GAZA—Something didn’t quite look right about the zebra, but it was hard to say exactly what. Of the several ramshackle zoos in Gaza, Marah, located not far from the Bureij refugee camp, is by far the cheeriest: The animals are lively, the enclosures clean, and children gather around the cage of a resting lion.
Then again, the competition is hardly stiff: The zoo in Rafah features dead animals left to rot in their cages; another animal park, situated in a densely populated neighborhood in Bureij, recently shut down amid financial difficulties (and after neighbors complained of the smell). A third, also in Bureij, is so short of funds that a fox is kept in a grocery cart with a board over the top.
From the latter, “Welcome to Hamaswood“:
It looks at first glance like a typical block in Gaza: concrete facades spray-painted with political graffiti, collapsed roofs, and a battered United Nations sign. But looking a bit closer, you notice that there’s something a bit too orderly, a bit too purposefully neglected, about the row of dilapidated buildings. The U.N. sign seems hastily painted on. Nearby is a fish pond.
Welcome to Hamaswood, one of the first movie sets owned by a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. Hamaswood — or, as the locals call it, the Asdaa Land for Artistical and Media Production — is a small studio city near the Gaza town of Khan Yunis. Less than a city block in size, Asdaa’s movie set is much smaller than any Hollywood studio, and it boasts a few features that you wouldn’t find in Cinecittà: for example, the fish pond as well as goat yards and cow yards, not intended for animal films but as money making livestock. As it turns out, running a terrorist movie studio involves problems that Samuel Goldwyn would never have dreamed of.