Eid in Gaza is a very strange thing. Then again, what is not strange here except strangeness itself?
On one hand, the streets become one large shopping district, as sidewalks become an extension of the shops that overlook them, with street sellers popping up overnight and displaying their fare on outdoor racks and kiosks…offering everything from cheap tunnel goods, toys, handbags, knockoff perfumes and knockoff clothes, beads and bracelets and nick knacks, all for “super-low Eid prices!”, as the man in the freaky bear costume kept reminding us. You can barely navigate through the crowds, and so many opt to stay indoors: “its a jungle out there-stay away!!”.
But this is Gaza, and people seldom get a chance to take a “breather”. Its been a long, brutally hot Ramadan. So they say they don’t dare step out, but they do anyway. Its exciting, to hell with the crowds!
After a long day spent in Beit Lahiya, and later, editing, I decided to take the kids to the Shalehat beach resort (sounds much fancier than it is…but one of the only open grassy areas they can run around in). In the last minute, we changed our plans and decide to go get some ice cream at “Mr. Kathem’s” instead (Gaza’s oldest ice cream parlor).
One street stall catches my attention-a man selling hand-woven rugs, a very old and dying artisan tradition in Gaza so I stop and peruse the selection.
Then-BOOM, the earth shakes, people begin screaming. There is chaos, for a moment, on top of the chaos already present from Eid eve, which is itself another layer of chaos to the already chaotic and indiscernible situation that is Gaza.
One person asks another asks another and we realize Israel has bombed 4 locations in Gaza, one of them being a complex next to the Shalehat resort we were supposed to be in minutes earlier. Injuries? Dead? “None…no wait 2, no 4…serious.”
“This is Israel’s way of saying “Happy Eid Gaza!”” remarked one man casually, as he licked an ice cream cone he just bought from Kathem’s and took in the holiday scenes.
The police are on alert, there are ambulances streaming by. Tension ebbs and flows.
Then, its “as you were”. People continue shopping. It is Eid, after all. And this is Gaza.