyday life and interactions should be like. Everyone's is not the same of course, but where I live in America there is alot of "kalam fadi" going on and worse. I'm sure in time you'll make good friends and uncover alot of hidden gems in Gaza.

MomTo5 said...

Salaam Imaan!
Some times i think i am crasy....i dont care anymore and i have really starting to enyoy living in my new country but i have stoped blame the muslims i blame the goverment(oops!) for all the garbage and all the hungry people at the streets.

Imaan On Ice said...

I believe there is a difference from throwing carbage on the street and lie in somebody's face. And as I said, dirty streets I can handle because of the situation. But not the lying.
For example.

Kasparsohn said...

Imaan, I was very moved by this. I am a European Jew and I feel the same way about Israel that you feel about Gaza. I love Israel, and I love to go there on visits, but I find the behaviour and attitude of many Israelis very hard to take. So when you say it's what you miss in people's characters that you find most difficult to bear, I know exactly what you mean. I am sure that you will touch many people there with your sensitivity and honesty. By the way, I have continued to find your blog fascinating and moving and I'm so glad you're keeping it up. Here's wishing you much courage and happiness!

Nejma said...

Salaam Imaan!

The "kalam fadi (empty words)" don't just exist in the Gaza society, it's very much the situation here in Morocco as well. Sometimes it makes me mad, but for the most part I just don't care. It's not really lying, it's a way of not saying something that might upset or disapoint the other. So I see it as a way of "bending the truth" to suit yourself. I have even started to use it myself when there's something I don't want to do. *lol* I think I'm becomming a Moroccan. I've been here for almost 6 months and I just love living here!

I just LOVE UmJannahs observations of life in Morocco! People do behave in the most strange ways here. It's really not chaos, it's just a very different way of order. *rotflao*

I hope you'll find the cultural shocks easier to take once you get more Gazan friends of your own. You're lucky to speak Arabic, it will help you a lot. I don't speak much Arabic yet, but I do use it every day and I'm sloooooowly making progress.

Take care, God bless and Ma salama!

loloummsarah said...

As salaam aleikom Imaan!

First I want to say It´s a pleasure to reed your blogg, you know I just love your way to write and expresse yourself, allways both with hart and brain.

I never have been living for a longer time in an arabic country, but still I share some of your experience! To survive my "bad experience" I have to tell my self its cultural differences, althoug I don´t like them. And for fact they still surprise me!I don´t understand the fact that it´s "normale" to "lie" and swindle people around you, people that you fore sure maybe meet daily.

But, like someone before me said, it´s make it more easy to see and try to accept the fact, althoug never accept to change and become like them, instead try to become a pattern of good behavier ;-)

Lots of hugs, take care and Ma Salaama loloummsarah in Malmö

Anonymous said...

hahahaha....everything you just said about gaza, i could say about israel. i miss israel when i am not here, but when i am here the israelis drive me crazy!!!! it is just like you said: i can deal with the situation here, but i cannot deal with the deficiencies in in peoples' manners and characters.