While the Israeli media are decrying the use of kites to send Molotov cocktails over the border from the Gaza Strip, the most common use of kites by Palestinians is a peaceful one.
Kites have appeared throughout Gaza’s six-week protest along the Israeli border, which kicked off March 30. As Palestinian author Ramzy Baroud, who grew up in one of Gaza’s refugee camps, once wrote, “People living under oppressive rules take every opportunity to express defiance, even through [only] symbolic ways.” Kites long have been one of those symbols because, unlike the Palestinians in Gaza, they can fly free—high above the blockaded borders.
Recently, one group of Palestinian youth and young adults set out to make and fly 1,000 kites in the colors of their national flag (red, green and white).
"I wanted to show the world we are peacefully protesting and rejecting any idea of violence," explained 29-year-old Rami Siam, a father of three who sells children’s toys from a stand in Gaza City. The idea for the kite project was his, inspired when he heard some Israelis describe the March of Return on TV as violent and manipulated by Hamas.
Siam recruited 15 other volunteers, ages 12-60, who met in the courtyard of the 800-year-old Alajame Mosque in the heart of old Gaza City to make kites and do their part to send a message of "peace and hope."
“We chose the mosque because we grew up in this neighborhood and our families spent so much time here,” Siam said. “It brings back memories of our childhoods and reminds us of our ancestors, who prayed here as well.”
It also was the only place possible to meet all day for a week, free. A core group worked at their task starting right after the dawn prayer (6 a.m.) until it became dark—breaking only for lunch. Others, who sold goods from street carts, came after work or during breaks. Still others came after school.
The participants grouped themselves into different corners of the mosque’s courtyard, with each responsible for a part of the process: cutting the sticks, measuring the spaces between them and tying them into the shape of the kite’s skeleton; gluing on the colored paper that forms the body; attaching the tail; and shaping and attaching the sharasheeb (wings above the tail).
On some of the kites, they painted the flags of Arab countries to solicit their support. On others, a calligraphy artist wrote the names of erased Palestinian towns or Gazans who have been killed by Israel snipers during the protest. The plan: to cut their “tethers” once they are in the sky, so the kites can sail over the separation fence and into the land of their heritage. They weren’t able to see Palestine when they were alive, but the kites will carry them there, in spirit.
"Since we can't reach our stolen lands, we are going to fly our kites over them," affirmed 19-year-old Moab Fazaa. "We write these names to remind the world and ourselves that we will never forget our martyrs or our villages.”
This dream unites all Palestinians, bringing them together across all religious factions and beliefs. That, and the tradition of kite-making
"I remember I used to make kites when I was young; I was taught this by my father and grandfather," said Abu Mohammed, who is nearly 60 years old.
Siam added that while it might seem easy to make a kite, it requires a lot of concentration because any mistake makes it unflyable.
"When we started to implement this project, I was surprised at the level of support we attracted, with everyone in the neighborhood praising our work and even helping us with what they could," Siam added. On some days, the number of participants reached 40.
"We only left when we were too exhausted to do more; we love this work and we think we are sending an important message," said Abu Alabed, 40, one of the organizers.
In the end, the team made about 300 kites, and on the first day they were brought to to the march, the children were so excited by the site they trampled most of them. However, Siam and his recruits saved some and made new ones—and this time, they flew. Their kites sailed right over the border to Palestine, and freedom.