Medved: The sad, ‘crazy’ tale of a Gaza water park, and Hamas’ war against fun

Oct 13, 2023, 5:18 PM | Updated: 5:22 pm

Gaza attacks...

Before the counter-attack by the Israelis on the Gaza Stripe, there was an effort to create a sense of normalcy. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

In May 2010, the beleaguered denizens of the Gaza Strip thrilled to the grand opening of “The Crazy Water Aqua Fun Park.” This ambitious and brightly painted new facility hoped to boost tourism to the crowded enclave often called “hell on Earth” or “a brutal open-air prison.” Two-thousand Gaza families visited Crazy Water in the first four days after its opening, and the sprawling Fun Park gave every indication of public popularity and financial success.

Featuring three giant swimming pools, a “white-water” canal 300 feet long, three thrilling water slides, ponds with pedalos, a restaurant, a café, and a quiet area shaded by a tent where adults could sit on carpets and listen to pop music, the project sought to charm patrons of every age. According to The Guardian in the UK, the Fun Park played a key role as part of an “entertainment circuit” hoping to draw well-heeled visitors to seaside cafés, the Gaza Mall, and horseback riding at the Faisal Equestrian Club adjacent to the Fun Park.

According to a glossy feature in Egypt’s Al Ahram, Crazy Water was “one of a rapidly growing grand group of Gaza leisure parks, including the Al Bustan resort and the Bisan City tourist village. A sense of absolute prosperity prevails, as manifested by the grand resorts along and near Gaza’s coast.”

This notion of “absolute prosperity” hardly comports with coverage in the world press of Gaza’s oppressed and unfortunate state, but the optimism in 2010 seemed widespread and genuine. Israel, which had ruled the Strip since its victory in the Six-Day War of 1967, had moved all of its military and law enforcement personnel, along with 8,000 Jewish settlers, out of the area and turned over the responsibility for running Gaza to local Palestinian leaders, openly encouraging them to develop the self-governing entity they had been demanding for decades.

Unfortunately, the abrupt Israeli withdrawal led directly to a minor war between the established officials of the Palestinian Authority who were affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement and the newly organized religious radicals of Hamas. The ruthless Islamist revolutionaries quickly prevailed and took full power at the same time the dreamers and planners were completing Crazy Water and other entertainment or relaxation venues.

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Needless to say, the clerics who ran Hamas at the time had no interest in water slides and resort villages, and much preferred to concentrate their efforts and resources on attacking Israel, killing Jews and purifying the Islamic practice of the local inhabitants.

In that context, the officials closed Crazy Water for three days in August 2010 as a warning against continuing the hideously un-Islamic indulgence of permitting men and women to “mingle” while visiting the Fun Park. In other words, some of the devout leaders of Hamas worried the Fun Park might be offering the wrong kind of fun.

As it turned out, Hamas imposed a longer, more carefully policed closure in September, shutting Crazy Water for 21 days. In the middle of that span, “40 masked militants” (as newspapers described them) stormed the water park, broke everything they could seize and shatter, and used gasoline to set fire to the restaurants, administration buildings, and the plastic water slides themselves. Israel’s Haaretz reported the director-general of Crazy Water, Alladein al-Araj, filed a statement that the thugs also tied the hands of the security guards and beat them severely.

After barely three months of operation, the dream of a fanciful facility to attract tourists and delight locals lay in ruins, with devastating damage that discouraged any inclination to attempt repairs. Most of the other efforts to take advantage of Gaza’s genuinely scenic beaches similarly collapsed, with restaurants, cafés, and souvenir shops promptly shuttered by governmental decrees. The common assumption, inside and outside the Strip, held that the 40 masked marauders who wrecked Crazy Water had been sent by the Hamas leadership to put an end to any Palestinian attempts to enjoy themselves. It turned out the only word in the grand title “Crazy Water Fun Park” that actually applied to the project was “crazy.”

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It’s also terribly sad and makes it clear the madmen in Hamas are not only warmed by their bloodlust against Israelis but disfigured by their utter contempt for the ordinary Palestinians they rule. In this context, the tendency to sacrifice innocent civilians as human shields and to deliberately draw Israeli bombing raids against apolitical families seems to show an evil consistency with their insistence on prohibiting any enjoyment of a well-meaning water park 13 years ago.

The horrors that shocked the world in the most recent Hamas explosion of terrorism are, for them, only one more battle in a long war. In the end, it’s not a war against Israel alone; it’s a war against decency and civilization. And as the sad tale of Crazy Water demonstrates, it is also a never-ending war against fun.

Listen to Michael Medved weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3).

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Medved: The sad, ‘crazy’ tale of a Gaza water park, and Hamas’ war against fun