29 June 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza
Every Tuesday morning there is a demonstration against the Occupation in Beit Hanoun, when people march into the buffer zone, demand an end to the occupation, and are met with more bullets from the occupation. Today was different and yet the same; today we didn’t go into the buffer zone, but none the less we were still met with the bullets of the occupation.
School is out for the summer, summer camps for the children are in full swing. In Beit Hanoun the Vittorio Arrigoni, Stay Human summer camp has been up and running for the last two weeks. Instead of going into the buffer zone like we do most Tuesdays, today we took the children from the summer camp to fly kites. The children had prepared beautiful kites, simple colorful geometric designs fringed with strips of paper cut from their old homework. Kites that remind you how beautiful the simplest things in life can be.
We drove east out of Beit Hanoun, toward the wall that imprisons the people of Gaza. As we left Beit Hanoun we entered a lunar landscape of destruction, no crops, no trees, the occasional destroyed and damaged buildings surrounded by the thistle plants that seem to grow everywhere. This is where farmers had once grown their crops. The landscape here wasn’t always like this, the fields lining the road used to be full of trees, oranges, and olives mostly. The area used to be green, it used to support life, it used to be beautiful. Then the Israelis destroyed all of this, with tanks and bulldozers and bombs. Now, only the thistles remain, that and the green fields of one brave farmer who has not given up, whose fields are an oasis of green among the destruction. The woman sitting behind me points out the aluminum propellers that the farmer has attached to his fence to scare away birds, they spin quickly in the wind, a reminder that this is someone’s land, that he is still here.
We arrive with the children on a hill about 700 meters from the wall. There is a restored well nearby, and a shepherd resta under the shade of the only tree on the hill with his sheep. In the distance you can see Sderot, built on what used to be lands of Beit Hanoun. The children stood poised, ready with their kites. As they prepared to launch their kites the Israeli guns start firing. The wall is lined with giant Israeli gun towers operated by remote control. One of them had started to shoot. Shooting into the ground a couple of hundred meters from us, the shells kicked up giant clouds of dust.
What are they shooting at? Nobody knows, perhaps an unlucky shepherd, perhaps they are shooting to remind the children who the real boss is here, that the skies are not free, that they can shoot at them whenever and wherever they want.
The children launched the kites, with the strong wind kicking them up to sail high. The kites were amazing, red and green with white streamers fluttering in the wind. The children had written messages on the kites: “The children of Gaza want to be free,” “No to the occupation,” “No to the siege.”
These were messages for the occupiers, for these kites are not meant merely to be seen in the distance by the soldiers who are firing guns in the distance, they are meant to infiltrate Israel, to breach the wall that imprisons Gaza, the wall that helps hide what Israel does here. The kites soar higher and higher, the children cut the strings on the kites, the wind takes them, some crash, but some survive, some make it over the wall.
Inshallah they will find themselves caught in the branches of the children’s grandfather’s olive tree, of the orange trees which their grandmothers used to eat from. They will be found, and their messages will be read with the freedom and the will like the universal wind that carried such messages of hope