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The murder of Rami Ayyad, apparently for his religious convictions, or perhaps just because, was horrifying. However, the total equanimity and apathy with which this murder is dismissed is stupefying. It really won't do to blame this violence on "the occupation." Palestinian society in Gaza is evolving into a galloping nightmare. Each week, there are more and more bodies - some are killed because they are Fatah, some perhaps because they are Christians, and some because they just happened to get in the way.

Arabic: المقال الرابع: جريمة قتل رامي عياد

Hebrew: רצח רמי עיאד

The murder of Rami Ayyad
Philip Rizq

GAZA CITY—The last time I saw Rami we were at the beach near Gaza City. A group of us were playing in the water and I was trying to force Rami under. Rami was a big man, weighing at least twice what I do, and—needless to say—I did not manage to get him to budge. When he in turn came after me, all I could do to protect myself from suffocating under him was flee. Eventually, I was able to sneak up on Rami under water and pull his legs out from under him and escape again.

There are around 3000 Christians living in Gaza today. Rami was the office director of the Teacher's bookstore, a Christian bookstore in downtown Gaza City. The store sells Christian books and offers computer and language lessons, which are attended by Palestinians from across the Gaza Strip. When I would visit the place on occasion Rami was always there on his swivel chair cracking jokes. Few people entered that did not already know him. Gaza can be a place of sadness, but Rami always reminded me much more of the Egyptian mentality—laughing and joking no matter how depressing life became.

On one Saturday afternoon, Rami closed his shop as he always did at 4:30pm. He had told his brother that three days earlier he had sensed he was being followed home after work, but had not made much of it. Two hours after closing up he called his wife and told her with much uncertainty that he hoped to be home in two hours and not to worry. He was not able to say where he was or why he was there. Rami never came home.

Friends and family searched for him late into the night. At 5:30am on Sunday morning his body was found beaten, a bullet through his head, another through his chest. His wallet, ID and watch were gone.

No one has made any statements, no group has taken responsibility. This is the first time in Gaza's recent history that a Christian was kidnapped and killed. Sadly, such revenge killings do occur and are usually of political nature, but never with religious cause. In Gaza, Muslims and Christians live and die side by side, sharing every element of the Israeli occupation and containment that has been a reality there since most people alive today remember. Rami had no political or factional involvement, nor was his family implicated in any family feuds. Rami's boss was quoted in the Independent saying "We don't know who was behind the killing or why. Was it for money, or was it because he was selling Bibles?"

The heart of the matter is that Gaza is a place overrun with violence. Readers of my article and other articles on the PalestineChronicle.com have followed the complexities of Gaza's social and political makeup, so I will not repeat again what I have so often said before. Violence here has deep roots in injustice and occupation, but beyond this, every individual, every political grouping, every community makes the choice of projecting their experience outward and paying violence with violence. Gaza is deeply entrenched in violence. In Gaza, victims of bloodshed often become shedders of blood. Rami experienced the harshness of occupation, the limitation of curfews, Israeli military incursions, civilian targeted sonic booms, restrictions on travel beyond the 365km2 confines of the Gaza Strip and the strife of civil war.

Rami chose to respond to violence with laughter, love and peace. The strength to live such a life is what I hope for Rami's killers, it is what I hope for every Palestinian living and born into the living hell of Gaza today.


* Philip Rizq is a Gaza-based Egyptian German writer who writes for the Palestine Chronicle. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.

Source: Palestine Chronicle, 15 October 2007, www.palestinechronicle.com
Copyright permission has been obtained for publication.


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Murder of Rami Ayyad