13 September 2005

Take me to the sea

Of all the sins visited upon the people of Palestine by Israel, and there are many, the one I find truly unforgivable is the fact that Palestinians who lived a stone's throw from the Mediterannean never had the chance to walk on a beach, to swim in the sea.

So the first thing Palestinian men, women and children did when Israeli troops and settlers finally left the Gaza Strip on September 12 was to run to the beach.

The Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, reports:
"Joyous Palestinians flooded into empty settlements while others headed straight
for the beach. Palestinian teens Mahmoud Barbakh and Mohammed Jaroun
grew up just a few minutes from the Mediterranean, but had never been to the
beach before.

On Monday, they waded into the waves with their jeans rolled up, then abandoned all caution and threw themselves into the surf. "It was the sweetest thing in the whole world," said 15-year-old Mahmoud, beaming... Hundreds of Palestinians enjoyed the water off the Gaza coast, some at the former beachfront settlement of Shirat Hayam. One used a refrigerator door as a makeshift surfboard. Nearby, youngsters collected spent Israeli bullet casings, stuffing them into empty bottles."
The photographs here say it all. Sadly, so unused to the waves were the Palestinian children that five of them drowned.

Take me to the sea at sunset,
that I may hear what the sea says to you
when it returns to
itself, tranquil, so tranquil.

I shall not change what is in me. I shall steal into a wave
and say: take me to the sea again.
This is what those who are afraid do with themselves.
They go to the sea when tormented by a star
that burnt itself in the sky.
Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, 'The Strangers Pleasure Trip'
From Why have you left the horse alone ( Translated by Lena Jayyusi)

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