These two letters were sent to nY from Gaza by Shadi Salem, as his contribution to our issue #40, dedicated to celebration.
We love life as much as we can
The people of Gaza have lived three wars in no more than 6 years, so that a child born in 2008 has lived through these three wars, especially the Fourth World War on Gaza in 2014, where no one was expected to survive. It is very hard to see the children of Gaza going out into the streets to provide food to their family because of poverty or unemployment. They are kids but in reality they are not because they have adult responsibilities from childhood.
Shadi Salem and Mosab Abu Toha chose to study English at the Islamic University because of its importance in communicating with the outside world. During the study, material resources were very difficult to get, and it was not easy to provide expenses for going to the university so that they could buy English books, which would help them improve their English. Furthermore, since the Gaza Strip was lacking these books, the idea of creating a public library in English arose. This idea was presented to friends and there was great support for this idea. Many of them sent collections of books, and so about 400 books were gathered, and so we started thinking about a place to put them so everyone can easily reach and benefit from these books. Then friends started sending more books until we had about 2000 English books.
But later, after the support from friends, we thought of renting a place for an English public library where there are not only books, but where we can also work on cultural activities that help in the development of the spirit of thinking among all members of society. We launched a fundraising campaign to rent a flat and buy furniture and other necessary equipment. We were successful because of the help of people who loved to promote the idea of reading and its importance in the development of societies, and it is the only real weapon to help spread peace and love for the world as a whole.
The establishment of the library has brought joy to the people of Gaza despite all the difficulties.It is also the idea of two young men who have no partisan affiliation, and this is the secret of success.
We are happy to see the smile on the children’s faces as they find a place to develop and strengthen their abilities and spend time with things they love. I feel the greatness of what we established through the children who come to the library and spend time reading books and watching the cultural videos, and also through the external activities of the library.
The library carried out an external journey for children from the northern Gaza Strip. About 210 children participated in this trip. The event included a number of activities, including cultural entertainment, social networking, Dabkeh dancing, and distribution of gifts and hospitality. The aim of this activity was to introduce the largest number possible to the library as well as to spread the spirit of culture and reading among children.
The alleviation of the suffering of children, even a little, is the best work an individual can do, because it enhances the love of good work and also the creation of a generation conscious and able to understand their rights.
Happiness despite suffering
Despite the difficult conditions experienced by the Palestinian people at home and outside of Palestine and what the people of Gaza are going through, they do not have any door to freedom. Gaza is closed from all sides, from the south by Egypt, from the west by the Mediterranean Sea, from the north and east by the land claimed by Israel.
The only outlet for life for the people of Gaza is the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The journey of suffering begins here. The traveler is first required to register and then to wait for a long time to find his name on the travel list, and this causes despair to various groups of Gazans, such as patients. It resulted in the death of a large number of patients because of their inability to travel or to receive the transfer for treatment. It also makes students wait to travel, as they are required to obtain the visa more than once, since visas expire, or it leads to them being denied a grant because of the delay. It also deprives students studying abroad from the chance to see the most cherished people on their hearts, and it torments them to think about it.
The people of Gaza are not thinking about taking a vacation because they are busy with the hardships of life. They tasted the suffering from different ways. Despite all this, you can ask how they are still alive. This question can be answered by how the people of Gaza spend their summer vacation.
After a long year of fatigue and misery in a hard academic year, Gazan families begin their summer vacation by looking for ways and means of hiking, enjoying their time and entertaining their children, who desire to spend the most time playing.
Although the choice of Gazan families may be little, much less than for other countries in the world, there is a long schedule of summer programs for vacation.
The only outlet for the people of Gaza is the sea, where the Gazans spend the summer vacation on the beach to enjoy the beauty of nature, which keeps them away a bit from their daily suffering. Gazans enjoy their time at the sea not only to swim, but also to escape the power cuts and continuous heat in the summer. But if you go to the sea, you will find them the happiest people on this planet because of their love for life and their attachment to it. And as you sit on the beach, you will find the small and the big swim and with complete joy and happiness. You forget that you are a man imprisoned in a cage and forget that you are a citizen who has lived with the Israeli occupation for decades. You forget that you lived three wars within 6 years and forget that electricity comes only 6 hours a day and forget worrying about how to get food for your family.
Many young men and women express their feelings by writing on the beach and it is the place where Gazans can most express their feelings. The most delightful scene is to see the people around you happy. This scene you see when you look at the gates of people coming from their homes, carrying a lot of food and things, and some of them come in the morning to eat breakfast on the beach.
And also the most beautiful thing you can see on the Gaza beach is children’s smiles reappear, which had been extinguished by the scourge of war. And when you see people walking on the beach, it is as if you see a fashion show. Others have a taste for sunset, but their tongue says, “Do not leave. We are very happy. I do not want it to disappear.”
Look at the kites flown by the children, and conclude that freedom is the last of the things that can be taken away from a human being. This is the language of the people of Gaza who are leaving on their short trip.