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Gaza The Themepark

The ups and downs of Living in Gaza

What strikes me the most about the people of Gaza is their ability to be flexible and creative under extreme conditions. Gaza is the victim of severe restrictions as a result of border closures and blockade, which impact even basic supplies including building materials and fuel. For example during the last war, Operation Pillar of Cloud, there were many restrictions including on the supply of gas. As a result some people eventually modified their vehicles and started to use cooking oil to fuel their cars instead of petrol.

Three years ago Sharm theme park was built on the site of the former Israeli settlement of Nidsareem. It provides a welcome distraction from the every day stresses of living under occupation. The theme park comprises a number of sophisticated attractions including a roller coaster and a few smaller attractions for younger children.

I attended the theme park with a group of international Palestinian sympathisers working in Gaza plus one native Gazan interpreter. We spoke to the PR manager of the theme park who greeted us, and asked him who the park was owned by. He explained that the park was independently owned and had been constructed over a one year period with the help of Chinese and Japanese technicians. All of the parts for the rides had been bought in via the tunnels and then assembled on site.

Even though the park is relatively small by most western standards, it came as a complete surprise to us when it was revealed that all the equipment was bought in via tunnels. These tunnels have historically been used for transporting all number of things, from food to white goods, via Egypt. Transporting goods in this way has its own logistical headaches but imagine for a moment how much ingenuity was needed by the organisers to smuggle in a theme park, including organising and transporting heavy mechanical equipment, motors and structural materials.

Whilst many people are understandably scared of rides I wrongly assumed that because the people of Gaza are exposed to trauma on a daily basis then it was highly unlikely anyone would be afraid of a “little” theme park ride. As a group we were invited onto one of the rides . Unlike my experiences in the west there were no long queues and a limited number of people wanting to actually go on the rides.

I sat between a local woman and our interpreter Fady as we prepared to embark on our journey. With each turn and twist I could hear Fady screaming loudly whilst the woman on the other side was praying. She gripped my hand tightly with fear as the ride ground slowly to a final halt. Meanwhile Fady who was clearly shaken by the experience said “Oh my god I thought I was going to die”. A few moments later I spoke to another woman who also explained how terrified she was, yet in contrast when asked about the war she rationalised the occupation as quite “normal”. Another woman commented that the she had been told by Israelis that Palestinians didn't like having fun because they “enjoyed being killed”. Another mother explained that many children were afraid of what was in the sea and were concerned that aeroplanes might fly over their heads at any time, bringing with them the threat of attack. The reality is that living in Gaza is like living in a theme park. One surreal experience after another. You never know what's going to happen next or what emotion is likely to come up and considering that the majority of people here have PTSD is it any wonder they were scared to go on a ride?

In spite of the ingenuity, creativity and passion of all Palestinians, it appears that there may be a frightened little child at the heart of many Gazans including the grown ups, despite the mask of normality. I leave you with this video to make your own minds up.



Video by Vanvan Chen

Article by Sarah Strudwick



Hummingbirds of Gaza

"Like the hummingbird the people of Gaza are given no choice but to adapt swiftly to ever changing situations which includes having their houses destroyed, human rights violations and dealing with trauma every single day. The Palestinian people and those in Gaza retain the true spirit of the Hummingbird by remaining joyful, compassionate and sensitive in the face of extreme adversity."

- Sarah -


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