mz-photoSubmitted by Mostafa Zommo on July 29, 2015 – 5:00pm
I push my luggage through a steel shaped barrier that looks more like a gate to a middle ages torture camp rather than a welcoming arch for unsuspecting visiting travellers… But this is less unnerving than the one mile walk through a no-man-zone between the last Israeli boarder crossing and the first Palestinian boarder control that I passed a short time ago. And now I am inside the city of Gaza, my birth city, the home of the most precious human being and the reason for my visit, my mom!

My brain shifts to overdrive, so quickly, so immediately, raising more and more questions but unable to produce answers: how could my mom be living in a place surrounded by steel barriers, no-man-zones and enemy lines, while I live in the most free country on the planet, arguably the best country in the world to live in – Canada?

In the span of seconds I feel helpless. All the powers that I had in Canada were suspended. I am stripped of all my friends who seem so far away. I am moving into a parallel world.

Throughout my career, I did reasonably well. I was surrounded by much love from real on the ground loyal friends. I was at home in Canada, but now my very existence is being challenged. While in this fog, I raise my head and see my younger brother with his warm gentle smile and nothing can stop the tears as we embrace. In an instant, I am home again! More questions: where is home? I am thinking home is where love exists!

We push on, driving through the city that seems unaware of our presence, everyone busy coming and going… Bombed and decrepit buildings stand next to architecturally beautiful ones. Building debris is being cleared while new buildings are going up. The people seem unaware of how difficult their situation is, but of course they are aware… it’s a reminder of how the human spirit continues to grind on, living in the hope of a better tomorrow, irrespective of all odds.

I, however, am sensing everything, living at the extreme peaks of my nerves. My heart, mind, body and soul merge into one unit that operates in a state of heightened alert. In that state, everything moves super fast but I see it in slow motion. It’s as if my mind is able to exist in two states – fast and slow – at the same time. In such a state, moments feel like a lifetime… Comparison notwithstanding, it’s like a near death experience. I have experienced that before, when I had a major car accident. It happened at a high speed but I saw it in slow motion just before we hit and I blanked-out.

In this heightened state, you meet people and in seconds you get to know them. You get very close to them… they open up to you and you walk away as if a lifetime has passed. It’s quite an experience. I think life becomes even more precious when it’s restricted. Every second counts. People hang out and do things together all the time. They become close so quickly and so readily… maybe too much so for a north  american.

The wars have blurred the line between life and death and that has reshaped the people. Some have become very conservative and others very liberal, often at the extreme. I have seen and even experienced these extremes. The only explanation I can come up with is that the human spirit is irrepressible and will go on to fulfill its human destiny, often with dignity and grace, irrespective of the madness all around it.

As I approach my mom, I see that she has aged since the last time I saw her ten years ago and that she walks with difficulty. But her eyes are still full of life, full of joy and full of love… This visit is all about my mom, being with her, eating with her and singing with her – she loves to sing! And my mom, who has always been known for her beauty and style, makes me laugh when she remarks about the fashions worn by visitors.

In four weeks, I have seen much of Gaza, took hundreds of photos, as if it was my last visit… In Gaza, everyone is politically awake and you need to do your homework before entering into a discussion, even with the youngest of minds. But they do that over generous food festivals and lovely social gatherings in the cool evenings of the Mediterranean, totally in denial of the economic and political madness all around them.

Then the tough goodbye moment had to come. Seeing my frail mom crying is unbearable, but, as I said to her, the depth of our pain reflects the depth of our love. And when the pain lifts our love remains at an even deeper level. That’s why these visits are worth it!

Walking through hell to see the people you love and who love you unconditionally only to endure even the greater pain of saying ‘goodbye’ is the making of life at its most real, authentic and raw. It puts you face to face with who you really are. It defines you and, in an instant, it challenges if not peels off many of the causes that crowd your life over time…

But if it’s even possible, the pain is amplified by the raw sensitivity of an arguably rational man unable to help the people and the city he loves. Gaza is once again a city too far and beyond my ability to help. Or is it! Maybe the lesson from Gaza will come out of the pain, which is often one of life’s greatest inspirations. Have I been given an inspirational challenge? Is it to spread freedom and love around the world, possibly one smile at a time?

Fortunately, this challenge is not mine alone, because freedom and love belongs to all of us. We are only totally free when everyone is free. There is only but one human race, there is no ‘them and us’, there is only ‘us’. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we are on our way to making this world a better place or as the children say, ‘a Poifect world’ 🙂

Of course you should always do what makes you happy. But from time to time, we all feel emptiness that can only be filled by a cause bigger than ourselves… Here is a cause bigger than all of us, a cause that requires all of us to be achieved: freedom and love for all! A cause we may all drive towards in our own way… For me, a cause that’s worthy of my mom’s tears is to spend the rest of my life trying to make the world a better place for her and for all of us, not by demonizing others and cursing the darkness but by fighting for freedom for her and for all, by lighting a candle of love wherever there is darkness and hate. I know I am not alone, and as the song goes, I hope one day you’ll join us!