Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Grave in Gaza-Matt Beynon Rees

A Grave in Gaza
Matt Beynon Rees
Soho, Feb 2008, $24.00
ISBN 9781569474723

The United Nations Relief Works Agency headquartered in Jerusalem sends Swedish worker Magnus Wallender to escort fiftyish Palestinian girls’ school principal Omar Yussef from the Dehaisa Refugee Camp to the Gaza Strip on an inspection visit. There they meet Scottish security officer James Cree known locally as Abu Ramiz, who explains that part-time Shati Refuge Camp teacher and full time Al-Azhar University Professor Eyad Masharawi has been arrested. Eyad’s wife insists he was snatched by fourteen Palestinian Security Agents who invaded their home because he loudly objected to the university selling degrees to the Preventative Security officers and not due to his volunteer teaching at the UN refugee camp school.

Unassuming, Omar wants to leave Gaza as all he sees is a hell hole; he wants to go home to Bethlehem as soon as possible. However, he will do his inspection duty and all he can to get Eyad freed. He never expected to have machine guns pointed at his head nor discus missile diplomacy over dinner. That and more makes Omar feels his age much more than struggling to carry his bag.

Although the probability of a fifty-six years old school principal successfully getting involved in perilous incidents like a rescue from deadly armed men seems so unlikely (the odds would be an imaginary number), readers will drop reality to enjoy a deep look at Gaza. As Omar’s friend Bethlehem Police Chief Zeydan who has come to Gaza many times says: “the place was so broken that it ought to be pulled out into the Mediterranean and sunk”. Readers will be appalled by Matt Beynon Reyes’ vivid descriptions of poverty, random killings, and torture; supported by official corruption in which death is a welcome outcome while also seeking Omar’s previous work A COLLABORATOR IN BETHLEHEM (not reviewed).

Harriet Klausner

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