Whether Wednesday goes down in history as the day on which Gazans demonstrated their preference for the pen over the sword remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: In this long-depressed and chaotic territory, kebab is mightier than both.
On election day, the only nook in the entire Gaza Strip more crowded than the polling stations was Jamala, a popular takeaway kebab joint in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City.
Inside its kitchen, where the smoke rising from the meeting of lamb drippings and charcoal sears the eyes but tempts the stomach, politicos of all ages and parties lined up to enjoy the best kebab in town.
Even with 20 men in the kitchen, 10 more than on a normal day - the grill masters found it difficult to keep up with orders pouring in from the campaigns of Fatah, Hamas, and a spate of smaller and independent lists. At one point in the late afternoon there was an hour-long wait for a pita stuffed with two strips of lamb.
"Elections are good for business," said Abd el-Sallam, who has owned Jamala with his three brothers since 1986, and whose grandfather first started the family's kebab grilling exploits in 1936. "We haven't had a day this good since the Fatah primaries."
What is also good for business is a wealth of political views, and that Jamala also has.
While Sallam voted Wednesday for Fatah, one brother voted for Hamas, his mother voted for the PFLP, and his father voted for the Popular Resistance Committees.
The same variety exists among his employees and clientele.
Turning strips of lamb on the two-meter-long spit which faces the street from the open-air kitchen was Fousy Abu Assad, 32, who has worked at Jamala for 20 years and supports Hamas.
The lamb he grilled eventually found its way into the pita of Dr. Sana el-Sair, a professor of information technology at the Palestine International University. She was picking up food for the campaign team of her brother, who is running on an independent list.
"Everyone comes here," el-Sallam said, smiling proudly, "Hamas, Fatah, even journalists." But aside from the offhand comment or two, political talk even on election day falls silent when customers step into Jamala's kitchen and gaze longingly at the kebab they hope will soon be theirs.
"This is the best food in Gaza," Dr. el-Sair said. "And no matter who you support, you still have to eat."
Ayas Thabet contributed to this report.
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