Donna Schumann | Gaza Delegation
Today we celebrate Eide, the day after the last day of Ramadan. I celebrate because I no longer need to duck under tables and behind counters to drink water “discreetly” between sunrise and sunset, It is the equivalent of Christmas Day for most Americans, if most Americans were more reverent and family oriented. People dress in their finest clothes and visit each other, bringing small symbolic gifts such as sweets to share.
People walk everywhere – small groups of very young girls wander down the streets together, no doubt watched from a short distance by a caring family member. And small “gangs” of 5-7 year-old boys run around playing the equivalent of cops and robbers with their friends. It reminds me of the American culture my father described from his childhood, and close to my childhood in Ohio in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Parents felt safer letting their children play, knowing that their neighbors and family would watch out for them. And the kids walk up to our group of strange foreigners, a little shy. When I ask if I can take their picture, they usually say yes. And then more and more kids want their picture taken, with a few, usually boys, really hamming it up. They smile or laugh at my clumsy attempts at Arabic, but are very polite and shake my hand. And there are usually smiling adults watching and smiling at us.
I love the Palestinian people. Their culture is generous, tolerant, polite, and sincere. Most of my friends in America are the same way, but I don’t feel that the American culture as a whole fits this description. I wish it did. Although most youth throughout the world love high tech gadgets, in Palestine the youth I’ve met don’t seem to value them above their family and friends.
When I was in Egypt, I was watching my belongings every second, constantly on hyper alert. In Palestine, I just walked away from the table where I’m enjoying a cup of tea leaving my netbook and purse sitting in the open so that I can use the bathroom. It didn’t occur to me to pack everything up and take it with me – it feels safe here. Far safer than in the U.S. Of course, we do have our watchful Hamas security. (I’d like to bring one back to Egypt to get me across streets and to chase off aggressive urchins.) But in spite of the horrible conditions Palestinians endure, they haven’t yet lost their dignity, pride, and values.
I’m now off to the Square of the Unknown Soldier to see more of the Eide celebration.
Next time I’ll try to have a bit more content. But right now I’m basking in the glow of the Eide celebration.