My third visit to Gaza
April 21 to May 3, 2012
Gaza maps: 'OpenStreetMap', 'destruction'; 'no-go'; 'satellite': Google Earth oder Google Maps, else (28 MB)
Since during last year's visit to Gaza freedom of movement was very restricted, I wanted to try to make up for at least a part of the things that proved to be unfeasible last year.
At the beginning of the year several group trips with small numbers of participants were offered for the time of the Easter holidays. But as the time of departure came closer, it became clear that nothing would come of them, mainly because of the disturbing news from Gaza and probably also because of worry over a possible conflict in connection with Iran.
At least the outlook for an Egyptian permit for a single entry to Gaza was apparently not unfavorable. At the end of March I submitted an application to the Egyptian embassy in Berlin. The permit arrived within three weeks.
During the application for my visit in Gaza I learned that now there were hindrances on the Gaza side. One needed an invitatiion from a host, just as was the case in the East German period. I had a host, Dr. Schokry. However, he got the permit for me initially only for one week.
Actually I wanted to travel in May, but I learned of a group of four people who wanted to meet on April 21 in Cairo in order to travel into Gaza. Among them was a German-Palestinian couple. I decided to join them. Travel in a group has several advantages over travelling alone.
We met in Cairo, but from the group of four, two Germans had to remain in Cairo because their permits had not arrived. The remaining three of us reached the border crossing at Rafah already at 11:00. At first there were difficulties relating to the Germans in the group, but owing to the Palestinian group member the clearance proceeded pretty fast.
The entrance procedures on the Palestinian side went without difficulties. It may have helped that the border officer was a former student of Dr. Schokry. I took a taxi from the border to Gaza City
I met Dr. Schokry and Dr. Ala, who had arranged for accommodations for me in center city, and we drove to the apartment building where I rented a furnished apartment for two weeks. It was about half as expensive as a hotel room, although the apartment with two living rooms and three bedrooms was amply dimensioned for me. There was no smaller apartment available. The apartment was in the house near the harbor where I had lived with the Italian travel group the year before. The apartment was on the fifth floor, which was an important disadvantage, because the house had no generator for the elevator. I used the elevator only when other occupants also rode along, because I assumed that they would know about the regular power cuts. But there was always a risk because besides the announced power cuts there were also shorter ones, apparently caused by breakdowns in the network.
The strenuous climb to the apartment was compensated by a beautiful view.
The power cuts were especially unpleasant in the dark in the evenings, because people in an apartment one floor beneath mine then used to place a generator in the stairwell. On the way to my apartment, already rather breathless, I had to pass by the generator willy-nilly. Probably this strain contributed to the fact that toward the end of the trip I developed a lung problem, which probably consisted of an allergic asthma with some additional ingredients.
Private and non-private
In contrast to my first trip I was not trying to make great discoveries in Gaza. I knew Gaza pretty well in the meantime and also many people that I wanted to see or meet, in order to talk to them, discuss with them, or question them. The details of such meetings will not be treated in this report or only marginally.
Just as in last year's trip, I had several general themes in mind. Last year, due to the strict surveillance of the group, no useful contacts of the sort were possible. This time I was at least partially more successful.
One main focus was to be the situation of the poor people. I wanted to try this time to come into direct contact with them. On my first trip I had already taken a folding bicycle with me for this purpose. I had it along this time too, but more because of the gasoline crisis and for one or another bike trip without special meaning. If one cannot speak Arabic, communication with the poorer people is carried out only with gestures or with an interpreter. This time a good compromise came along more or less accidentally.
to be continued in part 2