Summer days on the beach, in Israel and Gaza

Although the beaches of Tel Aviv and Gaza City face the same waves of the Mediterranean Sea, they are worlds apart, and not just because they are on opposite sides of a centuries-old conflict.

In Tel Aviv, Israelis wear bikinis, shorts and tank tops that show their tattoos. Bottles of cold beer sweat in the sun as golden retrievers chase after frisbees and surfers carry their boards into the waves.

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A Palestinian man wears a necklace with a map of Palestine poses for a photo on the beach in Gaza City, Friday, September 10, 2021, left, and an Israeli beach worker wears a necklace with the Star pendant. de David poses for a photo on the beachfront in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday, July 2, 2021,

An Israeli bather with a necklace with a Star of David pendant on the beach in Tel Aviv.

(Photo: AP)

At first glance, it looks like San Diego or Marseille, a rich coastal metropolis where the Middle East and its various catastrophes can be comfortably ignored.

Gaza, just 70 kilometers (40 miles) away, is a crowded Palestinian enclave that has been cut off by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas militants took power in 2007. The beach is one of the only open spaces where families can breathe. rare sight with no fences or watchtowers.

Oded Balilty, like most Israelis, has not been to Gaza since Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers in 2005. Khalil Hamra, like most Palestinians in Gaza, has never been to Tel Aviv.

The two Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers have been covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for The Associated Press for two decades, but have only met in person once, at a photo exhibition in Europe in 2003.

For this project, they communicated through Zoom and spent months taking photos, sharing them, and then trying to find similar shots from the other side. After covering four Gaza wars from opposite sides of the battle lines, they attempted to capture a shared reality.

“The same day that I was standing with my feet in the water in Tel Aviv, Khalil was standing with my feet in the water in Gaza, and it was the same water,” Balilty said.

The differences were equally clear.

Balilty described how the project made him feel like he was “seeing Gaza through Khalil’s eyes.”

Hamra was particularly moved by a set of nearly identical images from Tel Aviv and Gaza, each of which showed three young teenagers or twentysomethings reclining on the beach.

Men of that age in Israel are often doing their compulsory military service. Men of that age in Gaza often risk their lives in violent protests along the heavily guarded border.

“But these guys were relaxing, they were swimming, they were having fun,” Hamra said.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since 2008, the most recent in May. Rockets fired from Gaza slammed into Tel Aviv and detonated air raid sirens throughout the city. Israeli airstrikes toppled multi-story buildings in Gaza City and the navy shelled the coast.

Wars and the blockade have hit Gaza’s infrastructure. Untreated sewage has been dumped into the sea in recent years, polluting the coastline and moving north towards Israel.

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An Israeli family enjoys the day at a dog beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, July 10, 2021, left, and Palestinians enjoy their time while bathing a donkey on the beach in Gaza City, on Friday, July 16, 2021., Right.An Israeli family enjoys the day at a dog beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, July 10, 2021, left, and Palestinians enjoy their time while bathing a donkey on the beach in Gaza City, on Friday, July 16, 2021., Right.

Palestinians enjoy their time while bathing a donkey on the beach in Gaza City

(Photo: AP)

Palestinians routinely refer to Gaza as an open-air prison for its 2 million residents, most of them descendants of refugees from the 1948 war that surrounded the creation of Israel. Israelis tend to view Gaza as a den of terrorists, whose rockets have sown fear in neighboring Israeli communities for more than a decade.

But a typical summer day at the beach reveals a shared humanity.

Israeli children and Palestinian children can spend all day on horseback, climbing rocky piers, and diving into the water over and over again.

Older kids try parkour – urban gymnastics is best done on soft sand. Israeli and Palestinian parents tenderly place floats on their little ones, who squeal with glee every time the waves crash on their little toes.

All basking in the same Mediterranean sun, watching the waves crash in the distance, savoring the long summer days while they last.



Reference-www.ynetnews.com

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