Even with its political repression, media tirade against it, and continuous bombings and chemical warfare, the Gaza Strip was a much better place to be in than Cairo. It was cleaner, more beautiful and the food was much better, trust me! We were escorted through the town in what seemed like a parade even though we made it through the border at about 9 o’ clock p.m.! The procession was led to a beautiful hotel in which they had prepared a feast which wasn’t very vegan friendly but nonetheless a more-than-warm welcome.
As our famished coalition took in the nourishment, Commandante Charles Baron took the reins and began to relay the much delayed itinerary to our eager but sleepy convoy. Baron wore leadership like a pair of comfortable house shoes, reminding us all that we had only been granted 24 hours and that the next day would begin early. His voice brought back the fact that British Parliamentarian and chief organizer of the Viva Palestina caravan, George Galloway had jumped ship no less than an hour before. I wondered what unseen agenda was afoot, but my racing mind jumped from that thought to how fantastic the hotel was. It totally contradicted the vision I had of Gaza before crossing the border. As we retired to our assigned rooms, I found them to be more than adequate. It was something like a slightly run down Marriott, but without water pressure (and in our case, no water at all!)
But before I could even put my bag down, my good comrade Nancy had a better idea. Being that she was Palestinian, we were afforded a special treat: A tour through the hood! Her long-time friend Ayman from the rap group P.R. (Palestinian Rappers), who had welcomed us at the border, invited us to his home. Under cover of night, approximately 4 a.m., we took a cab through the streets of Gaza to meet his family. Nancy, Alejandro, Ayman (U.S.), Mazzi and I enjoyed the most beautiful pre-dawn feast freshly prepared by Ayman (P.R.)’s mother and aunt.
Wait! Before I talk about our visit, I must give you a little background…
Even before entering Ayman’s humble abode, Nancy (obviously a rider) informed me that his father had been murdered very recently by the Israeli government. As if it were a prerequisite, we moved silently along the broken Gaza sidewalk past throw-up murals of Yasser Arafat until we reached a curious apartment building. From the outside my eyes were led upward toward the blackened concrete that surrounded a broken-windowed dark apartment about 7 floors up. This would be the place where the infamous assassination of his father had taken place. I had no idea what I was about to bear witness to as we climbed the stairwell of this New Jersey-like building. As we reached the floor of the place he used to call home, we encountered a huge “shrine” surrounding a chained-shut entrance. The charred door was the tip of the iceberg of a murder scene that brought the type of chills to my skin reminiscent of pictures of the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton Sr. on the west side of Chicago. As we were led from room to room in a museum of terror, we were told the story of a family who was ambushed in the middle of their lives. A flashlight revealed the entry and exit of 4 missiles that were blasted from across water leaving huge 4-foot diameter holes in concrete that used to be walls. One of the missile casings was still left in what used to be the kitchen. And as Ayman narrated a story of his family, all who were