On the first day of the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, children in the Gaza Strip went to school - as they did throughout the most recent exchange of fire. "There were two days I didn't send the girls to school," a friend told me on the phone, "but that was when it was very cold. During the recent bombardments I sent them."
Another friend, a teacher, insisted that her children go to school just as she did. This, despite the fact that on Monday two Palestinians were killed near a school in Beit Lahia. Mohammed Mustafa al-Husseini, 65, and his daughter Faiza, 30, were working their plot of land near the Tel el-Za'atar school in Beit Lahia when a missile from an Israeli fighter jet was fired at them, according to Palestinian reports. The father was killed instantly and the daughter died of her injuries in the hospital.
"The fears from 2008 have come back and awakened," the young daughter of one of my friends said. The bombardments remind Gazans of the December 27, 2008 missile attack on the police center in Gaza, which was near schools.
"We're going to visit friends now," another friend reported, while waiting for her sister to come downstairs and get a taxi. "We went out very little over the past few days, only what was urgent. School, work, grocery, clinic," she said.
The Israel Defense Forces has not allowed Israeli journalists into the Gaza Strip since late 2006, and phone calls are a necessary, albeit pitiful, alternative to proper coverage.
On Tuesday the streets began to fill more. And if there weren't that many cars, it's because of the shortage of gasoline.
Gaza is getting ready for a victory parade that Islamic Jihad is going to hold this evening at 6 P.M., my interlocutors told me yesterday afternoon.
One friend uses the word "victory" cynically. He doesn't believe what the Palestinians are hearing from Islamic Jihad - that Israel agreed to a cease-fire, including a cessation of targeted killings; otherwise, the small organization would aim its missiles at Tel Aviv.
But when another friend used the word "victory" it was without cynicism. "They were defending us," he said of Islamic Jihad. Then we began discussing what "defense" means, a word used by those who justify the Palestinian rocket fire. How do primitive rockets protect them, in the face of Israeli bombardment and missiles? They did and do the opposite; they invite even more deadly and frightening Israeli attacks.
The discussion, too, is part of the routine, with or without a ceasefire.
My uncynical friend says rockets are a defense against the feeling of humiliation and helplessness engendered by every targeted killing.
"People know that rocket fire is not the solution," my friend says. "And yet in the first moment of response, when firing a rocket or a Grad, they're happy. Right afterward they're afraid of what will happen."
Another friend said Islamic Jihad gained support because it responded to an assassination of a member of another faction - the Popular Resistance Committees. "The mission of the rockets is not to liberate Palestine or win the battle, but to hurt, to cause the Israelis suffering," he said.
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