Sunday, March 13, 2011



It's stormy, the wind is whipping through the trees, and scattered rain drops hit us in the face as we go down the muddy dirt road to Nasser's house. It's a few hundred yards from the couple of houses around the cemetery, which form the village of Juhor al-Dik, to his small house near the border. "Goodbye," shouted the driver who will pick us up from this remote area again, and with a look at the path we chose he added laughingly: "Insha Allah - God willing."

But even under these circumstances, and even in this weather you cannot help but noticing how beautiful this area must have been, and actually still is, in spite of everything. While almost every other place in Gaza is loud and overcrowded, here's open land and soothing silence. There are a few olive trees that have survived the uncountable tank invasions, and a few new minor ones planted bravely.

In between there's the lush green grass from the winter rain. At least where it wasn't again plowed up by Israeli bulldozers. And just as we talk about how peaceful this place actually is, we become suddenly aware of this calm being deceptive. On the other side of the barbed wire border, a jeep of the Israeli military appears. He stops as he sees us. My two colleagues and I exchange anxious glances, and without a word we open our hair and begin to inconspicuously walk in front of our Palestinian translator. What kind of a world is that in which blonde hair is a lifesaver.

The jeep drives on, we breathe a sigh of relief. I cannot even imagine how it is to know one's children are in this danger every day.

Nasser is happy to see us, he has a good day. We had previously visited him with a local staff member of `Save the Children Palestine', and the psychological care of his children will start tomorrow. The staff diagnosed a deep trauma in his children, caused by watching their mother bleeding to death, and reinforced by the uncertain living conditions. Their report further states that "the family suffers from severe poverty, which has caused a shortage of food, medicine, clothing and blankets".

We had made two appointments for Nasser with UNRWA. The first time he was sent away after a long journey, without anyone talking to him, the second time he was only told that an employee of UNRWA would visit him. The worker however didn't even reach the house - the coordination with the Israeli side failed.

Nasser takes us on his roof and shows us the latest bullet holes. At the places where the wall is made of concrete, you see the bullets stuck in the concrete, at softer parts of the wall they went all the way through. The walls facing the border look like Swiss cheese, and you can everywhere see the little nails of the Flechette bombs sticking out.

Nasser however has to remain near his house, he knows that once it is empty, it will be flattened by Israeli bulldozers, along with his land. That would mean to him to never again be able to stand on its own feet, he makes his living from this small piece of land. The refugee camp that is located further away is thus not an option. And how should he move into the small village where his children would live right next to the cemetery. The solution would be a new small house where now his tent is located, but that is expensive, and the chance that an organization will cover the costs is very low. "The wall facing the border will at any case be made out of double cement," says Nasser, who won't give up on that dream, and gives us one of his few smiles.

For despite everything, Nasser has a good day today. His children will soon get the urgently needed therapy, and with the first money that has reached us and therefore him, he has ran electricity to his tent. That in a place like this it is more important for frightened children to have light in the night, when shots are fired, than a few blankets more, that we didn't even think of. We cannot even imagine what it is like to grow up as a child in such an environment. Every evening, the family goes into the tent when it gets dark.

But still it is light, and we sit in his house, drinking tea, and Nasser tells us how the staff of Save the Children had asked his eldest son what he wants to become when he has grown up. "What am I supposed to grow up for," responded Alaa, 10 years old. "My mother is not here. I just want to see my mother again". But then Nasser stops talking, he jumps up again, his children are outside. He runs to the door, like every time he hears something suspicious, maybe a bang, who knows if it really was just the wind, or maybe one of his children has called him.

The wind gets stronger, it blows through the leaky house, we shiver in our jackets. And ask Nasser, who is back, whether it would help if we stayed a few nights in the area. "No, no," he replies softly. "It's too dangerous for you. The soldiers sometimes come until our house. When they see you, they would arrest you."

So we go back up the narrow dirt road that runs past his tent, it's getting dark, and also Nasser and his children cannot stay in the house much longer. The tents are flapping in the wind, you can see the two thin mattresses on the floor. On the wooden wall of the hastily set up outhouse next to the tent hangs a brand new white light bulb.

Vera Macht lives and works in Gaza since April 2010. She is a peace activist and reports about people´s daily struggle in Gaza



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