HELD BACK BY COVID-19 AND OFFICIAL PROCEDURES
There is no doubt that the world froze in time during the Covid-19 pandemic. The world stood on a question mark, sometimes in retreat, at other times bursting like a stormy sea. However, the sea is a constant. it is always there. Covid-19 erupted suddenly and we waited for it to disappear.
Like the rest of the world, we waited for a sign to call us back to life.
Planning the Sea Days 2022, we tried to move things quietly under cover. We planned and prepared even though nothing was clear. We saw that systems that operate on procedures, found it challenging to change, to innovate, to adapt So many things were against us but we persevered. We had to cancel the first two weeks of plans, and move all the groups that had already registered, as we did not get the army’s permission in time.
Like an elite underground unit, we convinced the military authorities to open Israel to Palestinian tours, which included our groups for days at the sea.
Just an aside about the word "procedures" which occupies a prominent place in the military lexicon. Procedures can take any original idea that expresses a bit of hope and squash it flat. Everything turns flat and is a candidate for rejection when faced by procedures and the computer systems.
Eventually our season took off. The first bus arrived, after overcoming other procedures, and a jubilant group of children and mothers arrived. Quickly everyone disembarked, changed clothes, and the sea was there expectantly waiting for them although the sea was not at its best that day.
It is amazing how much the Palestinians are used to waiting, sorry for the generalization, but this as accurate as it is unfortunate. If we were to imagine how long they wait for everything, knowing that the waiting will sometimes not end well, we might get an idea about wasted time, and the uncertainty that controls their lives.
THE SEA WELCOMES OUR GUESTS
The sea is its own master. The sea cannot be controlled. It is not as if you can set a procedure for it such as "Be clean and calm between 9:00 and 13:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. And, send the jellyfish to other beaches so they don’t sting our families". No, the sea is an independent body.
It is not often that you get to witness the sea welcome a throng of Palestinian mothers and children for the first time. The guests have no idea what they are about to experience. What is this body of water? Why is the water salty water, why does it sting the eyes? What are these jellyfish?
There is the child who races into the water without hesitation but panics later or the one who stares from the shore with suspicion, what is this great thing? Eventually each of the children, some clinging to a volunteer's hand, take small steps in and out. It does not take long before they plunge into the sea, drenched in seawater from head to toe as if they have always been playing in this liquid playground.
The initial experience with the sea opens all hearts. The day is full of laughter and joy, and includes the initial moments of trepidation, which soon turn to great fun. Mothers with their heavy traditional dresses and hijab head cover are offered a helping hand. They soon find themselves inside the big inflatable ring, which protects them, and as they float, the waves help them forget the world. Forgetting the children they came with, the cooking and laundry, and the husband they left at home. They become intoxicated by this unfamiliar new experience.
OUR AFTERNOON IN JAFFA
Later in this activity-filled day, we meet them clean and beautiful after the sea. Dressed in clothes that were prepared and maybe even purchased for this occasion. They want to take full advantage of the short time given to them. They want to walk in Jaffa, stay for sunset, rest in the park and maybe other things that they do not share with us.
Towards the end of the day, there is an activity for children at the Rabita Club in Jaffa and a women's circle at the youth center. Our circle revolves around everyday life, the good, the bad, and the occupation. We try to learn about each other and connect. It is a short, packed and fulfilling day.