Without giving too much away, yesterday was the day before my birthday. I’ve never been one to get too excited about my birthday, or the day before my birthday — I tend to think about what to do on my birthday so much that I wear my mental self out — but this day before my birthday was marked by something very special. Following onto my birthday, today, the good news still remains good, so far, and that makes me very happy. By the way, just to clear one thing up, I don’t usually refer to myself as “my mental self”, but at the time of writing it sounded a lot better than “I mentally wear myself out”. Even though my English teacher wouldn’t have approved, to be honest, I think I’m going to stick with it, as despite making me out to be abnormal in the head, I quite like it. Who knows, maybe mental selves will become a trend? Or maybe not.
Back to this immensely important but a-bit-too-good-to-fully-believe-right-now ceasefire, which is obviously infinitely more Googled about than my birthday. Of which I am glad, of course. I don’t know what it’s like to be intensely Googled, but the more I think about it, the more Intense Googling sounds like contemporary teenage slang for being prodded with a stick, and I know I definitely don’t like that, so I suppose that on my 32nd birthday I do know something I didn’t know before.
So, after some 161 or so officially reported Palestinian deaths, and much tragedy, this ceasefire is really something. Without getting too deep into the politics of it — there are plenty of other more informed places where you can do that to your heart’s content — can you imagine if every single day of your life felt stressed to breaking-point, and that hanging over your every movement is the overpowering feeling that there are some people on Earth who want you stomped out of existence forever and ever? I can’t. Not that I spend hours every day imagining such things, but you get what I mean. It has to be pretty bad. It can’t be very good, and even imagining what I’m now imagining I feel like a fraud for having next to no idea, let alone being able to put it into words for others to read. I have no idea what it must be like to be trapped between such conflict, and I likely never will. My brain gets as far as making me feel uncomfortable, then it allows me to stop so I can go and make a cup of decaf tea and have a Penguin bar. Or check my emails. That’s some privilege! One which many hundreds-of-thousands of innocent people couldn’t hope to have.
Soon as news of the ceasefire broke — the Hamas movement that dominates the Gaza Strip and Israel agreeing not to fight anymore, and not to prod each other with sticks or anything else — there was mass celebration. I wake up to The News today and find reports of untold numbers of people partying and setting off fireworks, waving flags and smiling, really smiling. I remember the many times I have switched the TV on and seen a war of words between two opposing parties, missiles trailing through the sky, streets in ruins. Total carnage. And yet today, thanks to this agreement which was brokered by pyramid-lovers Egypt, the residents of Gaza are waving flags and cheering. For the first time in a long time, there is a kind of semi-believable hope.
It’s not all good of course. Impressive though this is, it’s only been a few hours, and history has a short memory for peace. The fighting could break out again at any time, and we’ve seen this kind of situation in other places countless times, adding to that feeling of panic that nothing is ever as it seems. Not to mention the ceasefire itself — like nearly all ceasefires — seems almost artificial and theatrical by default. Adding to this initial worry are reports from Israeli radio that Gaza have been firing rockets, and that so far there is no response from Israel. I am choosing to think that these are celebratory rockets filled with small notes saying “we want peace” and “let’s just hang out, OK?” and maybe some pick ‘n’ mix in there too, if you can get pick ‘n’ mix there. I’m hoping that in the coming days and weeks, neither side lets themselves down and there are no more deaths or attacks. At the risk of sounding too optimistic, let’s just try and hang out together?