Our final day in the Gaza Strip began in the perfect way with a traditional Palestinian dish of maftoul at the house of the head of Palestine-Aid, the father of our friend and contact in Gaza. The house is located in the agricultural Peer al Naa’aga region of northern Gaza. Many of the buildings in this region were build after the siege on Gaza had begun, and the effects of the siege are evident in the uncompleted buildings, the result of running out of building material during construction.
After enjoying the hospitality of the family, we travelled back to Gaza City to meet with a group of Gaza-based activists conducting a BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign. The group shared with us their ideas, and we discussed the aims and methods of the BDS campaign, and how it might be best implemented in a university setting, followed by an interesting discussion on the problems that face the campaign, such as the difficulties in spreading consumer awareness to the mainstream, and how they might be addressed through co-operation and organisation.
In the evening we received a warm send off at a party organised by another friend of ours in Gaza and attended by a number of Palestinian youth activists. That night was the finale of Arab Idol, with one of the finalists being the Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf, who has received incredible support from what seems like every living soul in Palestine, with even the banks and mobile phone networks giving deals to bolster votes for his success. The atmosphere in the café was electric, with the assembled crowd cheering and dancing as he performed, bringing us with them for yet another bout of Palestinian dancing.
The night finally drawing to a close, we headed back to our hotel one final time, with an impression of Palestine burned into our heads quite a different one to that with which we first arrived. Gaza is a land under constant siege and oppression, a land where every life is touched by tragedy, and every smile hides a deep well of sorrow, however despite all this, the lasting image of Gaza is of the welcoming arms, the warmth and kindness of its people, and the unshakeable, inspiring courage and strength that is as much a part of the land and its people as its rich culture and strong community.