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Breaking records, flying kites in Gaza

July 30, 2009

One of my favorite reporters in Palestine, Ayman Mohyeldin of al-Jazeera English, reported today on the record-breaking kite-flying event for children on a beach in northern Gaza.

A couple of weeks ago, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank held a record-breaking event too (that was sort of hijacked as a pro-Fatah stunt by the Palestinian Authority, as Salam Fayyad and his security detail got to eat the first piece of the enormous Knaffe pastry).

Something struck me about the simple poetry of today’s kite-flying contest in Gaza. The skies of this open-air prison, over a land that has been besieged and destroyed, broken and frayed, humiliated and starved, sealed and engulfed, were thick with colorful homemade kites —  some fantastically ornate, others basic plastic-bag creations.  Reaching for the sun.  Over a beach that had to be combed beforehand to make sure there weren’t any unexploded Israeli bomblets hiding in the sand.

I remember watching a kite flying over Dheisheh camp during an invasion.  As Israeli snipers shot at the UN kindergarten, and into people’s homes, into crowds of young people armed only with stones, someone scrambled up on a roof and flew a single kite high into the air — with the colors of the Palestinian flag. A silent but tenacious act of defiance.

Today in Gaza, of which nearly 60% of the 1.5 million Palestinians there are under 18 years old, thousands of acts of defiance flew in the broiling summer wind.

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