On Christmas Day I had the very good fortune to sit with a class of students — most of them older students with day jobs taking continuing education courses at the Islamic University of Gaza. We talked about many topics; they wanted to listen to a native English speaker so they could improve their speaking skills. I wanted to listen to them. We both got our wishes.
The conversation turned to politics. Living under occupation, politics is the air everyone breathes in Gaza. What can anyone do to change things here? I didn’t have any satisfactory answers, I’m afraid.
Yesterday there were long lines at every ATM. Someone explained that the November paychecks had arrived from the Palestinian National Authority (3 weeks late!) and everyone was trying to withdraw some funds. I imagine that paychecks are automatically deposited.
I decided to join the line at the ATM. There was only one other woman in line, standing right in front of me. We waited and waited, as one man after another cut in front of her. So the line was getting longer, not shorter, and I was getting pissed. I motioned to her as if to say “Why are you letting these guys cut in front of you?” I think she understood, but she just shrugged as another man joined the line . . . in front of her.
Well . . . this wasn’t going to work. I could leave and find another ATM. I could make a loud fuss in English. I could stand and wait patiently to see what might happen. I chose the latter.
The woman in front of me got frustrated and left the line. The men in line glanced at me, perhaps wondering if their cutting-in-line silliness should continue. I really don’t know.
And then . . . a very nice, young man motioned me to come to the front of the line, ahead of 4 or 5 other men. He signaled me that it was my turn, and all of the others agreed.
I was mystified and pleasantly surprised to be ushered up to the ATM. I quickly completed my transaction and stepped aside with a “shukran” (thank you).
This Christmas Day in Gaza, I’m reminded that there is one lesson every faith, every culture, every man, woman and child must learn if we are ever to have peace on earth.
“Do unto others as you wish they would do unto you.”
The actions of that kind man at the ATM yesterday embodied that lesson. Perhaps that is the answer to the students’ question today in class.
This occupation could end in a heartbeat if everyone truly believed in the importance of “Doing unto others as you wish they would do unto you.” We are all students, still learning this lesson in life. I hope in 2013, we all get an “A+”.