During some members of our group were making a workshop in photography in a centre for children, i move with my best friend M. and S. of our group to the Beach Camp, a refugee camp containing about 60.000 persons. If we talk about a refugee camp, we often imagine a place full of tents, but those in Gaza existing for over 60 years look more like a small city with grey uncoloured lowest-standard houses. The distances between the houses are differing from each other, but some “streets” are as large as my body and it is easier to loose yourself in the alleys of the camp than in a labyrinth.
We want to see a fisherman, Mahmoud, he is 54 years old and is living close to the former Secret Service Building of the Palestinian Authority, which was several times bombed. Eventually many people people in this world were happy to hear that this building was destroyed and is not usable anymore, but did anybody care about the destroyed houses which are surrounding the building? Did anybody talk about Mahmouds house which was damaged several times? Did anybody ask himself if he would have the money to rebuild it? Obviously not. Mahmouds house is in a very bad condition, the roof is provisory repaired and a bad smell is present wherever you turn your nose, which is surrounded by a big “murder of flies”.
Mahmoud lives with his wife, who was not present today, because she had to meet her brother who lives in Egypt and 4 kids, 2 younger boys and 2 elder girls in this poor, in my opinion slum quarter. He is sick. He can´t move his legs properly, his nervous system is not working well anymore what forced him to stop to continue his work as a fisherman 20 years ago, but nevertheless during he tells us his unhappy story, he doesn´t show that he feels blue, no, he actually laughs and makes jokes like everybody in Gaza. It is tradition here to smile, when you pass the most difficult moments in your life.
On his right side sits a bit bashful 17 year old girl, called M. She doesn’t smile so much. The expression of her face reflects her disaffection of her current situation. No, it is not a punishment of her father, what makes her so serious, it is not the lack of money to buy a new Barbie doll or new clothes,…..it is the sadness not to be able to go to school anymore, not to be able to begin a career, not to be able to study education in sports, which you can read out of her beautiful brown glassy eyes. She likes sports, she swims faster than others and she had the dream to participate at the Olympic Games, but instead she decided to stop the school, to take the boat of her father and to continue with the tradition of the family, even if she knows that fishing at the coast of the Gaza Strip can be fatal. Her father is proud of her, he can´t stop to repeat how strong she is, how important she is for the survive of the family. With 1000 Shekel(200 Euros) for seven months, a contribution from the Authority, it is not possible to pay all the costs, electricity, food and transport for the school of her brothers and her sister. She is the oldest of her siblings and that they have something to eat depends often on her fishing.
Since 2 weeks M. has another problem: She is not allowed anymore to go out at the Sea. The tradition says that only men can be fishers. With a strong voice she tells us that when she goes to the seaport to take the boat of her father, many of the male fishers were laughing at her and making discriminating jokes about her. A woman can irritate the local tradition, can blind the brains of the males and can be reasons for conflicts among the population. As consequence she was forced to stop fishing, to stop to feed her family, to stop to be herself. The following weeks, after the Authority will discuss her case, will show, if she will be able to continue her job, putting herself in danger to be shoot by the Israeli Coast Guard. And the following years will show, if she will be able to make her dreams come true, if she will participate at the Olympic Games, if she will be able to finish one time her studies, if she will be able to have a “normal” life…….or……..if she will be forced to help her father again……….. to repair their house.