Destruction and Production  14 Mar 2008

 

Most days during the past fortnight I have been teaching in one or other of the two medical schools in Gaza. Last Friday, as it was the weekend, I was invited to the homes of two families I got to know when I was here in 2002.

 

One family had experience of the violence unleashed on Gaza in the last week of February. At 1030 pm on 27th, three missiles from Apache helicopters hit the Ministry of Interior building across the road from the block of flats where they live. After the first missile struck, the father went into his sonís room, which faces the ministry, and threw himself onto his son, saving him from being lacerated by window glass when the next rocket exploded. Not surprisingly, the children are still nervous after the attack. The five-year-old daughter would not go to the toilet without one of her parents.

 

The father was glad the Israelis had not committed their gratuitous vandalism with the more the powerful rockets which are carried by F16 aircraft. As it was, the top floors of the ministry building were destroyed and a house facing the building collapsed, killing a baby. No one was in the ministry at the time. Glass was blown out of the windows in all the flats in my friendsí block. The building next to the ministry was badly damaged. A human rights organization had moved out of it a month before, but files of papers still there were destroyed. Presumably the information about the atrocities which they document are backed up and will be available when Israeli leaders are brought to trial at the Hague for their daily crimes against Palestinian civilians.

 

Interior Ministry, Gaza City

 

In 2002 I stayed in the offices of an organization which runs urban and rural clinics. Their building was just behind the interior ministry and damage caused by the rockets has forced them move. An ambulance standing outside the building was wrecked.

 

The other friends collected me by car. I was surprised because petrol has almost run out in Gaza. Their car has been converted to run on bottled gas until stocks of this run out, or until Israel ís crippling nine-month siege, shamefully still supported by Britain, is brought to an end.

 

I was proudly shown the familyís roof garden. There is no land for most people to cultivate in densely built-up Gaza City or the other towns in the Strip. I  recognized onions, okra, tomatoes and mint. (In Khan Younis I saw a sheep in a pen on one roof, and pigeons were being reared in a shed up there.) The father started an organization, which has now been running for four years, called Life Makers. It helps young people develop life skills. It is a very positive initiative, encouraging people to consider their aims in life, and stressing helping others and cooperation. With factionalism very much a divisive reality in Gaza , it is a strength of the organization that it refuses to have any political affiliation.

           

Life Makers helps youngsters face up to the harsh realities of their day to day life. It is concerned with development. Roof gardens are one practical application of this. Others are solar panels, and distilling water, so as to obtain drinking water from Gazaís toxic water supply (more about this in the next letter).

 

As one of the minority of Gazans with a job, the father makes a payment every month to another father who tried to run a taxi but whose enterprise failed because of lack of fuel and spare parts.

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