By Samah Sabawi
Israel’s current assault on Gaza will not bring Israel peace nor will it force the Palestinians to surrender. Three years ago, Israel launched a brutal attack on the city it occupies and besieges killing more then 1400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and injuring thousands more while destroying most of Gaza’s infrastructure and turning vast landscapes where houses once stood into rubble. What happened in the years since then is a testimony of the Palestinian people’s real weapon – tenacity, a weapon no one in Israel can understand nor truly match. A weapon Palestinians possess that will see them through until they gain their freedom.
When foreigners visit the Occupied Territories they are often struck by just how resourceful Palestinians are, how positive they remain and how ineffective Israel’s policy of subjugating them is. Yes, Gaza is an impoverished, besieged, overcrowded and occupied strip of land, but a closer look helps shed some light on exactly what it is that Israel is up against.
This past year, despite the crippling siege on Gaza, some amazing things happened. Gazans stood on the cutting-edge of urban agriculture: they were learning through a UN funded project to produce fish and vegetables on their tiny rooftops. The skill of learning to farm without soil in confined spaces is necessary in a place like Gaza where 1.6 million residents are cramped into 360 square kilometers of land and where much of the agricultural land is off limits because Israel maintains a 300-metre deep zone along the length of the border fence denying Palestinians access to their prime agricultural land.
Gaza opened its first ever paintball park bringing equipment and protective clothing through the tunnels that link Gaza with Egypt. The game referee Rami Eid told Reuters this was important so “the youth of Gaza can play games that are played around the world”.
Gaza also hosted this year for the first time an actual circus along with clowns and acrobats. The circus that travelled through Egypt’s Rafah border brought happiness to many children who had never had such an experience. Gaza also hosted its first ‘PalFest’, an international Palestinian literature festival along with poets and musicians coming from all over the world.
If that’s not enough to impress, Gaza opened its first restaurant for the deaf. The stylish Atfaluna restaurant near Gaza port was hailed as one of a few facilities for the disabled in a besieged impoverished city where waiters and cooks use sign language. The restaurant was realissed with help from the Drosos Foundation of Switzerland in order to generate income for the deaf in Gaza, where the unemployment rate is over 25 percent.
This year, as always, the youth in Gaza were finding ways to express their creativity and their skills. From amazing daredevil Parkour, learning how to surf, to rap songs and art exhibits, they were finding their confidence and were healing from the aftermath of the trauma of Israel’s last destruction of their city.
This year, Gazans lead the way to inspire people around the world as they literally turned rubble into art. Gazan women driven by the determination to self-empowerment mixed with environmental awareness turned garbage and rubble into pieces of art that can be sold, this project was made possible with funding from the non-government organization ‘Supporters of Palestinian Environment’.
Despite the restriction on building supplies, Gazans used the tunnels to bring in cement and iron and have rebuilt many of the structures that were destroyed. A highlight for many was the walkway ‘corniche’ by the sea side which many proudly posted photos of on their facebook profiles.
Within the walls of their big prison and in spite of the siege and the frequent Israeli bombardment, the people of Gaza managed to find the space to create, to dream, to build and to hope. This is the essential stuff that resistance is made of. This is why Israel’s recent attack will not defeat the Palestinians and will only hurt Israel in the end, exposing it for the tyrannical state that it is.
Israel has launched a war to break the Palestinian spirit, to destroy all they’ve rebuilt, to uproot all that they’ve replanted. This is a war on the Palestinian people’s tenacity to resist despair. Israel will lose this war because it fails to understand what it is up against. A state that only knows how to destroy will never understand the art of turning rubble into masterpieces.