Ramadan in Gaza: its in the details

A fellow Palestinian blogger noted the other day on Twitter that none of us had written up a Ramadan post. Ramadan is a very special time as any Muslim will tell you. But it also brings with it its own unique set of challenges. It is spiritually uplifting, but it is also physically exhausting.

In Gaza, these challenges are multiplied tenfold. This Ramadan came amidst a merciless heat wave across Palestine. Ordinarily, one can find ways around this by staying indoors or cooling off in front of a fan of air conditioning. But no so in Gaza, where we were enduring continuous 9 hour electricity outages: 8 hours of electricity, 9 hours without, 8 hours of electricity, 9 hours without…and on and on. Since a fuel agreement was reached a few days ago, we are now privileged and get an average of 15-20 hours straight of power, then 12 hours without…not sure which is worse! But the Jerusalem Post reports today that Israel has “balked at a request” by Tony Blair to boost the amount of electricity it supplies to the Gaza.

Combine that with the blocked off urban construction, and you have your very own personal saunas.

Electricity aside, there is the issue of access to fresh foods. Few people buy “fresh” meat anymore, opting instead for lower grade imported frozen meat that sells for the half the price. Once again, it must be emphasized: the issue in Gaza is not availability of foods; it is accessibility. The flow of goods in Gaza waxes and wanes with each passing week, a perplexing combination of “premium” Israeli goods and a small amount of West Bank products; tunnel commodities (such as processed cheeses, but also Egyptian lemon-limes and cows); and other “foreign” goods, mainly from Turkey. This is not to mention that one cannot preserve fresh or even cooked foods more than a couple of days, given the lack of electricity to power refrigerators.

Yet, what I’ve increasingly noticed is that they here are finding ways to make ends meet, to “cope” if you will. Some food aid from here, some zakat from there, some relatives living abroad: many manage in a piecemeal fashion. But they resent being depicted as beggars or victims. Still, the situation takes its toll. You have to look for the signs.

We recently went to visit a friend of my mother’s, Um Rami, who is a widow and works as a seamstress in her spare time out of her Shati Refugee camp home. She was kind enough to let us photograph her cooking (and alter a heap of clothes for us).

I noticed her iftar consisted of the following: noodle soup (made with a bouillon cube); rice (from UNRWA food aid); tomato salad (dagga); and mulukhia-made with a couple of chicken wings.

She was beaming as she recounted traditional recipes passed down to her from her grandmother from their village of Beit jirja and sharing stories with us about her late father’s favorite foods. “The best gift my father-who lived in Saudi Arabia for a long time-confessed to ever receiving was some khubayza (Malvaccae, a member of the mallow family that grows in the wild, and whose leaves are cooked much in the way mulukhia would be) I brought him from Gaza”. Um Rami she wasn’t coming to my door begging or crying for handouts or even wailing in front of television cameras: I saw the hardship in her soup.

And so Ramadan here takes on a more solemn, persevering character. And it is the hospitality, the humor and the incredible resilience of the people that shines the most this month.

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13 Comments

  1. …maybe if you guys released shalit, thats if he is still alive….showed some flexibility toward peace…things might well get better…but thats to much to hope for…your suffering is your weapon….and you dont suffer near as much as the poor fellow muslim blacks that are raped murdered and starved by their arab abusers in the sudan……you my lady are crying crocidike tears

  2. Dear Johnny boy,
    I’m really thrilled that you take the time to read my blog. It gives me great pleasure to know I have such a dedicated leadership.
    be well
    Laila

  3. Can’t say much Laila.

    But I think the suffer that you encountered during Ramadhan, will make you even stronger than before.

    I bet that when Ied come, you will feel how Allah bless you more by giving you the chance to live.

    We never know His plan, isn’t it ?

  4. Firas Mahmoud

    Johnny: perhaps if Israel releases the illegally held 9-11.000 Palestinian prisoners things would be move along for Shalit? Or is he worth more than a Palestinian hostage?

    Flexibility towards peace? Wake up and see the world for what it really is instead of regurgitating Zionist/Israeli propaganda ad nauseam…

  5. Dear Johnny boy,

    Your post brings up some interesting and very telling points. First of all, your arrogance is both not surprising and astounding at the same time. If you want to talk about Shalit, then let’s talk about the 11,000 or so Palestinian prisoners being held and tortured in Israeli jails and detention centers, many of them children and the overwhelming majority of them guilty of nothing more than being the wrong religion in their homeland! This isn’t even including the 1.5 million imprisoned in Gaza and the millions imprisoned in the west bank by Israel’s despicable racist Zionist policies!

    Second of all, the world is getting tired of Israeli apologists using the “well they do it too” excuse! Grow up JB! You want to compare the Sudanese government to Israel? Fine! They’re both genocidal racists! None of which justifies Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of the NATIVE PEOPLE OF PALESTINE!

    Third, “flexibility toward peace?” really? That’s just laughable given what the entire world is realizing about Zionist racism and apartheid. The people of Palestine should never accept Israel’s one sided demands of recognition when Israel doesn’t even recognize the basic human and civil rights of Palestinians and even their existence in many cases!

    Finally, it’s comical to read “your suffering is your weapon.” You’re aware that Zionism has capitalized on the suffering of Holocaust victims and survivors alike and has justified genocide based on it right? A debate on the issue is almost always censored with any questioning of Israel being labeled “anti-Semitic” (especially in the United States of Israel). Seriously, JB, an education, some awareness, a reality check and some maturity are in order here!

  6. Ladies,Dear Johnny is not even worth getting upset over, ignorance is bliss as they say.Johnny my message to you is this, visit Palestine and the Gaza Strip for your self you may learn something.See the devestation, Look in the faces of the children and the parents burying their children that have been murdered in gratuitous acts of violence.Whoever is right or wrong in this will always be up for debate, however,innocent civilians are being murdered plain and simple and that has to be wrong.

  7. …hey….easy there, sure did get the hackles up..didnt i….come on..you guys just cant stand what..5-6 million jews standing against 1 billion thats 1 billion..muslims.and the rest of the world and now obama..look at the geography.you have 99% of the land…you cant even suffer the jews haveing a sliver… you need it all..you have been murdering jews in israel-palestine since the 20 s…you have fought 5 wars..long before what you call the occupation.you guys never will accept peace…you would rather suffer and put your kids in harms way… then accept a jewish homeland….all you can do is spout the same lame bullshit propaganda over and over..and over..you may win the propaganda war….but at the end of it…we need to find a way to live together

  8. hi dear lady
    it’s been about 5 months from my first acquintance with yr blog.
    i’m an iranian student and i’m interested in yr blog.
    so i have linked yr address in my blog to introduce u to other iranians.
    hope u be content.
    p.s.;
    my blog is persian

  9. Johnny, I am a JEW but not a Zionist, I am a realist, and I am SO tired of the word ‘propaganda’…..all I know is this, if my neighbour robbed me, murdered my children and occupied 8o% of my home, I would not want to negotiate I would DEMAND justice……Oh and by the way my husband is Palesinian!

  10. Dear Laila,
    I was recently told about your blog – and am so glad that I was! I enjoy reading your insightful observations and commentary. Thank you.

    I am the editor at an organization called Peace X Peace (pronounced Peace by Peace). http://www.peacexpeace.org/ Our mission is to lift women’s voices and strengthen women’s capacity to connect across divides.

    I would like to repost this blog post (“Ramadan in Gaza: it’s in the details”) on our website. I was moved by your descriptions and the message in the post – and I am sure our readers would be too.

    I would include full credits as well as a link to your blog and to the original post on our website.

    Please let me know if I have your permission to repost. I would like to post it today.

    Regards,
    Alicia

  11. jewel…..i am so happy that you are married to a palestinian and that your are also jewish….good for both of you..you guys should live long and happy lives and have many children….

  12. JB – it’s really frustrating that you just refuse to see the situation for what it really is. Lets pretend you’re a resident of some relatively peaceful country like Surinam for a minute, you might have a less biased opinion. You can’t just expect to uproot people from their homes and then say they should be happy because now they’re permanent refugees in countries that practice the same religion as them. Never mind that they don’t have equal access to jobs, or education, or healthcare as the citizens of those host countries.
    What does it matter what the countries around Israel and the West Bank are?, Or how many Muslims there are compared to Jews worldwide? Palestinian people don’t want to live in Jordan because they’re not Jordanian, or Lebanon because they’re not Lebanese. If I’m Christian and British, does that mean I should be happy to leave my home and go live in France because ‘it’s all the same’? If it was any other country in the world with arms and a military that those in the West Bank don’t have they would be at war with occupying forces in their territory. Palestinian people actually have a legal right to return to the lands of modern day Israel. But what they’re asking for is a two state solution and Israel has never made serious efforts to live with the Palestinians.
    Some breakthrough has to be made now on the occupation for the sake of international security.

  13. The people in Gaza are a very hardy people, I admire their strength. Something must be done to lighten the plight. For many people suffering the same fate may your hardship be stricken and may happiness with ease fall upon you. I pray.

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