The other day, I was on my way from north of Gaza to south after a long day at work. I was coming back home along with my colleague. Her face attracted me and evoked my interest. Fatima, 24 old-year woman, was very happy and her face reflected it. I asked with curiosity: “Fatima, your eyes are bright with happiness, can you tell me the secret behind the smiles?”. “Well, you are right, Menna, I’m very happy and I want to share this pleasure with you. Actually, I met with my friend who came from Abu Dhabi yesterday and it was a very pleasant meeting after a long time” my friend replied.
” Wow! It is wonderful to meet her in Gaza. It must have been a warm meeting, isn’t it?” I queried. “Yes dear, that’s right. Happy smiles, tight hugs and bright faces after a long time. She came home and I couldn’t believe that she entered Gaza after all these years of border closures. I am grateful to the Egyptian government which opened its borders and let me meet my friend after many years” my colleague and good friend said with a hopeful tone.
Holding her hands, I asked: “When was the last time you met her, dear?”. “Oh dear it seems like a long while. It was two years ago when we finished our studies at the university. She soon left for U.A.E where her family was already living for many years,” Fatima described. She added that her friend came to Gaza to study at a local university since studying at any university in the U.A.E. is a very expensive affair. “She left Gaza for Abu Dhabi only to return yesterday to her home town. I’m so happy to have her in Gaza again,” Fatma spoke with a big grin on her face.
“It’s wonderful to have her in Gaza again. How long is she going to stay in Gaza?” I asked with a desire to meet Fatima’s friend.
“She will stay in Gaza for three weeks only since she works as a teacher in Abu Dhabi and her manager gave her only a month-long vacation,” Fatima disclosed while adding that her best friend is afraid of a sudden closure of Rafah border with Egypt that can get her stuck in Gaza and cost her job. She was clearly worried about such a prospect and I had to agree with her…
Life in Abu Dhabi has no comparison with the life in Gaza Strip. Fatima’s friend, who is a teacher by profession, is paid $1000 for her work as a teacher at an Abu Dhabi school. Our jobs are exactly the same – in fact we work harder and the conditions are so tough – yet we take less than half of what she gets. By Gazan standards, we’re still very lucky to be working and getting paid every month. Otherwise, we see thousands of qualified people sitting home doing nothing as they are rendered useless by the Israeli siege and economic sanctions.
Fatima also told me that her friend’s dad works in a company there and they live an affluent life. “They are happy to live there since they can travel to Egypt to spend few days whenever they get bored. They visit malls for shopping or go to parks or cinema to entertain themselves,” she elaborated. “But they miss many things that we have here,” she said with a surprise. Fatima added: “They miss breathing Gaza air. They miss to stay with their relatives and visit them to spend some good time with them. They miss the feeling of being in their own country with complete rights, as we live here.”
I had to agree with Fatima completely. We live in Gaza and work here as teachers with less than half of her friend’s salary. It is true that we can’t travel whenever we want because the border is closed most of the times.There are not many places to have fun in Gaza except for going to the beach or some parks since Israel has destroy many recreational places in the Strip. Still, we feel free to be in our own country and live between our people. Despite all the Israeli aggression that disturbed our life and spoiled every moment of happiness we have here, we insist on living with high spirits. We believe that this occupation will come to an end very soon and we will live free in our land. Every time when I think about it, my eyes become bright with hope.
I shared these thoughts with my friend and she concurred. “My darling Menna, you’re completely right. Every Palestinian living inside and outside our country has the same belief and this will come true sooner not later,” Fatima resolved.
We reached our destination and the car stopped to bring an end to our journey. But me and my friend, along with their Palestinian brethren, will never end our hopes and insistence on living a life that is free from all kinds of occupation and tyranny…
Menna Hassan is a 23-year old teacher who lives in Gaza with her family. She has a B.A. degree in English language. Menna takes deep interest in issues relating to Gazan society. She considers it her moral and national duty to tell the world about the sufferings of Palestinians under the brutal Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip. Diary written by Menna Arselan; Edited & Published by Moign Khawaja.