After 20 Years, Gaza Residents Are Heading to the Movies

Gaza theater
Courtesy of Facebook

For the first time in two decades, Palestinians in Gaza now have a chance to go to the cinema.

Late last month, an events hall inside the embattled, poverty-stricken strip was transformed into a movie hall for a showing of “Oversized Coat,” a 2013 film from the Jordan-based Palestinian director Nawras Abu Saleh. According to reports in the Israeli press, tickets to the screening cost NIS 10 — or about $2.50 — and event organizers plan to keep the cinema open and running, with a variety of Palestinian-sourced films, indefinitely.

The Gaza Strip, a sliver of land wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, is blockaded by both land and sea and since 2007 has been run by the militant group Hamas — an organization with an active terror wing that is openly committed to the destruction of Israel. All existing cinemas in the strip were set ablaze 20 years ago during a series of political upheavals, and despite the fact that the current Hamas government actively polices events that it deems “immodest” or opposed to Islam, the new little cinema inside the Red Crescent Society Hall appears to be surviving.

“Gaza is hungry for a cinema … depriving people of cinemas and theaters in Gaza is a violation of their humanity,” Gaza resident Basel Al-Attawna told Reuters after the first screening.

Until now, the strip’s nearly 2 million residents have had to settle for watching films at home via DVDs or streaming sites. According to media reports, audiences in Gaza have said they are delighted to watch films focused on the Palestinian struggle, as deemed acceptable by Hamas, but they are also hungry for a more classic Hollywood blockbuster experience.

“I am very happy,” a young Gazan named Qassem told Reuters after a screening. “But where is the popcorn?”

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