'Netzarim Junction . . .'

She wrote:

" Dear N, I'm getting back to my normal routine, if you could call it that. The monk, G, and my friend, S, who is working in Jerusalem and is married to a Palestinian, stayed at my flat last night. This morning I took them to a hotel, where a Jerusalem-based foreign correspondent was staying, who was in Gaza to get some interviews (including with T of Hamas). So khallas!

Yesterday afternoon, S and I visited my Christian colleague, M, and the three of us went shopping - girls' fun on Omar-Mukhtar (a main street of Gaza city) ! In the evening, S and I prepared a dinner for the monk and the correspondent. It was a nice evening at my place (actually as hostess I was a bit busy).

Abu Houli Photo: Electronic Intifada

Now they should be on the way back to Al-Quds together, so let me break my silence to tell you my news . . .

Since mid-day Thursday, I have been fully occupied ... As I mentioned earlier, I went to see the situation at the blocked Netzarim Junction (*) on Thursday afternoon, after a tasty Shawarma lunch. This morning, I told my colleague that I had taken my journalist friends close by the Netzarim Junction on the beach road. He asked me, "did you take them to the roadblock ???"... I said. "Well, we got close to it, but not really there, just near to the tailback ..." I mumbled. I didn't tell the truth, not wanting to worry him. The truth was that my local friend, J, who helped me guide them, suggested that we go there. We went and got out of the car, then walked to within a few yards of the roadblock, so they could take photos.

Actually there is a small house on the coastal road near that very dangerous point where a Palestinian family lives and their daughter was sitting doing her English homework, without caring about the road closure, tanks or shooting. The scene amazed us and must have made a strong impression on the journalists.

We came back to where Palestinians were going down to the beach in order to skirt around the far side of the roadblock. We had to go down a steep bank, and we struggled to walk along the beach to the middle camp before coming back. To be honest, I tried to dissuade my local friend and journalists from doing this because it is very dangerous. Both last year and this year, several Palestinians just walking on the beach due to the road closures at this same point were shot and injured. On the way there and back on the beach, we were fired on and heard several warning shots from a tank looking down upon us from the road. A bit frightening, but I got furious more than scared. It must be hard for women with small children and old people whose legs are weak to descend & ascend the hill and walk on the sand. It must be scary to walk, threatened by warning shots that in fact are sometimes not warnings, but hurt people with live bullets.

At the same time, I was quite amazed by the strength of Palestinians. The girl doing her homework just near the closure point, where a mound of earth was piled up and a tank was roaming, was just one example. Some people started business with their donkey carts -- running on the beach and carrying people from one end of the roadblock to the

other. I asked for the price from the donkey cart driver, who was maybe in his mid-teens, and he answered: '20 NIS'! That was a price for foreigners; a price for locals would be one shekel. I saw trucks carrying piles of cartons of oranges or other groceries, driving on the sandy beach. They seemingly wanted to carry products by any means to Gaza city. I saw at least one truck trapped in the sand with waves dashing against it. A tractor was hired (maybe for about 100 NIS) to rescue the car. Here was more enterprise. I saw parts of many chickens - claws, heads and feathers half-buried in the sand. Maybe a truck had dropped some of its load, tilting its cart on the sand. On the beach road, taxi drivers tried to approach as closely as possible to the roadblock, or to enter narrow lanes, competing with other drivers to get to passengers first.

While I was writing this to you, I was thinking ...well I should write a little about my experience of walking on the beach to share with others ... I'll try to do it tonight if time permits . . .


 . . .  M, Sunday

(*) The Netzarim junction on the beach road, which is located between the north and the middle of the Gaza Strip, has been closed since Thursday morning. In fact, it was also closed for three hours on the previous day and is still closed as of Sunday afternoon, together with Abu-Houli junction, which divides the middle and the southern villages. Thus both road closures trisect the Gaza Strip completely.