This will be my final blog post from Gaza—at least for a while. Next week, I’m headed back to Chicago in my other role as the program director of a dialogue camp for Israeli, Palestinian and American teenagers. After that, I’ll begin my search for a full-time position at a newspaper, magazine, think tank or international non-governmental organization.
Before coming to Gaza five months ago, I chatted with Swedish journalist Catrin Ormestad, who reported from Gaza before and after last year’s war. Ormestad offered some wise advice. “Especially when I write for Israeli audiences,” she said, “I try to write in a way that shows Palestinians’ humanity.”
As I look back at my articles and blog posts, I realize I have focused on the more controversial and “newsworthy” aspects of life in Gaza. I wrote about Gazan families living in half-destroyed homes. I wrote about peaceful protesters getting shot in the no-go zone. I wrote about a women's rights activist who advocates the murder of Israeli civilians. I wrote about desperate Gazans who crawled through the smuggling tunnels for Egyptian medical treatment. I wrote about Hamas’s post-flotilla raids on Gazan charities. I wrote about the connection between electricity shortages and sewage tsunamis. And I wrote about grassroots community leaders— filmmakers, aid workers, psychologists, political analysts and a refugee camp comedian.
However, I didn’t write much about the universal stories of people living their ordinary lives—fretting over school exams, dancing at weddings, joking with friends, empowering children, celebrating birthdays, and mourning the passing of loved ones. Despite the trauma and destruction wrought by war and the daily indignities of the siege, life goes on in Gaza.
I’ve therefore peppered this final blog post with pictures of one beautiful expression of Gaza's enduring humanity: family outings to the beach. Every summer, thousands of people from diverse political factions and socio-economic backgrounds converge on the 25-mile coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. They fly homemade kites. They build sandcastles. They swim. They chitchat. They catch minnows. They play soccer. They watch the sunset. Like families around the world, they seek out simple moments of pure joy and plant special memories in the impressionable minds of their children.