It’s refreshing to see paintings from Gaza
I have walked many times through the Erez crossing at the northern end of the Gaza Strip. Not once did it make me think of art. The dusty no man’s land between the Israeli and two Palestinian checkpoints, one for the Palestinian National Authority and the other for Hamas, never made me think about the painters of Gaza. My mistake. I should have seen the paintings of Palestinian artists years ago. Alas, I made it last week, at the Palestine Development and Investment Corporation’s (PADICO) headquarters in Ramallah. I should have guessed that there was more to come when, entering the premises, I saw a painting of Mahmoud Darwish, the poet of the Palestinian resistance. On the walls of the meeting room I saw a number of vivid abstract paintings from Gaza and an astonishing portrait of a sad young man. It was by a talented young artist, named Ibrahim Awadi, I was told. My good friend Samir Huleileh, CEO of PADICO, then showed me a large collection of paintings from Gaza. Everything in Gaza is sad, but just the phrase “Painters of Gaza” itself is full of hope. That was my first pleasant surprise in Palestine last week. This was a visit with pleasant surprises. I have two others.
My second pleasant surprise was the new residence of the Turkish ambassador to the State of Palestine. After the observer status granted to Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly, the Turkish consul general in East Jerusalem, Ambassador Şakir Torunlar, presented his credentials to President Mahmoud Abbas and became the first Turkish ambassador to the State of Palestine. The new residence of the ambassador is a lovely old building in East Jerusalem proper, a marked improvement over the old one. I find this rather refreshing, too. Instead of only talking, Turkey is finally doing something constructive on the ground. Actions speak louder than words. I hope that there will be more actions to come as the development of Palestine is a challenge yet to be met.
The positive atmosphere in Ramallah is another change. I see my Palestinian friends more hopeful and more defiant. The U.N. bid for observer status seems to have worked miracles, giving a new purpose and direction to Palestinians. President Abbas has done many things with one sweeping move. Not only did he gain a victory at the UNGA and the support of Europe (except the Czech Republic) for his U.N. bid, but he also seems to have changed the mood in Palestine. It is time to channel this positive energy to institution building by achieving unification in Palestinian ranks. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s trip to Gaza should be a good opportunity both for unification, as well as Turkey’s role there. It is time for Erdoğan and Abbas to start discussing the opportunity.
I had a refreshing trip to Palestine this time. I see a positive mood. I had the same sense when the late Ariel Sharon had started the disengagement process and left Gaza to Palestinian control. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis used that opportunity for peace, presented by Sharon at the time. I hope that this time is different. I hope that I am not simply reflecting my own feelings about Palestine onto the place. I have to say though, it was a joy once again to taste the good food of the restaurant Darnah in Ramallah.