Sunday, July 23, 2006

Gaza Homecoming

One of our partners returned to Gaza this past week. He was out of the country when the current conflict started. He sent us the following report which I have edited slightly to maintain his privacy.

"Homecoming is always sweet. My neighbor’s boys asked me all over again, trying to use the English they have learned in school, “what is your name,” “how are you,” “what is your favorite sport?”

This past month Gaza’s main power plant was bombed by Israel. Living on the fourteenth flour, as I do and having limited electricity supplies, complicates life a little, but in no tragic way as it does for many people in Gaza. Walking down the fourteen flights my first morning back, I had almost reached the bottom, when a boy that works in the electric appliances shop on the ground floor greeted me with a big smile and gave me a flower. I took it to work with me. The night I arrived, someone that I didn’t really recognize proclaimed, “welcome home.” The taxi driver that took me to work recalled driving me three months earlier and knew where to take me. In the next few days I will make the rounds in my little neighborhood, Mohamed the guard of the building, Saber the shop keeper, Mohamed the vegetable and fruit man, Abu Alaa my landlord, Wesam the internet guy, Ahmed the hairdresser. At the Arab sweats shop, where I bought desserts for my guests, they were using candles in order to invite customers in. It gave the place quite the rustic feel.

For most in the Gaza Strip the many incursions that followed the exploding of Gaza’s power plant, which ironically was bombed likely using U.S. weapons while being built and insured by the U.S., had more severe effects than climbing extra flights of stairs. With the start of another war on the Lebanon-Israel border the world’s eye has shifted away from Gaza, but the destruction has gone on there. Hikmat, his family and his son’s family will not so quickly forget the day their fig trees were uprooted, their front yard destroyed by Israeli army tanks, their walls smashed and what was left standing of the house riddled with holes. For days the family has been carrying drinking water in buckets to their home, while the sewage spews out the now broken pipes. Hikmat’s oldest daughters periodically peaked around corners of blown away walls while I talked to their mother and youngest brother, Mohamed. Hikmat’s grandson jumped out of the second floor window during the Israeli attack and was at the hospital with his father. Mohamed’s siblings played on the old water tank, now blown apart. Israeli troops, reportedly there to look for a kidnapped soldier, left behind them a path of destruction and death.

After seeing these scenes with my own eyes, warfare remains a mystery to me. How can the human mind, especially a ‘cultured’, ‘liberated’ Western mind of an Israeli soldier believe that such a weeding out of state enemies will bring about any positive change? I saw nothing but despair, frustration and renewed hatred in the ravaged scenes I witnessed today. Fields, most family’s only source of income were left behind with crops and equipment leveled underneath tracks of tanks, houses destroyed, a number of resistance fighters are left dead, and hundreds more, only six, seven or ten years of age are born.

I prayed with many families before handing them a box of food. One woman commented, "Hhow do the Americans that subsidize Israeli activities consider themselves Christians?" I remained speechless; every house I entered I saw a little clearer the compassion of Christ."

Posted by PL

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