Traveling by bicycle through what was then Yugoslavia in December of 1983, my Midwestern American naivete about the world was shaken as I experienced the “Second World”– Cold War parlance for the industrial, communist-socialist countries– for the first time. I wasn’t in Ohio anymore. On the road near Mostar, toothless old women led mules laden with loosely-piled hay. They stared at my fair hair and my Raleigh 12-speed– both marvelously out of place, there and then.
The impression that marks my memory of that Yugoslavia? Crumbly, shabby, dirty, poor– and full of guns: guns on soldiers, pictures of guns, children playing with toy guns, and guns in shopfronts. It seemed like a place that had the tools to become violent, and none of wealth’s satiating, anesthetizing effect to buffer against carrying it out.
It looked like a place ready to fight. And, as it turns out, that’s what it did– all through the 1990s.
Gaza is similar, in that the weapons are plentiful (or, if depleted, have many willing suppliers), and the economic prospects are poor for a different future for its people. It doesn’t help that Hamas seems increasingly irrational (rockets towards Jerusalem? Really?) Gaza, for the foreseeable future, will continue to look like a place ready to fight. The current ceasefire may last for weeks or months, but it will not last long.
Redemption is always possible, but never probable, and certainly not inevitable. In this world–in whatever hemisphere or continent — great destruction and the suffering of innocents are more likely. The wounds and pains that people carry are deep. To see the wounds and pains of the other is the beginning step that might, perhaps, one day lead to the courage for longstanding ceasefire and peace.
GAZA CITY Reuters — With gunshots, sweets and cries of victory, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip poured into the streets to celebrate a ceasefire deal on Wednesday which ended eight days of deadly fighting.
After being stuck at home for days for fear of Israeli airstrikes, tens of thousands of Palestinians crowded into cars and doubled up on motorcycles, waving flags and chanting for Hamas, Israel’s main adversary and rulers of the Gaza Strip.
Women leaned over balconies ululating with joy as children stuffed four-abreast in the open trunks of cars clapped and sent out hoarse screams of “God is Great!”.