Gaza’s Beaches: Respite in a Prison

(Photo: Yousef Aljamal, Palestine Chronicle)

For Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, distances from the Apartheid Wall to the coast are as little as 20-30 kilometers in some areas, yet many young Palestinian children growing up in the West Bank have never seen the sea.

In contrast, for Palestinians trapped within the besieged Gaza Strip the sea is central to many aspects of life.

Only 40 kilometers long and up to 10 kilometers wide, the Gaza Strip is home to nearly 2 million Palestinians. Leaving Gaza is virtually impossible in all but the most exceptional cases due the blockade imposed by Israel.

Within this open air prison, the sea offers one of the few places of respite for children and families.

With electricity supplies in Gaza restricted to between 8-12 hours a day in most areas, the coast offers a place to escape the stifling summer heat in cramped apartments that can offer no cooling systems when the power is cut, except for those families who are in a financial position to buy generators and fuel. Majority of Gaza’s population suffers poverty, hence, such an option is minimal.

The challenges and dangers of being a fisherman in Gaza are often depicted in the news with fishermen regularly facing fines and being shot by Israeli gunboat patrols.

Physically, the coast shows the signs of war as does most of the Gaza Strip. In many areas harbor walls have been reinforced with rubble from buildings blown up by Israel during recent bombardments. In other areas the rubble has been used to build jetties stretching out in to the sea.

However, despite the obvious scars, and the multitude of challenges and threats faced by Palestinians in Gaza the area’s coast still provides a place of respite amidst Israel’s ongoing killings, arrests abuse of Palestinians.

Young men practice parkour on the beaches and families enjoy time together. The sound of music and laughter, or shrieks of children’s happiness are never too far away, yet Palestinians are all too aware of the Israeli drones and fighter planes flying overhead and the memory of four little boys killed while playing soccer on the beach.

(PC, MEMO)

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