Back from Gaza

Pamela Olson
14 September 2005

I just got back from a five-day visit to the Gaza Strip to see the disengagement. The soldiers and settlers have finally left, and Palestinian people were walking in areas they haven't dared enter for five years for fear of the Israeli snipers positioned everywhere around the Strip. Kids swam in the sea for the first time in their lives. People swamped the former settlements to see what the settlers lived like at the Palestinians' expense -- and were as shocked and appalled as they rightly should be. People hopped over the border with Egypt to buy cheap cigarettes. People now can repair their broken and bullet-scarred houses without fear that the next wave of violence will destroy everything again.

The neighborhood where I was staying was next in line to be demolished for the "Philadelphi corridor," the buffer zone of destroyed neighborhoods between the Egyptian border and Rafah -- most of the homes that remain standing have gaping holes in them if they are not half- or fully destroyed. One stands tilted at a 45 degree angle. The rubble of broken homes is everywhere, and no one has had money or incentive to remove the rubble -- it would just make it easier for tanks to enter the neighborhood if they did.

All the massive nasty checkpoints that have broken up the Strip and made normal life impossible for years and years... have suddenly vanished. All roads are open, all beaches are free. Palestinian flags were everywhere, and I bought a commemmorative mug that says, "Congratulations for the evacuation of Gaza... and hopefully for the West Bank..." It's a bit of a lukewarm victory cheer, but hey, we take what we can get.

Now that I've experienced a taste of life on Palestinian land without military occupation, it is hard to come back to the West Bank and still see the Walls and jeeps and tanks and hummers and guns and checkpoints and settlements that are trying to choke this society out of existence. But I'm glad to be back, and hoping for good things.


Previous | Contents | Home