Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quick Update

So, word on the Gaza Street that Rafah will open on Monday, Tuesday and Wed of next week...I have to see my name on the travel list where I will be able to get on the Palestinian bus to hit the borders with Egypt. I have yet to see my name on the website.

I am working some contacts to put me on the good list the Egyptians if the Palestinians do not put on the list, the Egyptians have to also ok me and both have to give me the green light at the same time.

Any Palestinian pissing match, I am lost and so are countless others.

How about it?
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Not That Time

I went to the Rafah borders and tried to get into Egypt, the borders are sealed closed...but sometimes they let people out if they were on the safe side...I was told I was and I was promised that my name is on the good list...the good list lets you into Egypt even though the borders are closed...

The Palestinina men guarding the borders told us to wait for the guy with the hour later we got a hold of the guy with the brother majid spoke to him and name was not on the good list...and whoever told me I am on the list is either ill informed or full of...

I am working on different fronts to get out, one of the ought to flight form Cairo leaves on the 29th, I doubt I will make it, that's less than 48 hours.

there is a chance the borders will reopen in few days, but nothing certain, so I might have to change me ticket....I regers that I might miss on Jehad's wedding...a wedding I have been waiting years to attend...I am sure it will be a great one with the reinds Jehad and Raesah keep.

in the meantime, i will focus on enjoying my time here and trying to be postive...hope all is well
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Politics of a Gaza Paycheck

Visiting with a family member in Mo’askar Jabalya (the Jabalya Refugee Camp), I came to learn about a not so unique story about security forces personally working for the Fateh government.

In May 2007, just a few weeks before the Hamas takeover of Gaza, my cousin Hasan was kidnapped by loyalist Fateh security forces and kept in their basement for 10 days. They accused him of being a member of Hamas and of being part of their militant wing while working for the government, which happened to be a big “No No” at the time. He was kidnapped and 10 days later, they let him go, but not without cutting his salary coming from Ramallah.

Shekels make the world go round (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
With Hamas currently in-charge of the Strip, he had to prove even more that he wasn’t a member of the Hamas military wing so that his salary could be restored. Hasan claims that they had good information on him from friends of his who sold him out and that most security agencies had information proving that he was a high ranking member of the Hamas military wing, the Izz Ad-deen Al-Qassam Brigades. Hasan said that he had some Fateh guy write him a letter proving that he was indeed a member of Fateh so that his salary could be restored. The letter also had 21 other names, most of which were approved and who had their salaries reinstated, except for his. According to Hasan, the preventative Security Force said “Hell no! This ain’t gonna fly with us!” and they continued to disbelieve him to be a Fateh guy.

Now the story takes an interesting turn: Hasan’s contact in Ramallah told him that if he wanted his salary back, he had to prove that he was a member of Islamic Jihad. Here is where Hasan lost me: if Fateh doesn’t like Hamas, why would they not mind him being a member of another Islamic group? Why would this group be credible with the Palestinian Authority when their peers in Hamas are viewed as a threat? I came to learn that members of the Islamic Jihad enjoy working with Fateh on the ground while the leadership of the party prefers Hamas. Hasan went into action and managed to break through to some leaders of Islamic Jihad who gave him a letter confirming his membership in their group. A few more calls and three months later, Hasan started receiving his paycheck and everything was back to normal.

Dismantled Jewish Settlement in Gaza reads: Sharon is a Kapo
Now Hasan states that he no longer believes in any of those parties and he is loyal only to his paycheck since no one offered to help him when he was making his case. I know this is true, because Hasan makes fun of all parties equally and stays out of trouble. He also managed to take me in a trip to Rafah, you know, to the Dixie corners of S.G. (Southern Gaza) to tour the evacuated Jewish settlements. A group of bearded men also came along for the ride. I was like, “Seriously?!”

But the tense atmosphere changed when they cranked up the volume on the radio and brought out the Hookah. I just sat back and relaxed for yet another short while in the tiny strip bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

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Tags: Gaza, Hanitizer, Palestinian National Unity
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just About

Roa'a and I are still trying to figure out a way to be alone...there are so many social occasions and too many family inviting us to do things with is nice of them, but please leave me alone with the girl...something that happens once in a blue moon.

The people first invite you to their home and then insist you eat their food or else, "what do you mean you do not love me?" No, I cannot eat nuts because I have a reaction to them! And yes, I do not love what you are doing!

Yesterday we went to the beach with my family, our 14th annual trip on my home where dad takes all his kids, their wifes/husbands, their kids and load a large bus and hit the beach! Roa'a made an appreance and those fine kids started calling her my wife...she was like what? in a funny way...

I finally got my name on the travel list to get on the bus...I am not sure when I can make it, but it feels good to be on the list for travel....

I miss Marshall, the Traget and Macrooni Grill, but most I miss my AC and my workout program
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Monday, July 20, 2009

May be

Word on the street that the Rafah border will opn on the 27th of this month, if this works out, I might be able to get out and make it to the plane on time, but this is the Strip nothing works out as it should. I am hoping the Egyptians will understand the situation and the local government won't tell me to go fingers are crossed. In the meantime, I am doing well, hate the freaking hot weather and miss my apartment and the local Target! All the best
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PCHR Condemns Police Assault on Wedding Party of al-Madhoun Clan in Beit Lahia

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns police attacks against a wedding part of the al-Madhoun clan on Tuesday in Beit Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip. The police attacked the party, opened fire and violently beat attendants, after participants raised a portrait of Sameeh al-Madhoun, a Fatah activist who was killed in 2007 in the context of internal fighting between the Fatah and Hamas movements.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 22:40 on Tuesday, 14 July 2009, the Palestinian police stormed a wedding party of the al-Madhoun clan in Beit Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip. Police officers fired into the air and at the house of the bridegroom's father, 'Abdul Hakim al-Madhoun. As a result, 4 persons, including two women, were lightly wounded:

1) Ne'ma Salim al-Madhoun, 60, wounded by shrapnel from a gunshot to the left foot;
2) Tahreer Ibrahim al-Madhoun, 22, wounded by shrapnel from a gunshot to the right foot;
3) Rabah Ibrahim al-Madhoun, 48, wounded by shrapnel from a gunshot to the head; and
4) Mahmoud 'Abdul Hakim al-Madhoun, 21, wounded by shrapnel from a gunshot to the head.

Police officers also violently beat a number of guests and participants.

According to information obtained by PCHR from eyewitnesses, the police stormed the wedding party after members of the clan raised a portrait of Sameeh al-Madhoun, a Fatah activist who was killed by militants from Hamas on 14 June 2007. Earlier, Dr. Nafez al-Madhoun, Rapporteur of the Legal Committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council, attempted to convince members of the clan to remove the portrait, but they refused.

PCHR condemns this attack and calls upon the Government in Gaza to investigate and bring those responsible to justice. PCHR further emphasizes the need to have clear instructions regulating the use of force, including firearms, by the police to ensure respect for public freedoms and the safety of people.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gaza Points

Cab drivers do not have change, they give you attitude when you give them money and ask for change.

The ATM does not give me US dollars, are really hard to come by since the banks do not recieve funds in hard currency.

The money people use does not get recycled, the paper bills are in a bad shape, they remind me of money in Egypt where they are torn and sweaty.

Gaza is becoming more and more like Egypt...even some traditionally Egyptians professions are making an appearance in Gaza the Hantour, the horse pulled carriage.

It seems that the majority of the people do not work, so they have most of their days free...but Friday still treated as a special day...why not sure. It's not like they got stuff to do the rest of the week.

The photographer burned my there you go...thanks for nothing! If this was in the States, I would be a rich person now once I win the lawsuit. I do have few pictures that we took as a backup.

Fruits in Gaza are all over the place, summer is the time of great fruits like figs, grapes, watermelon, mangos, and plums. They are a lot more expensive than before, but people still Buy them.

Few Hamas tugs chased my cousin to arrest him, he ran away and hid from them...the guy sells produce in the morning and grocery at night...maybe this is a threat to them.

I did gain weight despite my good efforts not to overeat...thanks to the royal treatments of my mother and future mother in law.

I did find an awesome place for hot chocolate in Gaza, it was up there with the great hot chocolates I had. Om Jehad Hyer still makes the best one I had in Utah! The place in Gaza called Mazaj, a trendy place where you pay an arm an a leg...but you are in downtown Gaza.

The UNRWA has great summer camps for all children ages 6-15.

My future in laws took us to the beach last night and we had some great falfel sandwiches, with butter was good, I was sleepy and Roa'a was there to make fun of me!

I still avoid swiming in Gaza beach, but the breeze is great, giving that July is the hottest month of the year.

Hamas does a better job managing the traffic in Gaza, and breaking the will of the few vicious families in Gaza by telling them and showing them that they are not above the law.

You will make a killing in Gaza if you figure out a way to supply them with popular original fragrances.

Also GM does not need a bailout, Gaza needs cars...they really do and can buy them especially the ones who make them into cabs. they pay top dollars for lame cars, more than they cost three times over maybe..
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Gaza Bro

My latest post I am stuck!
My Story As of Now
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Live Action in Gaza

Last night at my cousin wedding party and during the guys portion of the party...the local police force crashed the wedding with live ammunition.

My cousins showed up at my engagement party and danced their butts of, so I kind of had to go...I did go and shared the good times with them..the music was great and everybody was having a good time.

They choose to put a picture of my other cousin Sameeh, who was killed in the Hamas takeover....some of the local eyes and people at the party I am guessing called the Hamas police force and asked them to come down and take down the party...

The governor called my uncle who works with this government, but has no ideological affinity with them to come down and take down the picture...

He came down and spoke to the people there they refused to take down the picture because it is family wedding and Sameeh is the cousin of everybody at the party.

The local police force comes down, their leader talked to my uncle who promised to take down the party in 10 minutes without incident. But some Hamas guy with a personal vendetta defied his commander and asked the force to attack the wedding.

They stormed the party and live ammunition started to fly in the air...I saw the situation got tense, I went indoors and hid inside...their was a war zone for 10 minutes and then Hamas policemen started shooting in the air...the roof where I was standing had five bullets and aunt and three of my cousins got hurt, two others went to the hospital. my aunt and my cousin both got bullets in their legs--keep on mind my cousins (girl) wedding is in 2 weeks.

I was held inside the house for 30 minutes because Hamas officers stood at the door to stop people inside the house from tossing all sort of things at them.

They broke so many chairs and ruined a good party...If i was not there, i would not have believed was insane and it was a shame, a real shame.

My uncle lost his mind on the police force because he thought they were picking on them...they came in the last 20 minutes of the the thing could have ended with no incident, but some hothead had to make a scene

Maybe my cousins should not have put the Sameeh picture, but it is a dead guy's picture and family picture, it is not an act of defiance. An act of defiance would be playing some of Fateh songs or even putting their flags...none of this happened.

Frankly, cannot wait to get back to my studeo in Columbia Heights.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Engagement Stories

The engagment party videographer sucks...he made a video and took pictures, low quality video and his staff person missed out entrance and the song that was chosen by us. The colors were off at times. The good news is that I did not chose this person, dad did!

Dad has been fliping most of the bills so far...I cannot get money from the ATM in Gaza because due to the seige on Gaza, currencies does not make it regulary...and there is always shortage of change. I will do my best to pay back most of the expenses.

My to be father in law is a stud, he ordred a lot of good things that added new things to the program. He ordred lots of food and drinks and staf to serve them...almost unheard off in Gaza. Everyone ate and had a great time. I heard it was givening the party of the season....

Roa'a and I had great energey and we had a spark so the dance was really awsome since we were under the microscpre for a while.

We did each give a brief talk, we thanks few guests and recognized few individuals and talked about how we met. It was a new thing in Gaza and it earned some extra credit with the folks.

Yasser Arafat's uncle who knows my in laws came and sent flowers, but Haniya's (Hamas Prime Minister) send his right hand man who kissed me on the my credit I did not know who he was.

My brother Majid, the younger one who used to beat me up brought in a band and some of his buds to act like if they are my buddies and make me dance and do lots of crazy shiznet! It was funny...

It was a great bonding expreince with my brothers..really it was to see them all step in for me.

My suite costs 100 dollar, my brothers suite costs a 1000 dollar, I brought both of them with me, but the 1000 dollar one is too big! My older brother looked sharp and crisp. The 1000 dollar was the Armani suite!

For those who like numbersThe wedding hall costs 750 dollars, the DJ costs 200 dollars, the video guy costs 200 dollars, the food in 500s, the wedding mugs we gave to people costs 700 dollars, the drinks 200 dollars, the Benz we got it from a freind, the hairdresser 100 dollar (trust me she is the best and biggest name) I have no idea how much roa'a paid for the dress! I had the video guy! The shabka (gold) an arm and a leg....but Roa'a looked FINE.

After the engagment party, I took Roa'a her mom and my mom in a car, I stayed with the family at home and my mom went home...we stayed up till 4 in the morning. We did have a nice grill.

Dude, Roa'a had a great presence and she was into it...she really got me in the mode! I had to keep up!

I ordred digital pictures, I will post them when they become avilable.

Now, I need to figure out a way to get out! Rafah seems to be out of reach...the Egyptians ar enot helping out.

P.S.Do not mind the missplleing
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Eating Ramen Noodles in Gaza

Besieged residents of Gaza have developed a new appetite, their choice is Ramen Noodle with curry or vegetable flavoring.

Made in Saudi Arabia, and licensed by an Indonesian company, each Ramen Noodle pack costs one Israeli shekel (25 cents) each.

I know it as an inferior food product. College kids consume the most of it and come up with creative ways to tolerate this diet.

The Ramen Noodle’s brand name is Ando Mi and can be purchased in all grocery stores throughout the strip.

Other new changes that Gazans have developed is a taste for cheap tobacco, smuggled via tunnels, a pack of L&M and others brand names runs for 5 shekels, roughly a dollar and 25 cents. So you get the idea
everybody smokes in Gaza and I mean even non smokers smoke—a good deal is a good deal.

Pollution is everywhere, since the quality gas is not allowed into the Strip, the tunnel people smuggle crappy low grade Egyptian fuel that pollutes the air. Visibility in Gaza is a lot worse than years before, sort of like Egypt. I spoke to so many cab drivers who run their cars on cooking gas.

Recycle everything, new business are emerging in Gaza to recycle anything that Israeli bans from entering the narrow strip. They recycle metal, leather, plastic, glasses and even electronic equipments. The Gaza strip has a vintage feel to it, sot of like Cuba where even cars look more like junk and less like things that move.

Finding a nice pair of shoes, jeans ain’t exactly a joy ride, only the shittiest Egyptians goods make it to the Strip and the rest is banned.

Thanks to the tunnels, the Egyptian economy in border towns and beyond is booming.

Everybody in Gaza now works in one of five professions: they run a grocery store, own an internet café, teach, work for an NGO or drive a cab.

Driving a cab is right of passage for every Gazan. When you ask people what they do, they say, “I drive a mattress” meaning that I either sleep or do nothing.

Residents of Gaza now have a trendy new profession, cooking for the public. You can order trays of rice and chicken for anywhere between 30 to 50 shekels from people’s kitchens. People use those for special or social occasions. Those create jobs for few thousands of individuals. I must say they make good food.

My brothers run electronic stores, they sell fans, ovens, blenders, microwaves, TVs and vacuums… they never sold anything but Chinese goods, now the Egyptians are sending their goods and there are no
other options.

If you are shopping for good kitchen China, you are out of luck. Apparently Egyptians do not use them. Also, for the first time in my memory, Gazans buy Egyptians shirts — in the past my Egyptians relatives used to ask me to pick them few good shirts from Gaza.

No one is building or rebuilding anything in Gaza. Ruins from Israel’s assault and UN issued tents are all over the Strip. People simply cannot find cement to rebuild, even via the tunnels.

It’s really bad here.

The price of 50 KGs bag of cement used to be 20 Shekels, now people are willing to spend 220 Shekels and still cannot find sellers. I am being told that tunnels are only used to smuggle light weight things with high profit margin. Other causalities include car batteries and machinery.

There is food in Gaza, plenty of food, but not much beyond that.

People eat and not work. You end up with a population of frustrated, overweight, underemployed, otherwise capable, individuals.
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The engagement party went really well! The music was great, the food was the talk of the town, Roa'a was the uncontested star of the engagement party! She had so much energy and excitment.

We took tons of pictures and videos, I will share some of them the moment I can.

We had more than 500 men and 600 women attend, some danced some made an appearance.

The hairdresser did a great job on Roa'a--not on me and so did the make up artist. Her dress stole the show...boy the ladies loved it

I had a matching shirt and tie with her dress and we had chosen about 15 songs on the playlist that we wanted to listen to...we did practiced some dance moves.

We had lots of flower arrangment some were sent by Roa's work and a family freind of hers.

We had a seven stories cake, the bad news we had to cut them all with a sword.

the funniest thing when the conservative women in the family asked me to leave my engagement party so they can dance. I was like What? I did leave for 15 minutes for a break and I was told it got crazy!

In the men portion of the engagement party, it seems that everyman with a beard gave me a kiss...sort of like bad news when many men with the Taliban look act like they are good freinds of yours.

The band we got to make noise as some portions of the celebrations did a fine job making noise!

The portion where I had to gave Roa lots of gold, was the toughest becasue I had to help her wear more than 10 peices of various accessories...I survived it thanks to the prior training.
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Monday, July 06, 2009

A Party in Gaza

It's hot in Gaza, and the all place with too many fans is the local mosque!

The less healthy a people, the more religous they are....Gaza is oretty unhealthy right now. Pollution is all over the place, once I got there I had some minor skin irritation that never happend to me before, breathing was harder, but now I adjusted.

It's so freaking hard to get a nice pair of shoes, nothing comes in. The oly shoes they have are the crappy ones made in Egypt. I found a pair last night that I thought would be sufficeint for Friday night. If you are tryin to find a nice fragnance, you ar eout of much for 20 bottles I have and pair of Kenneath Cole!

We went shopping for flowers yesterday, Gaza is not the ideal place, but we found good things, paying an arm and a leg of course.

There is a new trend in Gaza where men dress like metrosexuals and at one point I told a guy to get off my face becasue he was too flamboyant with his body shirt and weird tight jeans.

I paid $40 dollars for a shirt and a tie, the smae medicore ones you would be from Marshals for $20.

I found good shades, the same ones you buy for 5 bucks from street vendors, I paild $3.5.

Finding a nice leather belt in Gaza is like finding a safe hangout place in Bagdad in 2005
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Engagment in Gaza!

Gaza is the world's bromance capital, it is alive and well

Got home last night at 3:30 AM, spening the night on the beach on a local hangout place...I took my nephews ages 13-17 and few freinds, I ran for an hour and then we ordered food...Shawerma wraps picked by my youngest brother Mahmood with all the fixings and a nice assortment of was a fun night. When my dad opend the door for us, I thought he was going to wipe the floor with us for being too late...Keep in mind, I have forgotten that feeling! But he was too kind!

Planning an engagement party in Gaza is like hurding cats, there are too many things to keep on mind and too many people want to "help" We printed 500 invitations, and I think we might end up being short. We have to get the DJ I took care of that...the camera man I am working on that. Need to get me a new shirt and a new shoe...most these things are not getting into the the quality is not up to par.

Went to the Jewellery store and picked golds and nice wedding band....we spend a rather large amount there..way too much, but there is no such thing when you found the rigt one or is there?

Fun thing happend, out of 60 wedding bands for men, the only one I choose is the same one that she chose on her earlier visit...I did not belive it until I saw that she put it aside for me on a nice box.

One challenge is to get the families not to bring their kids to the party...we will bring cakes and few goodies and kids mess things I will work on that one, but it's tough to tell people no kids!

The wedding hall we booked is really nice, we lucked out....the owner of the hall knows my father in law and got us in on a day he saves for emergencies...the first booking was late August..too late to make it! It's sort beach resort that opend in 1996, swimming pools, movie theater, restaurant and other cool makes a great place for wedding. We also need to get the transportion for the patrons!

Finding an all digital Photographers in Gaza is almost impossible, they all use the old rolls, I am meeting a new photographer today!
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Friday, July 03, 2009

Fun at the Courthouse

I went to court yesterday for the engagement certificate and it was a zoo...too many people with problems and judges are bored.

A guy was angery becaseu the officer told him to step aside, he felt insulted...I thought he is full of crap.

A divorced woman arguing with the judge and her husband over alimony payment, the judge tells her to be quite while he listens to her ex! I thought the judge is a moron and the ex a child.

An angery man becasue we saw the judge before him, he was like these guys came after us but got in before us (it was true) we had our case handled by a religous guy who knew his way around and the whole thing took five minutes.

The judge asked my fiance if she agrees on me, but never bothered to ask me! This is something the Hamas government enforced, they have to see and hear the woman if she agrees to the arrangement, before they did not bother!

Most people who were at the court did not smile, all seemed to be angery, bitter or tired...I thought even the married one were like acting as if they were at a funeral!
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More of Gaza

Gaza is awsome, the people are still fun, but destruction is
everywhere...guys with beards rule the streets, few things are law and order...people like what Hamas is doing in terms
of market and beach managment, but kiss your life goodbye if you dare
to systimacally crititze them. They will send you
beyond the moon...sort of what Camorade Abbas is doing. I got to run
on the beach twice now....once got fired upon with my newphew when we
came near a restricted area...the appearance of religion is
everywhere...religion is sued now to tell people not to do certain
things, "do not cheat it's haram, not it is illegal", there is no
shortage of food in Gaza, plenty of food and people gain weghit doing
nothing. There are things you cannot find like kitchen ware....this
seaige is good for Egypt...becasue anything in Egypt the tunnels bring
in...we no longer can buy Chinese and Jordinian, only shity Egyption

Pray for me to leave gaza on time.
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