Gaza: A Story

They lived in a place called Peace. But then came the tanks and the guns. So they left, the white flag waving in the air.

Nestled in the north of Gaza, close to the Israeli border, Hay As-salaam (Peace Neighborhood) was in nature as in name: A quiet area outside the city. The land owned by a wealthy Palestinian (extended) family, the Abu Eida family. Their 10 family houses gave life to the neighborhood. All were new and large and beautiful, the oldest only built in the early 2000‘s.

Surrounding these beautiful villas were about 400,000 square meters of farm and orchards. Lambs grazed the land. Chickens pecked the ground. Throngs of varied trees stood tall all round: nuts and palms, citrus and orange–some over a hundred years old. Just down the lane were the family factories. These concrete mixing factories included the first and oldest ones in the Gaza Strip.

Situated as it was, on the border, Peace Neighborhood was one of the first places the Israeli army occupied during the December-January Massacre of 2009. Until that point of the Massacre, the families stayed in their homes, afraid to leave–as all in Gaza were.

On the 12th of January, Jihad Abu Eida received a phone call from his brother, telling him that the Israelis would let them leave their houses if they held up the white flag. So Jihad collected his wife and six young children and they left carried nothing with them but the clothes on their back and, naturally, the white flag.

They waited out the next week of terror, away from home and anxious to return. When the day of relief finally arrived, Jihad once again gathered up his family, this time with uplifted spirits, for they were headed home.

But home was never to be found again.

They returned to a graveyard. The entire land all around, as far as the eye could see, lay flattened. It was as if a giant plow came through and raked everything through.

“This was my home,” Jihad tells me as we stand in front of a heap of rubble. I look around, trying to detect some of the beauty he described. I see nothing. Just destruction. Not one tree still stands. There are heaps of rubble that used to be houses. Only the elevator shafts still stand in some.

One house stands, however. It is quite a handsome house. Or rather I can tell it used to be handsome, despite the broken brick walls and bullet holes, despite the broken pillars and crumbling balcony.

“The Israelis used it as a command post,” Jihad explains. That is why it remained standing. They were considerate enough, however, to leave their mark before they departed. The walls on the inside of the house are covered with maps of the area. They are also trashed with swear words and vulgarities. It was ransacked and looted of all valuables.

“They took all our gold and money and valuables before they bombed them,” Jihad explains as we walk around his “house.” Jihad picks out a bent and torn text book.

“That was one of my engineering books,” he says, fingering it delicately. And I wonder vaguely at the horrible misconception people back home have of the people here whose lives our money has destroyed.

Jihad studied engineering in San Diego, CA in the late 80‘s and 90‘s. He is an avid Lakers fan until now (he is still rooting for them to win now!). And he even named his oldest son Kareem after Karim Abdul Jabbar. This is the kind of person who American media vilifies.

“That was my driveway,” Jihad says as we walk on some rubble. I see bits of beautiful tile among the debris. A little way off I spot chunks of engraved columns.

“We have nothing left. Not one photo. Not my diplomas. Nothing. Everything is gone,” he says as we walk slowly among the destruction,

“That was my uncle’s house,” he points to another mount of rubble.

“Remember,” says a friend who is with him, “remember when we had breakfast their that time?” They laugh at the personal memory. I smile weakly, wondering at the their ability to still laugh amid the ruin.

Our media gets worse and worse by the minute here in Gaza. What sort of military “defense” bombs, with F-16, residential homes? Do people who supposedly fear for their safety occupy a house, loot it, desecrate its wall and shell it with tanks when done? Do they shoot and kill the harmless livestock and chickens? Do they uproot hundred-year-old trees? (Environmentalists, do you care?)

I watch in numb disbelief as Jihad tells me of that dreadful day they returned. This middle aged man’s voice shakes with grief. He was overcome with shock when he saw the place. They, none of them, could believe it. It was absolutely devastating. He thought he was going to have a heart attack from the horror. And all the family there with him. It was awful, he kept saying.

He never thought they would destroy the place at all, let alone destroy everything so completely. Because they are on the border, Jihad explains, the Israelis came to their place three or four times before in the past few years. Just last year they came and forced his family to stay in one room while they used the rest of the house.

“When they left, the only thing they destroyed were the fences,” he says. This time, he thought, it would be like that. But he was wrong. The destruction was total. The family lost everything. For the Israelis not only destroyed their places of residence and farms and orchards and animals, but also all their factories.

Jihad told me the estimate of their loss is 15 million dollars. That, I am sure, is an extremely conservative estimate. He said others are saying it is over 20 million and I think that is closer to the mark. But he holds 15 million, for he knows that for sure it is that much that is lost.

“It’s the tax we pay for being Palestinian,” he says. A heavy tax, indeed.

“We are fine with them are our neighbors,” he told me when I asked about the Israelis, “let us live together! But they don’t want us as neighbors. They are trying to drive us out. They want the land and not the people.”

When I asked him if this terrible loss made him want to leave Gaza. He just looked at me and stated simply, “Gaza is the only place for me. I have no other place.”

We visited one of the factories. Heaps of rubble and metal are scattered around. Jihad said it is much cleaner now than it was. They are trying to rebuild. But it is a slow process because of the siege. I asked him why they are rebuilding after this absolute loss.

“We must rebuild,” he said, “and if they come and destroy again. We must rebuild. We cannot just sit and cry and think about the past. We must look to the future.”

After touring the destruction of the once-upon-a-greener-time factory, we sit with his father and brothers and nephews and have tea. The talk is light and happy. I don’t understand how it could be so, with the signs of their grief all around. But they are a strong people, and inclined toward optimism. So we drink and talk and laugh.

As we get up to leave the “factory” and go back home, Jihad shakes hands with his father. When we get into the car and head out, he remarks on his parting.

“You see how I shook hands with my father just now to go home?” he asks. “I never had to do that before. We lived in the same house. But now he lives here and I live in middle of the crowded city. In a small, rented flat.”

The desolate land goes by in a blur. It wasn’t just the loss of property, and fortune, and future, I think to myself. They ripped the family asunder.

What is the excuse, I ponder now in the silence of a Gazan night, what is the excuse for a people who destroyed that place called peace?

Marryam Haleem is studying Comparative Literature and Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin. Her blog is called Muddled Thoughts. Read other articles by Marryam, or visit Marryam's website.

25 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ari said on July 6th, 2009 at 8:20am #

    Devastating story. The israelis really committing crimes with absolutely no reason. And the fact that the neighbourhood was called “Peace” is surely a proof that it was never used by Hamas snipers. I am sure all the factories destroyed in Gaza were peaceful and none was producing Qassam rockets. I am sure you don’t even need to try and check the Israeli side of the story, as we all know in advance that they are villains. And if you find my comment one-sided, well, it is only the mirror image of your blog. I believe truth lies in the middle, not in the extremes. I am Ari_Lux on twitter.

  2. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on July 6th, 2009 at 11:42am #

    well, folks, i got some news for you: i finished last in my class; i cldn’t say no to my mom till i was 27 and 77 before i cld say no to my wife.
    so, i understand that i have no right to talk or write to ‘jews’
    and i don’t; most of the time!
    and not only because i finished last in my class [actually i had just 3 yrs of schooling] but because ‘jews’ live in a supranatural world and i on in natural world [but nevertheless with plenty of milk and honey + my youngold wife].

    thus being above nature, ‘jews’ need not [actualy they have been commanded to not] obey any law of the earthpeople nor any moral precept.
    but i got some good news as well: ‘jews’ have just engineered a great victory for all sane people: you’d find at a least a dozen in US; may be two dozens in canada; and as you get farther from north americas, you’d ran into much more sane people. tnx

  3. B99 said on July 6th, 2009 at 11:47am #

    No Ari, the truth does not lie in the middle – any more than the truth of Nazi war crimes lies in the middle, any more than the truth of enslavement lies in the middle, any more than the truth of the gulag lies in the middle. Gaza is not Israel. Gaza is merely a piece of what remains of Palestine, a tiny, heavily-populated sliver of land under siege by one of the most powerful nations on the planet. As long as Gaza and WB are under occupation then the citizens of Palestine have every right to resist – they are not snipers, they are resistance fighters. And that includes Qassam rockets. If you want to check the Israeli side of the story read any US daily, listen to any corporate news network, or NPR. Happy tweeting!

  4. kalidas said on July 6th, 2009 at 6:06pm #

    I tell you, these guys just keep on mistaking Palestine for PALEestine.
    And they think they’re so smart.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain said on July 7th, 2009 at 2:07am #

    Ari-short for ‘Arse-hole’ no doubt. I can just imagine a similar exculpation from some Nazi apologist for the destruction of Warsaw or Belgrade or Minsk, or the savage bloodbaths in Eastern Europe. At least the Eidas survived, unlike 1400 of their Gazan fellows including hundreds of children. I guess ‘Ari’ has some nauseating excuse for all those barbaric killings, too. Perhaps he can explain the intricacies of Judaic ‘moral purity’ in the infamous killing of the Gazan woman and her two children, shot dead in cold blood for turning the wrong way. Does it represent a higher expression of Judaic law to kill the mother before, or after, her children? I’m sure we’d all like to know, or perhaps we need go no further than the ‘Yesha Council of Rabbis and Torah Sages’ who determined, during the earlier bloodbath in Lebanon in 2006, that killing enemy civilians, no matter what the ‘Christian morality’ (an insult to these worthies)of international humanitarian law says,in time of war is a ‘mitzvah’ or good deed. Such candour!

  6. mebosa ritchie said on July 7th, 2009 at 4:31am #

    Ari-short for ‘Arse-hole’ no doubt

    not very adult or clever
    let’s insult people.that way we’ll win our argument
    very mature

  7. Melissa said on July 7th, 2009 at 6:28am #

    Besides the perverse notion of “chosen”, and the culturally fostered thirst for genocide . . . is Israel also interested in the gas in Gaza? Does this play into the whole spectacle as well?


  8. bozhidar balkas vancouver said on July 7th, 2009 at 8:03am #

    melissa, the astounding fact that gaza does not represent any military danger to israel [qassams representing male ego and bravado as a reply to israeli people huntings/killings] there are indeed causative factors for plying gazan waters and the siege of it.
    gas is one possibility; fish another, etcetc. tnx

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain said on July 7th, 2009 at 5:04pm #

    mebosa, I know you share Ari’s opinion that we ought to blame the Gazans for the Chosen Storm-Troopers rampage through their concentration camp, and that the brutal and sadistic destruction of everything in sight, so reminiscent of the divine injunctions in the so-called Holy Torah to total destruction, of the animals, crops and the entire means of life of the Herrenvolks’ latest victims, is simply the Wrath of God being visited on ‘two-legged animals’, but I absolutely do not. And I regard those who confect exculpations for such barbarity as human arse-holes, excreting lies and justifications for brutal crimes. Please feel free to include yourself in the category, if ever lost for an apposite self-description.

  10. Maneshevitz said on July 12th, 2009 at 11:48am #

    CUT OFF ALL FOREIGN AID IMMEDIATELY! KILL AIPAC! STOP ELECTING JEWS (and their PUPPETS) to Congress and things may get better, although it may be too late!

  11. mebosa ritchie said on July 12th, 2009 at 12:01pm #

    israel is here to stay
    jews are in control of the whole world
    jews control everything-the media,the un,every government
    the only hope is for everyone to become jewish

  12. Shabnam said on July 12th, 2009 at 12:23pm #

    [How much to blame were the Jews for the financial crisis?” with responses falling under five categories: a great deal, a lot, a moderate amount, a little, not at all. Among non-Jewish respondents, a strikingly high 24.6 percent of Americans blamed “the Jews” a moderate amount or more, and 38.4 percent attributed at least some level of blame to the group. ]

    Kick zionist jew’s president, OBAMA, out of the office. He is an immediate danger not only to the Middle East and Asia but alos AFRICA.

  13. Melissa said on July 12th, 2009 at 12:58pm #

    In order to kick Obama out of office, USAers would need to read and own the constitution (incomplete and guilty by association as it is) and demand that treason by Obama and so many others be examined and prosecuted to full extent.

    After that, We would also need to form our own courts and re-apply trial by jury of peers in our communities in order to safeguard against the use of courts by the powerful rather than as the last bastion against oligarchy as was intended by trial by jury of peers. Jury selection and moving trials out of area is a huge problem and obstacle to justice and truly democratic society.

    So many want the citizens to have more control, more say, ability to make reforms, improve quality of life and freedom to live according to own self-determined principles . . . won’t ever come close to happening if people don’t use the constitution as written and get rid of all statutes and codes that are the source of the plutocratic power against humanity.

    If you want socialist reforms, you must find a way to reassert your rightful control over own life and governing. This is where people power decribed by constitution comes in. States ought to lead the way. Some are already better than others . . .

    Nothing will happen until the Common Sense of People stands up and demands right to self-govern. Piss on their statutes and codes. We can do so much better than this . . . and we can form our states individually to reflect the tone, values and will of the citizens in those states. People can move here or there depending upon their comfort, states can withhold federal taxes and implement own tax funded systems for needs, no black budgets to fund, no Dept of War and Imperialism to fund . . .

    Just some thoughts . . .

    Tennessee: Get outta there if you can! North!

    Peace, Resistance, Hope,

  14. kalidas said on July 12th, 2009 at 3:04pm #

    The only way to possibly regain even a modicum of representation will be, must be, via the military.
    “Sir, no sir.” is it since the funding will continue to flow regardless.

    The lackadaisical comical citizens are incapable, it seems, of ousting even the lowliest zionist banking controlled federal and local law enforcement along with their accompanying entourage of duly elected traitors from even the podunkiest of Podunkvilles.
    Only the citizens, with the overt support from their military compatriots will suffice.

  15. joed said on July 12th, 2009 at 3:12pm #

    what’s the matter with you people. the bad guys won and there will be no going back. you had your chance to arrest the murderous bush/cheney gang and you blew it. yours’ is a very sick society and “the people” are the sickest of all. no, sorry folks, the bad guys won and you let it happen. it’s all over now.
    sacrifice and hardship–what’s that?!

  16. mebosa ritchie said on July 13th, 2009 at 2:41pm #


    Hamas: Israel distributes libido-increasing gum in Gaza

    Islamist group claims Israeli intelligence operatives transfer merchandise to Gaza dealers that increases sex drive, even encourage them to distribute them free of charge in order ‘to destroy’ young generation. Affair exposed after young girl chews gum, complains of bizarre side effects
    Is Israel targeting the Palestinian population in Gaza by distributing libido-increasing chewing gum in the Strip? A Hamas police spokesman in the Gaza Strip Islam Shahwan claimed Monday that Israeli intelligence operatives are attempting to “destroy” the young generation by distributing such materials in the coastal enclave.

    Shahwan said that the police got their hands on gum that increases sexual desire that, according to him, reaches merchants in the Strip by way of the border crossings. According to him, a Palestinian drug dealer admitted that he sold products that increase sex drive. The dealer said that he received the materials from Israeli sources by way of the Karni crossing.
    A number of suspects have been arrested.
    The affair was exposed when a Palestinian filed a complaint that his daughter chewed the aforementioned gum and experienced the dubious side effects.
    Shahwan even claimed that Israeli intelligence operatives encourage dealers in Gaza to distribute the gum for free.
    “The Israelis seek to destroy the Palestinians’ social infrastructure with these products and to hurt the young generation by distributing drugs and sex stimulants,” said Shahwan.
    However, he noted that drugs reach the Gaza Strip by way of Rafah tunnels, and said that the police keep a close watch on the illegal activities going on in the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
    Shahwan added that the police have recently seized large amounts of drugs and alcohol attached to the underside of automobiles passing through Erez crossing. The automobile owners admitted receiving help for smuggling the materials from Israeli intelligence operatives.

  17. mary said on July 13th, 2009 at 3:01pm #

    Are you completely off your TROLLey?

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain said on July 13th, 2009 at 7:50pm #

    mary, mebosa’s story may either be, A) true, as the Israelis, as we know, are capable of any travesty, including promoting drug-pushing in Gaza, or using that to poison the ‘two-legged animals’. After all we know the Israelis dump toxic waste next to Palestinian villages (as their racist confreres in the US do with black towns and other communities)so a yet more deliberate poisoning is by no means unimaginable. Then mebosa’s story may be B) false, a bit of MEMRI, ie Mossad, produced black propaganda, with no basis in fact, all designed to further demonise Hamas, hence the Gazans, in preparation for another round that favourite Israeli sport, the mass murder of ‘two-legged animal’ children. Or C) the very least likely I imagine, it may be true, but I doubt it. And mebosa-I took your advice and converted to Judaism, discovered I was the Messiah, but fell into a funk of ‘self-hatred’ at the evil being done by my co-religionists. Have you any advice?

  19. B99 said on July 13th, 2009 at 8:46pm #

    Mebosa – And so your story proves what – – that Gaza is not under siege by Israel, that Palestine is not occupied by Israel, that Israelis don’t raise their children to leave their country upon high school graduation and shoot the unarmed citizens of another country including its children? I ask you these rhetorical questions because as we all know, they are the essence of the conflict. It really does not matter if Palestinians are foolish, stupid, conflicted, fundamentalist, or drug-addicted. Your only interest and your only duty should be to convince fellow Jews to get the eff out of Palestine.

  20. mebosa ritchie said on July 14th, 2009 at 4:45am #

    mary et al
    how about a trip to the multi ethnic,multicultural state of saudi arabia

    Saudi Arabia’s religious police are being blamed for the death of two sisters who were murdered in what is known as an ‘honor killing’ by their brother after the sisters were arrested for allegedly mixing with unrelated men.
    The Society for Defending Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia said the religious police arrested the two sisters, aged 19 and 21, thus putting their lives in danger.
    Their brother shot them to death in front of their father when they left a women’s shelter in Riyadh on July 5, according to Saudi news reports.
    The practice known as honor killing is a daily occurrence in Saudi Arabia. The incidents are staged to look like a suicide or an accident, Wajeha Huweidar, a Saudi women’s rights activist told The Media Line.

    “This case is shocking, because it didn’t occur behind doors. It happened in a public place and was published in local newspapers,” she said.

    Huweidar said the Saudi government was in denial of the honor killings trend and doing nothing about it.

    The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, otherwise known as the kingdom’s religious police, was criticized for arresting the girls, which sparked the brother’s anger and led to their deaths.

    “I think the religious police had a big role in this crime and many other crimes,” said Huweidar. “When a woman gets arrested for mingling with a non-male relative, that means her life is ended. She gets to go to a prison or to a women’s shelter and her family will not come to pick her up. The Saudi male guardianship system doesn’t allow women to be released without the presence of their male guardian.”

    “The hands of the religious police as well as the brother’s hands are stained with the blood of these innocent young women,” the Society for Defending Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia said. “These women have not committed any crime deserving to be killed in such a brutal way.”

    Honor killings – cases in which women are killed by relatives for socializing with men who are not their husbands or relatives – are a common practice in the Middle East and governments are trying to use legislation and awareness campaigns to end them.

    Saudi Arabia, which is governed by a strict form of Islamic law, does not allow women and men to mix if they are unrelated.

    The religious police enforce this and other religious rules, such as an Islamic dress code, prayer attendance and prohibiting possession or consumption of alcohol.

    The women’s rights organization called on the Saudi authorities to charge the brother with murder and bring members of the religious police involved in the girls’ arrest to justice.

    The religious police have come under fire over the past few years for their strict and sometimes brutal clampdown on what is perceived as un-Islamic behavior, fueling international criticism against Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

    Restrictions in the kingdom are particularly harsh for women, who are banned from driving and cannot perform most tasks outside the house without being accompanied by a male guardian, usually a husband, father, younger brother, son, or other close family member.

  21. B99 said on July 14th, 2009 at 4:52am #

    And so Mebosa, your expose on Saudi Arabia is meant to accomplish what – -To establish that the race-based state of Israel is good by comparison? That Israel deserves lots of US money so that it does not fall into that way of life? That Palestine is not occupied? That Israeli children are not trained to kill unarmed gentiles? Just what is your point?

  22. mebosa ritchie said on July 14th, 2009 at 10:28am #

    point is you are obsessed with israel and the jews
    you don’t care about anything else

  23. mebosa ritchie said on July 14th, 2009 at 10:32am #

    from out of the mouths of the palestinians

    Kaddoumi: Mahmoud Abbas Helped Kill Arafat

    Farouk al-Kaddoumi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization leader, claims that Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas was directly involved in the murder of former PA chairman and terrorist leader Yasser Arafat. Fatah leaders in the PA said the charges were politically motivated lies.
    Kaddoumi, the head of the PLO’s political office and the formal chairman of Fatah, told a press conference on Monday that he had protocols from a 2004 meeting between Israeli, American and PA representatives that clearly indicate a plan to poison Arafat. According to Kaddoumi, it was not only Abbas who was involved from the PA side, but former Gaza strongman Muhammad Dahlan as well. Before the Hamas takeover of Gaza, Dahlan served as the head of the PA’s secret police and preventative security forces in the Gaza region.

    Arafat died in November 2004 after a brief but intense illness, during which he was transported to France for emergency treatment. The cause of his death was never made public, but speculation ranged from assassination to liver failure to AIDS.

    Long rivalry
    Kaddoumi is a long-time rival of the PA leadership, as he was one of the only top Fatah-affiliated terror leaders who rejected Arafat’s Oslo Accords with Israel. He refused to join the PLO leadership when it moved to the newly established PA territory in 1994 and remained in Tunisia, where the PLO was headquartered after Israel drove the terror organization out of Lebanon in 1982. Abbas has made sweeping efforts to neutralize Kaddoumi’s power within Fatah and the PLO, although Kaddoumi formally retains his senior political offices.

    “Kaddoumi’s statements were false, full of contradictions and have no relation to reality,” declared the Fatah terrorist organization in a communique issued Tuesday by its central committee. “In his statements, Kaddoumi is trying to create an absurd situation, one of vengeance within the Palestinian society, and his words are very dangerous.”

    The statement charged that Kaddoumi’s objective in presenting his claims in a public forum was “to break up the sixth [Fatah] conference which is to be held in Bethlehem next month.”

    Kaddoumi objects to holding the conference in Bethlehem, preferring one of the Arab states. He may be seeking a forum where he will have greater influence than Abbas, such as Syria, where Kaddoumi is a frequent guest and referred to as the head of the “Palestinian movement”. Additionally, holding the event under PA jurisdiction would entail his recognition of the Abbas regime, which he opposes.

  24. B99 said on July 19th, 2009 at 4:38pm #

    mebosa – My obsession is with human rights and self-determination. I was involved with same re South Africa, Nicaragua, etc. My intense interest in Palestine comes out of four areas – an intellectual interest, an academic interest, as an American tax payer, and as mentioned above – human rights. In fact, this all holds true whether or not the oppressor is Jewish. And your obsession with Israel and the Jews is due to what? Let me guess. Because you are Jewish.

    Pointing up the supposed frailties of Arabs and Muslims does not mean Palestine is not occupied. That’s the issue.

  25. Shabnam said on July 19th, 2009 at 8:06pm #

    [Kaddoumi: Mahmoud Abbas Helped Kill Arafat]

    Abbas: Olmert said Arafat must be eliminated to take over his house
    to expand Jewish settlement for settlers ‘natural growth’