Ahmed Akil put a cautious bare toe into the water, then waded in up to his blue jean covered knees. Then, laughing, he flung himself fully clothed into the surf.
The 14-year-old from the Khan Yunis refugee camp, less than two miles from the coast, had never before seen the sparkling stretch of Mediterranean beach that fronted the Jewish settlement block of Gush Katif. On Monday, he and thousands of Palestinians — robed women, ragged children, even weapons-toting militants — flocked to what for decades had been a forbidden shore
And listen to hip hop.
The official Palestinian rally for Gaza's "liberation" from Israel was winding down Wednesday afternoon when a throbbing bass groove shook the ground in the former Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim.
On stage, three fresh-faced men - hair gelled, clad in sports jerseys and baggy pants - swaggered and bobbed their heads, telling all the shabab (young men) to wave their hands in the air. The crowd swayed to the booming beat and the group PR (Palestinian Rappers) recited a song called "Al-Hurriya" (freedom), until a few angry Islamists in the back fired their Kalashnikovs in the air.
A man screamed a Hamas-inspired chant about resistance and the crowd roared back "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great). People lunged toward the stage and the sedate rally turned into bedlam.
When PR say they're coming at you from the toughest neighborhood in the world, it's not a boast.