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Sunday, September 30, 2012

God in me VS. God in sky

God in me VS. God in sky

Gaza, September 30, At 5:30 am the sun starts weaving its rays around the velvety blue sky so slowly and carefully here in Gaza, light starts penetrating the world until it illuminate it. Usually, when I cant sleep at night and if I am nervous or going through something I turn to one of my house's windows to have a 101 conversation with god. I'm this kind of person who has long conversations with god and the spirits of dead people, I talk to my mom's and grandma's pictures whenever I miss them. Some think its crazy while others -like me- think that these conversations will be heard by god and\or the dead people we talk to.

My biggest relief comes when I open a window on a very cold wintery night and talk to god while the rain splashes on my face and the chilly wind penetrates my bones while its still dark outside and everybody is asleep but me and god. I become so honest, real and articulate. I bond with god and call me crazy but I feel like god hears me. I do it in summer also but I prefer it in winter.

Today isn’t a wintery day, but with all the craziness I am going through regarding where I stand in my life right now, I felt like I needed a conversation with god. I needed this conversation so bad especially after the endless nervousness regarding the US visa procedures and my trip to NEW YORK. For others, it might be just a trip or just a UN media training or an experience or a break or their own interpretation of such a trip. For me, the case is very very very different.

I have obsessed about New York after watching allot of good, bad and horrendous American shows of all kinds. After reading about New York, I felt like I relate to this city in allot of ways. New York has many sides: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and numerous other shades and faces. I have many sides too. New York is dynamic and artistic and I am dynamic and artistic in my own way. For me, New York is a dream-come-true of a city that dreams come true in. And I want to go there so bad. New York is the city of dreamers and I have big dreams.

After I left MSF, I landed many job interviews. Some I liked and others I disliked and decided to run in the opposite direction before\if things progressed. During September, I felt like time is passing by so slowly, but now that we are one step shy of October I feel like time is flying by so rapidly. It's crazy, I know, but it just shows you how crazy my life is right now. What if I get a good job offer right now? What will a job offer that will make me say no to New York look like? Should I say no to all job offers if I really want New York? Do I want New York more than landing a good job here in Gaza? Are five weeks worth turning job offers down? Should I just boycott all job interviews and offers for NYC's sake? What if don’t make it to NYC? And a thousand other depressing question that I overwhelm myself with during this dramatic period of my life.

While others are taking it easy, I am freaking out. UN sent us the housing options that turned out to be only one housing option which is a box-sized room in YMCA Manhattan. The location is VERY strategic but the place is horrible for me. Unfortunately, I am not this kind of person who doesn’t mind sleeping on somebody's floor and showering in public bathrooms.

I am comfortable with who I am but I wouldn’t deny that I wish I was this kind of person. Staying at a room that fits only for a small bed and sharing a bathroom with 30 other rooms for me is simply UNACCEPTABLE. Call me a brat, call me privileged, call me soft skinned, call me sissy or call me whatever you like I don’t care. I wouldn’t live properly if I didn’t stay at a place that had a good-sized bedroom with your own private bathroom. And in case you don’t know this: Prices of places to stay at in Manhattan ARE RIDICULOUSLY high. So that adds to my dilemma. I wasn’t expecting the UN to place us at the trump tower but I didn’t see that YMCA place coming either. So, I will keep searching till I find something affordable and comfortable at the same time. Wish me luck please.

And an epiphany that I went through this morning was: I am still not over my grandmother's death. Ok, by now you are confused and wondering why the hell are you reading this depressing and confusing blog post!!!! I agree with you LOL I am wondering the same thing. I strayed away from the main issue.

So after feeling all of what you just read above, I needed to resort to god and have a good conversation with him.  I went to every window on every side of my house in Gaza, but all windows were blocked. I can no longer see the sky from any window of my house due to the magnitude of the construction work that has been done around us and infront of us and behind us and on every side and…. .

It just hit me that I can no longer communicate with god from any window of my house. I got sad and angry. I know god is inside of us and we don’t need to look at the sky to talk to him. I know that we can see god in the pedals of a flower, in the stream of flowing water, in birds and animals and basically in everything that he created. But just like sometimes we seek people's recognition of how good we are, although we know we are damn good, I needed to look at the sky when I talk to god today because I needed to feel his presence so I can feel good and bathe in relief. I always talk to the voice of god in me but sometimes I just need to be vulnerable enough to look at the sky above and just vent out to god.

I thought of going downstairs but I decided not to. Because I would not be able to have a loud and verbal conversation with god unless I don’t mind sending the neighbors a message of how crazy I am, and I do. And because its school time and many children will be crowding the whole area walking their way to school.

While I was writing this blog post, I was sitting on my bed and it was nearly 7 am. I thought of taking a break but I was worried about the daily power outage that might happen any second now and till this second I don’t know if I would be able to publish this post or complete it now. I looked out of the opened window, and to my surprise, from my current eye-level there is a small space of sky visible and its all what I need.

I thought I wont be able to talk to god anymore and look up to the sky while doing it. Apparently I still can. Maybe not for long, but for now I still can. And its enough, so I call for celebration.

Ok, I don’t know why I felt like sharing this lame blog post with you all. I just did. Please don’t hate me if I wasted your time and I promise that I am not always that silly or lame SO PLEASE COME BACK AND CHECK MY BLOG FREQUENTLY AND DON’T RUN AWAY.

I wish you all a happy day wherever you are and I decided to send a prayer for every person struggling in this world today, wherever he\she is, and whatever he\she might be going through. We are all connected, we are all one. May we all live in peace, love and harmony. May we all exude, share, live, give, appreciate and seek happiness.


Omar from Gaza

Monday, September 17, 2012

UPDATE: Killers of Vittorio Arrigoni prosecuted

UPDATE: Killers of Vittorio Arrigoni prosecuted 

Gaza, September 17th, Military Court in Gaza sentenced today four Palestinians accused of killing Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni to hard labor and prison. Sentences came after holding more than twenty court sessions in the presence of an Italian lawyer assigned by Vik's family.

The court sentenced two defendants to life in prison, "Mahmoud Salfiti" and "Amer Al hasasna", on charges of kidnapping and murder.
Court also ruled the imprisonment of Khader Jerim sentenced to ten years in prison for participating in the kidnapping and imprisonment of fourth defendant, Amer Abu Ghoula, to one year in prison on charges of harboring the kidnappers.

Arrigoni, 36, Italian peace activist, worked with the Pro-Palestinian ISM (International Solidarity Movement), was murdered in April of 2011, hours after he was abducted by gunmen in Gaza.

For his part, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said that Arrigoni family sent an official letter to the court requesting the non-recourse to the death penalty against the accused as provided by the Palestinian Penal Code.

Khalil Shaheen, a member of the center, said in a press statement that the trial was transparent.

Vittorio wrote a book called "Stay Human" which touched his life and work in Gaza.

To read more about Vittorio's abduction, murder, work and Gaza's reaction towards his murder, Please check previous posts:


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

From Gaza to New York – Phase 1: Survival

 From Gaza to New York – Phase 1: Survival

When you usually ask people about their hobbies many of them will mention traveling. I don’t blame them, who wouldn’t enjoy traveling the world and exploring new cultures? I know I would. But if you live in Gaza, traveling can never be your hobby unless you want to kid yourself.

I was shortlisted, chosen and invited by the UN (United Nation) Headquarters in New York for media training. The Palestine, Decolonization and Human Rights Section,
UN Department of Public Information, usually invites Palestinian media practitioners every year for 5 weeks of media training.

I feel like the timing of this is perfect. 2012 has been an overwhelming year, allot of good and bad, but I did achieve allot. I am among the top 5 rankings of the 100 most influential Palestinians in Social media next to names like: Mourid Al Barghouti, Ali Abu Nimah and many other awesome Palestinian public figures. Its surreal and humbling but most of all it gives you reassurance that you have a voice and you are on the right path in getting it heard.

Ofcourse, I was ecstatic. I have been craving New York for nearly a year now and I cant stop saying how much I want to visit it, then the UN training came and actually offered me the chance of making my New York dream come true.

So if you were NOT Palestinian and NOT living in Gaza: All you have to do is visit the nearest US consulate, fill the visa application then head to the airport on the day of the assigned travelling trip. But gladly, I am Palestinian and I do live in Gaza. 

So my anticipated trip to New York is divided into a number of phases. Phase 1 is all about survival. Taking it one step at a time but having a nervous breakdown every day. UN provides everything but the US visa, obtaining the visa is our responsibility and I am sure you know how hard obtaining the US visa is.

First, you have to choose between applying for the visa through Jerusalem or Cairo. Its like choosing between dying by a lethal injection or dying by an electric chair. If you choose Jerusalem: It will be hard or even impossible to get an Israeli permit, even if you do, you won't guarantee passing Erez checkpoint (linking between Gaza and the West Bank) peacefully. And you cant guarantee that the Israeli authorities will issue the permit before your actual appointment.

If you choose Cairo: You are risking losing so much time and spending so much effort. You would have to go through Rafah border a couple of times to reach Cairo and apply for the visa and wait for your appointment or maybe head back Gaza and visit Cairo again when the appointment time comes if there is too much time in between. You cant guarantee the always-closed Rafah border, you cant guarantee reaching Cairo and you cant guarantee managing to head back in time for your appointment.
The good news is: Even if you went through all that, you cant guarantee actually obtaining the visa. Good news? Who said good news? I think my dark humor is kicking in.

Say you obtained the visa by a miracle, YOU ARE NOT OVER YET. You still have to cross Rafah border, and what do you know about Rafah border? Aside from the endless hours of waiting on the Egyptian side for no legitimate reason, and aside from all the humiliation you will be showered by the Egyptian border soldiers, you might not be able to guarantee your entry to Egypt and catching your plane on time. Or they might simply ask you to turn back and go home without giving any explanations.
While people worry about going shopping before they travel, we worry about making constant traveling arrangements to guarantee that we actually reach New York.

Whenever I get nervous about the border, the airplane trip, reaching New York, the UN training, thinking about possible futuristic inner conflicts about staying there or coming back, I just stop and remind myself: "Omar, you still haven’t finished your visa application and even when you do you might not be able to attend the appointment, and even if you do you might not get the visa". So, I calm down again for a few seconds and promise myself to take things slower but then I go to being nervous a little afterwards.

This is the price you have to pay when you live in Gaza, a besieged impoverished costal enclave that is smothered by Israel and Egypt is there to tighten Israel's grip. Nothing is guaranteed. Instead of daydreaming, shopping and planning, you just sit and wait and contemplate and wish and hope and work and push and try and apply and ask and…… .

You will have only the last minute to worry about shopping, obtaining international health insurance, packing and all these stuff.

Stay tuned for Phase 2: THE VISA SAGA….. If and whenever that happens.

Love, support, peace, humanity, equality and hugs (and kisses don’t hurt),

Omar from Gaza