I live just one block from the headquarters of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and I can go on foot and be there before any other reporter to cover his statements to the media in reaction to any political event. When Arafat was in exile, before he signed the peace agreements with Israel five years ago, most Palestinians, including myself, thought of Arafat as someone holy, and we dreamed that we would be able one day to see him face to face. Nowadays, Arafat shows up everywhere, and I not only see him almost every day but also stand very close to him and ask him questions in news conferences.
Today, I had a very busy day writing about the deliberations of the Palestinian Central Council (a mini parliament) on the question of whether the Palestinians will declare a state on May 4, the last day of the interim peace period.
In the yard outside Arafat’s office, there were more than 200 journalists, including Arab and international reporters and correspondents of TV networks, newspapers, and news agencies. Each news agency and TV network had at least two people covering the story, and they were all well equipped with cell phones and pagers. I was looking at them and thinking of myself: that I’m alone, working by myself to cover this event for six news organizations without anyone to help me.
But, I thought, either God loves me or I’m a lucky person. Living one block from Arafat’s office made me feel relaxed, because I was able to get quotations from the members of the council before they briefed the journalists outside the building and immediately go to my house and file the article before anybody else, and then return to Arafat’s office to ask follow-up questions.
I usually eat lunch with my wife, Beesan, and my three daughters, Sara, Lara, and Tamara. Sara and Lara are 7-year-old twins, and Tamara is 4. Their names are like a beautiful song; they are so sweet and they are everything for me in this life. But today, after the first session of the Palestinian Council meeting was over and after working so hard, I felt very satisfied because I filed one story and two leads. So, I invited two friends of mine to go for lunch at one of the restaurants on the beach side of Gaza.
While we were having lunch, my cell phone did not stop ringing: It was bureau chiefs from the Japanese news agency and the Spanish news agency asking me to file a feature story and to talk about the general mood of the Palestinians in the street and people’s reaction to the council meetings. I told them that I was having lunch, and both asked me to write the story after lunch. My two friends told me I was really a hard worker.
After lunch, I went back home and wrote the feature story. Then I relaxed as I waited to go back to Arafat’s office to cover the evening session of the Palestinian Council.