GAZA — The new road known as Jakar Street is a rough dirt expanse that Hamas bulldozers cleared parallel to the fence separating this restive Palestinian strip from Israel. Jakar comes from a slang Arabic term that suggests provocation, stubbornness, an effort to vex or annoy or irritate.
Leaders of Hamas, the militant movement that dominates Gaza, have been variously quoted as saying that they built the road as a future staging ground for attacks on Israel and that it will help them stop Gazans from jumping the fence and rogue groups from upsetting the fragile cease-fire by firing rockets at the enemy. More than anything, a year after the deadliest battle ever between Israel and Gaza’s militias, Jakar Street is a statement: We, too, can build a road close to the fence, and monitor your activities as you monitor ours.
“We built this road in spite of the Jews,” declared a 29-year-old member of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, who guided a ride down a few miles of Jakar Street the other day. Qassam protocol dictated that he be identified only as Abu Almajd, a nickname that means “father of the glory.”
“Now we are closer to the Jews, only meters between,” said Abu Almajd, who said he was a computer engineering graduate and was now a Qassam fighter and a police officer with Gaza’s Interior Ministry. “The Jews’ road is straight, and the Jakar road is straight. We can watch each other during cease-fires and during wars.”
Hamas officials said the road was about 35 feet wide and stretched 25 miles, not quite Gaza’s length, while running 650 to 1,000 feet from the border fence, inside the so-called buffer zone where Israel has long restricted farming. Israel paved its own road, next to the fence and reserved for military patrols, in the 1990s.
“It doesn’t really pose much of a threat from a security point of view,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner of the Israeli military, shrugging off the significance of the new road. “They are trying to find symbols to try and say how they won last year. We see them investing in this road rather than investing in the people of Gaza.”
Past the bombed-out Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya, past an entrepreneurial effort to fashion cinder blocks from rubble, past a little fire at the base of a sandy hill, the car with a spidery windshield crack turned onto Jakar Street as the intense sun melted into evening. Abu Almajd nodded at a bearded man in a khaki uniform who stood, radio in hand, in a square hut, perched on a dirt pile.
There was a man on a motorcycle, another walking and a horse-drawn cart with two men and two boys on Jakar Street. It meanders through farmland and past idled factories. Near Gaza’s northern tip, it runs along a pond with wild ducks.
Israeli watchtowers and the green fields of Kibbutz Nahal Oz were easily visible. Abu Almajd pointed out the old crossing, called Karni by Israelis and Al Montar by Palestinians, which was an import-export hub — and the site of terrorist attacks — until Israel shut it down in 2011. On a hill overlooking Jakar Street, a dozen dogs feasted on dumped garbage.
“Jakar Street gives a sense of security for citizens because the Qassam Brigades are deployed there,” said Iyad al-Buzom, a Hamas security spokesman. He called it “a kind of resistance” that “can be used to facilitate the access of people and farmers near buffer zones imposed by the Israeli occupation.”
Mahdi Arar, a linguist and a dean at Birzeit University in the West Bank, said “jakar” was an “aggressive” term used “when there is a problem, or when there is a misunderstanding, when there is a bad situation.” It comes from the word “alajajah,” he said, which refers to a conversation in which someone restates her point endlessly regardless of the response.
“‘Jakar’ means I made it to make you sad,” Professor Arar said. “I made it despite your refusal, to upset you, without your acceptance.”
Al Resalah, a Hamas news site, removed the word “Jakar” from an article about the road. “The Qassam Brigades and Hamas do not encourage the name ‘Jakar’ because it is dealing with responsibility and maturity and not impulsiveness,” Ibrahim al-Madhoun, a writer for Al Resalah, said in an interview. “But Gazans want the Jakar name because it mainly means stubbornness against Israelis and illustrates the power of the Qassam Brigades.”
On Twitter, where the road has its own Arabic hashtag, Ahmed Shaa’t, who goes by the user name Elabadaay, posted that “I felt victory” after visiting the street in June.
“Jakar Street is the most beautiful road for married people to go and they can piss off the Jews,” wrote another Twitter user, EsraaOdaa.
But the celebration was not universal. “I think the houses of people, and the streets that were destroyed during the war should be rebuilt first,” said another Twitter user, identified as BenThabet71, “instead of building a new street that will be bulldozed in the next war.”
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(via NY Times)