“I should charge my laptop before I get to sleep”, I thought before I got under my thick blanket on my first night in Ustinov College, Durham. Realizing I’d no longer need to worry about electricity cuts, at least not for the next year, I beamed. Even sleeping turns out to be a totally new experience here, out of Gaza. I slept, not worrying that I should be waking up on dawn to catch up with some online reading before the electricity is off for the most part of the day; I slept without selfishly convincing myself that the shelling shocking my house every now and then and claiming the lives of other Gazans is somehow going to be far from my house, my family and my loved ones.
It’s been two weeks since I’ve been here and each day brings about new dimensions to life. A realization of how much I’ve been forcefully robbed.
Every morning, I helplessly run downstairs, eager to check on my mail. While my flatmates carelessly check their mail as if doing so is a boring daily life routine, I enthusiastically flip through the envelopes searching for the mail coming under my name. Mostly, it’s receipts and notices. But, no matter how formal those letters are, getting them still fills me with a sense of life. And I just wish that one day I’ll boringly go through the mail as careless. I wish for the day when this is no longer an exceptional experience, when getting a bunch of books from a friend in the US won’t have to take six months to get to me, when a postcard with an Eiffel tower finds its way to my heart without the burden of first going all the way to Jerusalem then me, if I were lucky enough.
In Gaza, nothing has felt more disheartening and infuriating than the shortage of books I would be recommended. Wandering around the very few bookshops in Gaza, I could barely see any recent publications for Palestinian writers. The most torturous to find were those of Edward Said who, widely read here, is barely read in our academic curricula. Books are everywhere here: every Department, Every street, every house, and every corner, sometimes. Thinking their policies would result in an ignorant native population, they are unaware they are making of us a generation thirsty for books, and for knowledge. Books were my solicitous companion in darkness; books still are my enlightening companion.
Every new experience, whether a musical concert, a museum, a theatre, a street performance and more, reminds me of home. It reminds me of the injustice I’ve been subjected to on daily basis. And I realize it when I speak of how it’s like to live in Palestine for people here. Stunned, emotional, shocked, or even tearful as some people could get when I speak of the mundane things that I once took for granted as a Gazan, it’s me who’s the more shocked or even traumatized to realize how unfair I was to myself when I considered a life of injustice as the norm. And I’m bound more to home, to Gaza, to Palestine. I realize that my life is all about fighting. Fighting for life.