Tag Archives: Gaza

Blanket Collection for Gaza’s Children

Hello,
Some 25,000 people sleep in Gaza UNRWA’s schools, including 9,000 children, and they need blankets.

If you have blankets you do not need  (or even clothes, toys, but mostly blankets) – Please forward to me until Wednesday (14/1/09), so we can send them to Gaza on a coordinated truck entering Thursday.

Please contact me to arrange: 054-4556052,

ofranh@zahav.net.il

Thanks in advance,
Hagit
ofran

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Another option for overseas readers: emergency donation to Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights.

A Sderot Woman Speaks Out against Gaza War

Kol Aher (another voice) is a group similar in spirit to ours. Its members are Israelis living near the Gaza Strip, and attempting to build a human bridge of understanding and solidarity with Gaza residents. And they have found partners on the other side.

Of course, the terrible violence of the past two weeks places an especially heavy strain upon Kol Aher members, as they and their friends across the border are under personal risk, from a war in which they do not believe. Nomika Zion, a Kol Aher founder, decided to speak out. Below is her text. Please distribute widely. Please do something to stop this war – contact the nearest Israel embassy or consulate, Israel’s ministries directly, or your own government.

Also, consider donating to efforts for providing emergency humanitarian assistance (see details in our more recent blog post; also here). Thank you.

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Sderot War Diary

Nomika Zion, Sderot, 8.1.09

“I talk with Sderot people and everyone’s cheeks are rosy again”, boasted Fuad on the war’s second day [Fuad is Benjamin Ben Eliezer, a long-time centrist Labor minister – Assaf]. “The heavier the blow we deliver – the more our hearts widen”.

Hey Fuad, not everyone. Even if I was the only one around Sderot feeling differently – and I am not – my voice should be heard.

Not in my name and not for me you went to war. The current bloodbath in Gaza is not in my name and not for my security. Destroyed homes, bombed schools, thousands of new refugees – are not in my name and not for my security. In Gaza there is no time for burial ceremonies now, the dead are put in refrigerators in twos, because there is no room. Here their bodies lay, policemen, children, and our nimble reporters play acrobatically with Hasbara strategies in view of “the images that speak for themselves”. Pray tell me, what is there to “explain”? [Hasbara literally means “explanation” – Assaf] What is there to explain?

I got myself neither security nor quiet from this war. After such an essential calm, that helped all of us heal emotionally and mentally and experience some sanity again [Nomika is referring here to the first 5 months of cease-fire, which were observed by both sides – Assaf] – our leaders have brought us back to the same wounded, anxiety-ridden place. To the same humiliating, terrified sprinting to shelter.

Don’t mistake me. Hamas is an evil, terrible terror organization. Not just for us. First and foremost to its own citizens. But beyond that wretched leadership there are human beings. With hard labor, ordinary people on both sides build small bridges of human gestures. This is what the Kol Aher, a group of people from Sderot and elsewhere on the Gaza border of which I am a member, has been doing. We have tried to lay down a human route to the hearts of our neighbors. While we have won a five-month calm, they continued to suffer under the siege. A young man told us he does not wish to marry and have kids, because in Gaza there is no future for children. A single airplane bomb drowns these human gestures in depths of blood and despair.

Qassams scare me. Since the war started, I almost didn’t dare cross the street. But even more frightening is the monolithic tone in our public sphere and our media, the unbreachable wall of jingoism. It scares me when my Kol Aher colleague is assaulted by other Sderotis, as he is interviewed and criticizes the war – and later receives anonymous phone threats and is afraid to return to his car. It scares me how little room there is for another voice, and how difficult it is to express it here. I am willing to pay the price of social isolation, but not the price of fear.

It scares me to see my city light up, celebrate and put up flags, and cheerleader squads hand out flowers on the streets, and people honk in glee at every one-ton bomb dropped on our neighbors. It scares me to hear the resident who happily admits that he has never been to a concert, but IDF’s bombing of Gaza is the best music he has ever heard. I am scared by the smug reporter interviewing him, who doesn’t challenge him even one bit.

It scares me that under the screen of Orwellian words, and the children’s corpses blurred on TV as a public service to us, we are losing the human ability to see the other side, to feel, to be shocked, to feel empathy. Under the codename ‘Hamas’, the media has created for us a huge dark demon with no face, no body and no voice. A million and a half people with no name.

A deep, dark stream of violence flows into the veins of Israeli society like a deadly disease, and it gets stronger from war to war. It has no smell and no shape, but we feel it very clearly here. It is a type of euphoria and trigger-happiness and joy of revenge and power-drunkenness and love of Mars, and the burial of the noble Jewish commandment: “when your enemy falls – do not celebrate”. Our morality is so polluted, so soiled now that it seems no washing will be able to remove the stains. Our democracy is so fragile, that you have to weigh every word in order to safeguard yourself.

The first time I felt the state is really protecting me, was when they got the ceasefire. I am not responsible for Hamas, and therefore I ask our own leaders: have you turned every stone in order to continue the calm? To extend the ceasefire? To use it to get a long-term agreement? To resolve the border-crossing and siege issues before they blow the whole thing up? Have you gone to the ends of the world looking for the right mediators? And why did you wave away, unblinkingly, the French ceasefire initiative after the war started? And why do you keep rejecting, to this very moment, every possible offer of negotiations? Do you think we have not reached our maximum Qassam quota here, that we can stand some more? That we have not yet reached the quota of killed Palestinian children that the world can stomach?

And who guarantees that Hamas can be toppled? Haven’t we tried this trick elsewhere? And who will come in its place? Global fundamentalist organizations? Al Qaeda? And how, from the heaps of rubble and hunger and cold and dead bodies, will moderate voices of peace grow? Where are you leading us? What future are you promising us here in Sderot?

And how much longer will you hang on our backs the tired old “backpack of lies” [cultural reference to a well-known book of 1948 war anecdotes – Assaf]: “there’s no one to talk with”, “it is a no-choice war”, “let the IDF finish the ‘job'”, “one good blow and we finish them”, “let’s topple the Hamas” and “who doesn’t want peace?”. The lies of brute force and the idiocy of even more brute force – your only guide for resolving the region’s problems.

And how come every hasty interview with a Kol Aher member, always begins and ends with the disdainful punch line by the reporter: “Don’t you think you are being naive?” How come the option of dialogue and negotiation and agreements and understandings, even with the worst of our enemies, has become a synonym for naivete, while the option of brute-force and war is always a wise, rational, ultimate one? Eight year of senseless cycle of bloodshed haven’t taught us anything about the futility of brute force? The IDF has slammed and shot and assassinated and razed and hit and missed and bombed – and what have we gotten in return? A rhetorical question, ain’t it.

It is extremely hard to live in Sderot nowadays. At night, the IDF pounds infrastructure and human beings, and our home walls shudder. By morning, we get Qassams – more sophisticated ones each time. A person going to work in the morning, does not know whether their home will be found standing by evening. At midday, we bury the best of our sons, who have paid with their lives for yet another “just” war. In the evening, after many difficulties, we manage to make contact with our desperate friends in Gaza. They have no electricity, no water, no gas, no food, nowhere to hide. And only the words of N., the 14-year-old whose school was bombed and whose classmate was killed, don’t leave my head. She writes us in perfect English, an email that her mom somehow managed to send:

“Help us, we are human beings after all”

No, Fuad, my cheeks are not rosy, they are not. A ton of Cast Lead is weighing on my heart, and my heart cannot contain it.

(translated from Hebrew by Assaf Oron)

Lucky me, I’m sick… (A personal visit at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital)

I have a dear friend in Gaza. Thanks to the Occupation that “makes hearts grow fonder” bringing me to Gaza every month, I used to meet my friend in his home town regularly for two years. That happened eight years ago, when Gaza was licking its wounds from the First Intifada and rebuilding itself out of the rubble. Since then, a lot of sewage has been flowing in its streets again, and Mustafa and I – praise God – nourish our ties over our cell phones, when there is enough electricity in Gaza to charge his.

But not all is lost in Gaza. If, for example, you are very ill, in serious condition, and not yet dead of lack of medication and surgical instruments and/or power shortage at the hospital, and/or the absence of a proper doctor, and in addition are lucky enough and the hospital administration has approved financing by the Palestinian Authority, you might just, by miracle, find yourself hospitalized in Israel.

That is how Widad, Mustafa’s wife, arrived at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon to care for her ailing father. We visited them several times. On Tuesday evening, we visited them for the third time. We crowded by a round table in the nice, cozy lobby of the mouth and jaw ward – Ehud and myself, visiting, Widad’s father suffering from a violent case of mouth cancer, Aatef, the father’s roommate in the ward, he, too, a Gazan, waiting for surgery in his parathyroid gland, Widad who insisted on hosting us in spite of our protests, and 3-year old Sarah with 18 stitches to sew her cheek back together along with her mother who stays with her, from Gaza as well. We all sat and talked thanks to my broken Arabic and Ehud’s better Arabic, and the much better Hebrew of the father who had worked for ten years for the Egged bus company in the ‘good old days’ of Occupation in the 1970s and 1980s.

At the next table sat a young woman, visiting some local patients, reading a small Jewish prayer book. The television hanging overhead was tuned to the Knesset channel, which invaded our ears as well since even on medium volume was much too loud. Aatef turned down the volume in the public TV set and apologized to the young woman sitting next to us. She answered with a smile and said this was alright, and added that the hospital is a place of understanding and that everyone here is a friend.

“But Sderot is receiving surprises” she added after a short silence. Aatef asked what the word “hafta’ot” (surprises in Hebrew) meant and I translated it for him to Arabic, and added that she meant the Qassam rockets. Aatef nodded his head in understanding and solidarity.

She looked at us and her gaze hovered over little Sarah who was playing at our side. The 18 stitches in Sarah’s right cheek invited a long look. When the woman looked away from Sarah, she turned to me, asking: “What happened to the little girl? It’s painful to see, she’ll probably be scarred for life.” Since she spoke to me, I gave her the information I had (from a previous visit of my son at the ward): “This is from the surprises she receives in Gaza”.

The silence that fell was broken by the young woman who said: “I have an idea. We must carry it out. We must tell the story of Sarah from Gaza and the boy from Sderot who lost his leg and more stories of children from here and from there, on television instead of all that talking”. (Let us not forget that the television was still on the Knesset channel).

We all listened to her. She spoke excitedly, as someone who had discovered something that had hitherto been hidden from her. Again silence fell among us, until another wave of excitement exuded from her into our respectful listening: “Not just once. 24 hours a day, this should be told.” She repeated this several times. We nodded in our agreement and translated her words to the Gazans. A wave of empathy reached her from all of us.

On our way home to Shoval, a 45-minute drive from Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, I knew in my heart that one more person had joined the circle of those who grasp the most essential point. “Thanks” to 18 stitches in Sarah’s right cheek, at a hospital where one staff cares for all, and where people are at their most vulnerable, both patients and their visitors – hearts are more open, and it is much more difficult to blur the pain.

This young woman, whose name I forgot to ask, encountered little Sarah’s pain alongside her own. Personal pain with a name and an address, and her heart opened at once with enough compassion to contain the whole world.

Erella