Hope is a scarce commodity in Gaza, which is little more than an open-air prison.
“It doesn’t matter to me if they shoot me or not. Death or life — it’s the same thing.”
— Saber al-Gerim
No one would ever pick out Saber al-Gerim from the crowds of Palestinians demonstrating against Israel along the heavily guarded fence that has helped turn the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison.
Not for his youthful appearance. At 22, he wears ripped jeans and white sneakers, has a modish haircut and carries a few extra pounds from too many months without work.
Not for his anger. Screaming “Allahu akbar!” and hurling stones with a sling, or straining to pull a cable hooked onto Israel’s barbed-wire barrier in hopes of tearing it apart, he is just one in a fevered multitude, a protagonist in nobody’s drama but his own.
Not even for his willingness to risk death, or his dream of going home to a patch of land he has never seen and cannot really visualize.
But zoom in on this man: A beggar’s son, just a few yards from Israel, and squarely in the line of fire. Soldiers, the only Israelis Mr. Gerim has ever seen this close, can be spotted through the smoke of burning tires, moving about in their foxholes atop tall sand berms, occasionally launching tear-gas barrages, sometimes using live fire. Over a loudspeaker, one warns Palestinians to retreat or risk death.
Mr. Gerim, well within range, and resting between slinging stones, shouts back: “We want to return!”