After being greeted very warmly by a delegation from the university, we enter an arrival hall, where a couple of short speeches are held and Chomsky says few words to a bunch of cameras. After that we are seated in fauteuils and served juice. The speeches and the formality are a prelude to what is to come in the next three days.
After a short break we are driven to our hotel. Rafah is just under 40 km from Gaza city. We get a first impression driving through in part ruinous neighbourhoods. A spectacular sunset in the Mediterranean. I’m not sure any of us has digested that we’re driving through Gaza. I feel like in a different reality. Which, I suppose, is where we are: we have just entered the biggest prison in the world. Roads not in great condition, so our trip lasts a good hour. We check in to a hotel that is much too nice. While under the shower, the first blackout. Gaza suffers from hour long blackouts every day. This one, however, lasts less than a minute. The privilege of being put up in a hotel whose generators kick in instantly. We have all already seen evidence that Gaza, like everywhere on earth, has small pockets where people live either comfortably or in wealth. Unequal distribution of wealth is ubiquitous, even for those who inhabit the largest prison on earth. Later in the evening we are picked up and driven to the university, where we are welcomed warmly by many people and fed copiously on a lawn among the university buildings, one of which is still in ruin from 2008 bombing. (I didn’t manage a good photo, but it is visible enough below on the right-hand side.)
The hospitality is overwhelming. We are all tired. Speeches from university officials, then Chomsky and David Heap say a few words. We are all so very happy to be here.
Addendum: I had forgotten to mention before that we were then all presented with a shawl: