I'm based in a tense area called Gaza. I work here as a free-lancer and string for various news organizations. On normal days, I read daily newspapers and monitor the Palestinian radio, or I cover fresh news if there is anything happening. In the middle of the day, I speak to my sources, gather news, and file it as news stories to six different news organizations.
But on days like today, I feel as if I want to cut myself into six people, each one of which works with one of the news organizations.
My day today was a nightmare. I made a deal early this week to work as a fixer for a Swiss TV crew on a story seeking people's reactions to the decision about to be made by the Palestinian authority at the end of the five-year peace period that the Israeli government and the Palestinians agreed upon in 1994. The Palestinians believe that legally it is their right to declare an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza on May 4, 1999. This of course makes Israel mad at the Palestinians, their unilaterally declaring a state.
Most of the international news organizations want to know whether the Palestinians will actually dare to declare a state or not. The Palestinian Central Council must convene on Tuesday to approve such a historical decision. So, I'm writing all this for six different news organizations and at the same time working with Swiss Television.
Before I left my house this morning to head to the northern border between Gaza and Israel to pick up the crew, I got a telephone call from one of the news agencies asking me to write the very same story. My deadline was 4 p.m.
While I drove, all I could think was, how can I possibly write an 800-word news feature story and send it in by 4 and work with the Swiss crew the whole day, translating from Arabic to English and distracting the dozens of kids who gather in front of the camera when the cameraman films general shots in the streets of the poor refugee camps in Gaza?
At 4, which is when I was supposed to file the story, my pager beeped four times with four messages saying, "Please call the office of the Spanish news agency in Jerusalem as soon as possible." I was upset and angry at the same time. I asked the Swiss correspondent whether I would be able to go home for an hour to file my feature. She said that she couldn't let me do that because she had to end her report and get back to Jerusalem before dark.
I picked up my cellular phone and called the office and told them, "Listen, I have no electricity in my office and I can not write the feature." My boss was angry. I asked him to please understand my situation, and after a long argument, finally he agreed to let me dictate to him some of the reactions that I got from people who were interviewed by Swiss TV.
On my way home, which is where I have my office as well, I felt sad because I had lied. But then I found my house dark. I asked my wife why it was dark, and she said the house had been without electricity since morning. I took a deep breath and smiled. I told my wife the whole story, and both of us burst out laughing.