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And, yes, I DO take it personally: A sad but sweet story from Gaza
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A sad but sweet story from Gaza


Kite-flying on the
Gaza-Egypt border

this story reminds me of when i arrived in kabul in late march (see previous post here)... it was still kite season and, in the afternoon, after school let out, the skies over the city were filled with kites... there's something about a kite that lifts my spirit...
Mahmoud Abu Teior (13) knows it's Abdullah's kite up in the skies, though he has never seen Abdullah. But that kite rises into the skies from just that place on the Egyptian side of the border across from Gaza. And, Mahmoud knows Abdullah's voice because they speak sometimes. They have never met, and likely never will, but they are connected through their kites.

It's that time of the year. The holidays bring scores of children to play together – across the dividing line. And despite the iron wall of separation, they form friendships.

Mahmoud has always known the border as playground. This is where the family home was before it was demolished to make room for the border wall. "I always come here because this is where our house used to be," he says, launching his kite.

Most children still play from 'home', where Block O, Yebna, Block J, or the al-Salam neighbourhood used to be. The playground is that strip of no man's land known as the Philadelphia corridor, created over 2,400 homes razed ahead of the 'disengagement' by Israel in 2005. That 'disengagement' made about 16,800 people homeless here, according to UN figures.

Only kites can now cross the border. And up in the skies you can almost tell some of the Gaza kites apart. These are the ones made with newspapers and with plastic bags as sail, with some thorns stuck on for the dogfight up there. The usual materials like paper and glue to make a kite are scarce in Gaza.

Khalid Zanoun, 12, like the others, always picks the spot where his house once stood. Up in the skies, he suddenly loses his kite in a dogfight. "He ran away from me!" he screams, looking at his disappearing kite, fists clenched. But soon he is beaming again, preparing another kite for the next battle with his unseen mates on the other side.

Curiosity led him some time back to scale the wall and see what his mates look like. "This is not allowed any more," he says. "The Hamas guards on our side and the Egyptian border guards on the other stop us."

Not entirely, though, because boys will be boys. If nothing, they climb up just to say hello to the Egyptian guards.

It's the better world on the other side. The Egyptian boys have better kites, and they have shoes. In Gaza, most children run barefoot on the sizzling hot soil. Shoes have been priced out of reach for most people, as so many things are nowadays as a result of the Israeli siege.

as long as there are still boys who fly kites, there's some hope for this world...

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