I have been trying to get to Gaza for the last few years. I have no problem in getting into the West Bank part of Palestine. When I tell Israeli immigration at Ben Gurion airport the purpose of my visit is ‘to pray’ they hasten to cut the bureaucratic knots short to let me speed my way to Al Quds. Gaza is a different matter, sealed as it is since 2006 by an electrified and barbed wire fence. The only other point of entry into Gaza is from the Egyptian side of Rafah border. Last September I thought I had cracked it. A summer university for international participants was planned in Gaza for which I had enrolled and made necessary travel arrangements. Two weeks before departure the newly elected administration in Cairo withdrew its permission for us to travel through Sinai to Rafah on security grounds and the whole project fell through. But Dervla Murphy, the Irish ‘semi-toothless, slightly stooped, old white-haired woman’ as she describes herself, was luckier. She made the journey in the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring when things in Cairo were unsettled and traversing the bureaucratic maze of permits for travel to Gaza was relatively easier. She spent one month in the open air prison that Gaza has become since 2006, exploring the alleys and narrow lanes of refugee camps and the segregated beaches of Mediterranean coast. A Month by the Sea is an eye witness, and eye opening, account of what she saw and experienced during her sojourn.
But first what do we know of Gaza?