i am writing from gaza, where i have been for the last 3 days to coordinate a volunteer program with youth groups here. compared to the west bank, gaza is not so popular for internationals to come and work.
when we (a group 7 mostly americans) met with representatives of youth groups, they said they were so happy that it was the first time that international volunteers came to work in their communities.
i used to get depressed coming to gaza, for it's like a huge prison and the poverty is way worse than the west bank. but now, life seems a bit more tolerable here, at least for me psychologically, that there is no curfew. i am weirded out to feel this way.
we toured around the strip and saw some incredibly devastating situations, like neighborhoods in khan younis and rafah, the south of gaza, where israeli bulldozers have flattened out tens of houses that the entire areas look as if a huge earthquake had hit there. i plan to write more about it on my list serve when i have a time, but what really got me was a visit to the area where isrealis last week dropped 1 ton (1000 kg) bomb to kill a hamas leader salah shehadeh, along with 16 others, mainly children.
it's a very densely crowded neighborhood in north of gaza city. streets are not paved, and houses are poorly built with cinderblocks. where there stood about 7-8 apartment buildings were all flattened, and there were only mounds of concrete debris, mixed with household stuff like children's clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils, blankets, etc. all houses around the flattened area were badly damaged - walls blown away, roofs collapsed, etc. and families were still sifting through rubbles. there were many small children. this boy who looked about 12,3 years old started to talking to me, that he was sleeping when it happened. i asked him where he lived and he pointed to a half collapsed house. it only had walls standing and everything in it were destroyed. and he told me his mother and sister were killed there. another boy, who looked about the same age, told me he lost his brother. and you know, that's where i lost it. i thought i had become tougher after my many visits to palestine and i am always embarrassed to cry in front of the palestinians, but i could not help it. on the walls of the damaged houses were spray-painted graffitis - "This is the American weapon."
and earlier in the day in khan younis, where a part of the refugee camp was entirely demolished, a group of old women asked me where i was from. when i replied 'japan' one of them said bitterly 'japan is with israel. the whole world is with israel.' and i had no word to respond, for it is true that while this terrible ethnic cleansing continues in palestine, the entire world stands by and watches it happen.
but do not worry about my emotional health. i, along with our group members, am in good hands with our palestinian friends here. we talk politics, joke, laugh, eat together, and are learning much much much from them about living with patience, resilience, and kindness towards others (which palestinians seem to have unlimited amount). tomorrow, our volunteers will start working for a children's summer camp organized by the health union. i am very excited about it.
take care / much love,