When I close my eyes, Gaza is covered in a radiant white light. But it’s not white phosphorus—it’s warm, it’s soulful, it’s good.
When I close my eyes, there are no lines of people desperately waiting for their ration of food, water, or fuel. There are no children carrying the lifeless bodies of other, smaller children. There are no ice cream trucks used as morgues for bodies whose lives were cut short by precision bombs. There are no screams or desperate, quiet voices echoing from the rubble, baba, baba? No. When I close my eyes, every child can be heard and every parent is alive.
When I close my eyes, there is no Iron Wall. There are no underground concrete barriers or a 20-foot-high metal fence with razor wire lining the top of Israel’s open air prison. There are no checkpoints or military guards watching from towers. There are no cameras or radars or snipers or underground sensors to detect human activity. No. There are only open roads and rolling hills covered in generations-old olive trees that have never been cut down. There are orange groves that rustle with the wind and scent the air. The oranges are the size of grapefruits, I promise they are, and people from all over the world come to taste their sweet juices.
When I close my eyes, there are no names written on children’s hands to identify their lifeless bodies. There are no teenagers reporting the latest from their throttled 2G broadband, screaming for attention, screaming for someone to care, screaming for it to stop. There are no journalists grieving their loved ones or shot dead at borders while trying to do their jobs. There are no makeshift love letters sent between queer Palestinian teenagers, one still living and the other already dead, who never got the chance to hold hands or say I love you before bombs struck their home. No. There is only love. All kinds of love. Big beautiful love that everyone can see and share. When I close my eyes, every love letter reaches its lover in Gaza.
When I close my eyes there is no humanitarian crisis. There is no military siege or apartheid. No occupation. Here, occupation is a word used for doctors, journalists, professors, caretakers, shopkeepers, researchers, chefs, engineers, construction workers, entrepreneurs, artists, and farmers. Here, occupation is a livelihood. Here, occupation is a calling. It is a choice and it is always beautiful.
When I close my eyes, there are no black water tanks sitting on top of rooftops controlled by governments that never cared. There are no ceasefires or 3.8 billion dollar handouts for ambiguous military needs. There are no nuclear weapons. There are no rocks thrown. There are no terrorists. There are no victims, even imperfect ones. There are no raids. There are no existential security threats in the region. There are no “sides” and “complicated” histories that distract from the truth. No. There are only people who laugh when they hear something funny and cry when they see something beautiful. They are Palestinian people who live, Palestinian people who grow old.
When I close my eyes, there are no fliers maliciously dropped from the sky demanding that inhabitants leave their homes. When I close my eyes, the only things that have ever dropped from the sky in Gaza are droplets of rainfall. They nourish the gardens, they soothe the cracked, dry earth, they fall upon faces like a lullaby. There are no red crescent ambulances being shot at while trying to climb the rubble to rescue their own. No. There is no rubble at all, in fact. Gaza is pristine. Gaza is glowing. Gaza is whole.
When I close my eyes, there are new, colorful playgrounds everywhere filled with children, surrounded by lush green parks and ponds and waterfalls and musicians who play their people’s music for tourists to enjoy and tap their feet to. There are mounds of spices lining the streets—orange, red, pink, yellow, green—spices so fresh that one only needs to walk by for their mouths to water, to know how they taste. There are teenagers smoking shisha at night alongside sidos playing backgammon. There are weddings, so many weddings, that spill out onto the streets as families dabke down the road, inviting everyone to join in and dance and clap and sing high-pitched ululations that echo through the town. There are birthday parties every day, celebrating every single year their children grow older and more beautiful and more whole. There are holy months and holy days and they are always peaceful, always spiritual, and always healing.
There are bright high school students gathered around their computers in the spring and jumping for joy when they learn which colleges they’ll head to in the fall. There are aunties sipping fresh mint tea and ammos picking lemons from their gardens. There are fathers toasting za’atar on the stove and mothers nursing children. There are children growing strong not because they have to be but because they are blessed to. In Gaza, every dream is heard, every dream is honored, every dream is worth hoping and praying for.
Every single home has a balcony and a view of the sea and every door is left open to let the breeze swirl through and tickle the fur of a sleeping cat or ruffle the curls of a snoozing teta. Everyone has everything, no one needs anything, so doors are always open, always welcoming, always with aunties saying, sahtein, eat more, come sit down and eat more.
There are pearly resorts lining the seaside that locals sneak into and enjoy on the weekends. Every Saturday families pack their bags and lay on the beach, drift in the sea, soak in the beauty of their land—their land, their land, it’s their beautiful land!
Every night people line up by the sea and sit at small tables drinking strong, Arabic coffee and eating cheesy, rose-water syrup-coated knafeh. They are there to watch the fireworks streak through the black sky. The fireworks run red and white and green against the darkness and everyone is proud and no one is scared because it is the only light they’ve ever known shoot across their sky. Gaza is whole. Gaza is there. Gaza is liberated.
I keep thinking about the light over Gaza. I want you to think about the light over Gaza, too. Close your eyes and keep imagining the warm, angelic lights smiling over Gaza.
Please, open your eyes. See the lights emanating from all the souls alive and well in Gaza.