This morning, I felt the urge to write an ode to electricity, or kahraba, as it is called in Gaza. I woke up, it was Sunday and I had the day off. No farming, no fishing, no protests, no meetings. I had the day to myself and my laptop. I would take a shower, have a cup of tea and work on my novel. And, as I was at the end of my underwear, I would do my laundry.
I got out of bed, picked my laptop up off the floor and entered the living room. There, my roommate sat in darkness. Curses! It was 10 a.m., which meant no electricity until 3 p.m. And I had forgotten to charge my laptop. No shower, no tea, no work for me. And it was so cold in my drafty apartment! Of course, that had nothing to do with the electricity, but it made me all the more miserable.
In reality, I had one hour of battery life on my laptop and so I started on Chapter 12. But all I could think about was the electricity.
Oh kahraba, how I love thee, let me count the ways!
I knew it was unfair of me to complain. I lived in a building with a generator that turned on everyday from 6p.m. until midnight. Most Palestinians in Gaza were not so lucky. They sat out their eight hours a day in darkness. I had taken my electricity for granted, and now she was gone.
A love poem from Pablo Neruda came to mind:
Today I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
Since 2007, Israel has allowed at most 63 percent of the amount of industrial fuel needed to operate the power plant in Gaza. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem:
The fuel shortage directly reduces the generation of electricity in Gaza and impairs the water and sewage systems, which require fuel to operate the pumps. Israel’s continued prohibition on import of spare parts for the electricity system causes additional malfunctions and deficiencies.
My laptop went dead. I paced around the apartment. I went up to the roof. It was too cold to work up there. I went back down. I made some flashcards and attempted to memorize a new list of words: wheat, seed, greenhouse, important, equality, love, need, remember. I looked at my watch. What if it didn’t come back on at 3 p.m.?
Oh electricity, Oh electricity!
Of all the things most lovely!
I sang, to the tune of “Oh Christmas tree.” Despite my cajoling it would not come on. I imagined a world without water or electricity, a world that Israel had threatened the night before, if Hamas and the Palestinian Authority formed a unity government. Another layer of collective punishment on top of they years of layers before it. How would people in Gaza survive?
I clicked on the water heater so it would start warming my shower the second the electricity went on. But what if it didn’t go on at 3? Sometimes, this happened. I called a friend in the West Bank, but we both ran out of credit. She suggested Skype. Alas, no electricity.
It was nearing 3 o’clock. My Welsh roommate had gone to her room and wrapped herself in her maroon fluffy blanket — underneath which she wore jeans and a puffy jacket. She was suffering and she’s from Wales! Cold, rainy, dreary, miserable Wales!
Oh electricity where are you? Don’t you know how much I need you? The clock struck 3 p.m., the lights went on and our refrigerator whirred to life.
“Yay,” I exclaimed. Oh kahraba, I will never take you for granted again.