Opinion

Report from Gaza – Sunday 18 Jan 2009

———- Forwarded message ——–
From: Bill Quigley
Date: Sun, Jan 18, 2009

“Respite in Gaza,” by Kathy Kelly.

Kathy Kelly and Audrey Stewart have been inside Gaza for the last
several days. Kathy is with Voices for Creative Nonviolence
www.vcnv.org )

January 18, 2009, 6pm Rafah, Gaza.

Late last night, a text message notified us that the Israeli
government was very close to declaring that they would stop attacking
Gaza for one day. Shortly before midnight, we heard huge explosions,
four in a row. Till now, that was the last attack. Israeli drones
flew overhead all night long, but residents of Rafah were finally able
to get eight hours of sleep uninterrupted by F16s and Apache
helicopters attacking them.

Audrey Stewart and I stayed with Abu Yusif and his family, all of whom
had fled their home closer to the border and were staying in that Abu
Yusif’s brother-in-law, who is out of the country, loaned to him.

The family arose this morning after a comparatively restful slumber.
For the first time in three weeks, they weren’t attacked by bombs
throughout the night. This morning, while his wife prepared
breakfast, he and the children nestled together, on a mat, lining the
wall. Abu Yusif had a son under each arm, while the youngest son
playfully circled his siblings and then fell into his father’s lap.
Umm Yusif prepared a mixture of date preserves and pine nuts, served
with warm bread, cheese and spices. Her daughter smiled in
contentment, while her nephew, her husband and a close family friend
talked about the news.

The family isn’t confident that Israel’s attacks will end, nor can
they know what Hamas will choose to do, but today residents of Rafah
were able to at least begin assessing the damage. Abu Yusif and his
son took us to their home very close to the border. The house is
still standing, –he’ll need to repair broken windows and doors, but
he is better off than many of his neighbors whose houses are now piles
of rubble.

Very near his home are the remnants of tunnels that are now unusable.
A few dozen people picked through the rubble, salvaging wood for fuel.

Young boys carried pieces of wood in remnants of plastic formerly used
to cover tomato plants. An older man told me he is afraid to carry
even a piece of wood. Pointing upward, he explained that the unmanned
surveillance planes circle the skies all day. If it appeared that he
was carrying a rocket instead of a piece of wood, he might be targeted
for assassination.

Sitting around an ashcan fire, people who had maintained the tunnels
tell us that they dream of freedom: freedom of movement and basic
human rights. Every person can dream, but human beings in Palestine
can’t dream of anything else but freedom, to sleep without bombing and
to live without suffering from extreme stress. Fida, who translates
for us, tells me she has a terrible headache very day, from the
stress. She feels worse at night. Her little sister is so terrified
that she can’t walk a step without help from her mother and sister.

She says that if Israel opens the border there won’t be any need to
open the tunnels. If borders don’t open, people will rebuild the
tunnels.

Hussein tells us about a doctor who worked in an Israeli hospital.
The doctor is a Palestinian who lived in Rafah. The Israeli hospital
where he works is about 100 meters from where we sat. Last week, the
Israelis destroyed his home and killed his children. “Why do you
destroy my house?” he asks. He lost his children and his home, but he
still works in the Israeli hospital. “Israel is experimenting with
us, using white phosphorous and other new kinds of bombs.”

One man, a teacher, says he hasn’t had one day without sorrow. He
listens to the children he teaches tell many stories about how their
homes were destroyed. He hopes his own child and other children like
him can live like other children in the world. He hopes his son, his
only child, will have a better life.

“Show the world we are friendly and we don’t love war,” he tells us.
“Israel forces us to live under these forces. The war is not only
against Palestinians in Gaza. It is against all Palestinians. They
want us to leave this land, but we can’t leave it. They don’t want us
to wake up safe.”

All of the men speaking with us had to leave their homes and find
other places to live.

The drones still fly overhead, promising the possibility of further
attack. If Hamas is accused of breaking the cease fire, the people
will pay. Many of these residents who live near the border also fear
that if they are spotted anything – even carrying even a stick, the
drones overhead will spot them and mistake them for someone carrying a
rocket and they will be attacked again.

Abu Yusif examines the damage done to his house. He tries to fix a
broken water heater. His sons collect a bag of clothing so that
everyone in the family can change clothes for the first time in three
weeks. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll have another night of sleep. And,
an even more distant dream, perhaps they’ll return to their homes in
peace.

Kathy Kelly
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
1249 W Argyle Street #2, Chicago, IL 60640
Phone: (773) 878-3815
E-mail: info@vcnv.org
web: www.vcnv.org

About the author

tommyschmitz

Tommy Schmitz is a writer in Des Moines, Iowa.

He Grew up in Cincinnati's west side, spent nine years in the corporate world, then seventeen years running his own consultancy, mostly to automobile machinery makers in Japan, China and the US.

He lived in Tokyo from 1992 to 1999. Besides serving auto industry clients (Toyota, Honda, Denso, Robert Bosch, Mitsubishi) he was the first non-Japanese accepted by the government as a paid advisor to Japanese small and medium sized companies. (Chushokigyochou, Division of JETRO and MITI).

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