Tamara Abu Ramadan is 19 years old, she is a law student, and she is the typical story we are looking for. Because she is practicing violin through youtube tutorials. The little Paganini of Gaza who is bypassing the siege through the internet. Who is resisting.
Yet she is the first to admit it. “With youtube it’s a mess.”
To be a journalist in Gaza is tough, today. But truthfully, not because Hamas is now a regime, rather than a government – and actually, there’s nothing to govern here anymore: two thirds of Palestinians live on aid. You are watched over all the time, free only to write about Israel’s crimes. But that’s in the end our job. A journalist, a true journalist, is never welcome. And so, no, it isn’t tough because everybody is afraid to meet you. Then you always get an email: May I call you?, they say. “And we can talk undisturbed”.
No. To be a journalist in Gaza is tough for a different reason. Because you are asked to report on stories of tenacity. Of strength, of steadfastness. Stories of Palestinians who “despite it all.” Despite the war, the destitution: but they keep on playing their violin. Anything else gets trashed. You are asked to report on the best coffee blend of Gaza. On the surf school, the parkour kids, these kids, actually, who learn through youtube, they learn English, they learn sushi, yoga, and those who paint their homes in bright colours, the man who carved a swimming pool out of the rubble. The dinosaurs of the new theme park. They all take Tramadol pills, in the evening, a painkiller for dogs that here is used as a sort of ecstasy: and that for a while, make you forget your shitty life: but you are supposed to write how much fun they have amid the dinosaurs. Out of the belief, as usual, that sad stories have no market. No readers. But also out of a very Palestinian belief: that to exist is to resist. That what matters is just not to leave. That that’s enough. To stay: whatever the price. And everything will come. But perhaps because I live in war, perhaps because I know that it never ends, honestly, that nothing ever comes, that I can entertain you for hours with my jokes and humour, my irony, but when suddenly the mind goes to barrel bombs, to heads nested into the rubble, to what I have lost, in Syria, and I will never get back, I fall: nothing more: and that’s how Stanley Greene is when his mind goes to Chechnya, how Yuri Kozyrev is when his mind goes to Iraq, that’s how any war correspondent is, none of us ever returned, actually, we are all there, all on the brink: forever – perhaps that’s why after a few minutes with you, Palestinians admit it bluntly: “With youtube you don’t understand anything.”
Because these are not stories of resistance, but of misery. Of wasted lives.
Of open wounds.
It’s been eight years that Gaza has not even water anymore, there is only salt water, sea water: you feel sticky all the day, all the days: for years – a surf school? But what we are talking about? Here there’s no life. And most of all, there’s no resistance. Because caught in between Israel and Hamas, Palestinians are worn out. Are totally empty. You meet these twenty-year-olds that everywhere else would be top students of top universities, getting ready to discover new treatments for cancer, new sources of renewable energy, you ask how they are doing, they say: Good, pretty good. Now you find nearly everything, they say. Even fruit. Because the truth is that at the end of the day, you realize that that’s how you have been spending all your time, here: dealing with survival. Discussing of tunnels, of rockets. Of Hamas that checks that you don’t drink a beer while watching football on TV. Resistance? But what we are talking about? How will Palestinians be able to face Israel, to face its sophisticated means of domination, trapped here, without a cinema, a bookshop? Nothing. Only some fruit.
Gaza is exhausted.
Palestinians want just a visa to Europe. All Palestinians. They just want to leave.
Away from Israel and Hamas. From both.
And those of us who write how amazing the sea is, here that now and then Israeli jets bomb, and it’s not even news anymore, become complicit in all this.
Because no, definitely, to exist is not to resist. When you are six years and three wars old, as you are told here by children, to exist is just to exist. And dreadfully.
Photo: Shejaiya @Violeta Moura