Entry #30 – 10.45am September 23st – Gaza
I have now entered into Gaza safely. It’s certainly been a bit of a mission to get here. The world I arrived into looked like a war zone, mainly because it is. The first area I arrived in was a suburb named Rafah and here the buildings are riddled with bullet holes and there were bomb craters and broken rubble everywhere… in amongst it were countless children playing. There were loads of check points on the way across the Sinai from Egypt and groups of israeli troops in tanks with beach umbrellas over the gunners parked all along the way. The Sinai was truly the wildcard in this journey as it is a wild and lawless area. There are many ambushes in the wilderness of the Sinai and indeed, it is the perfect area for such things to happen. Someone lost, strayed or buried in the wilderness of the Sinai desert is very likely to remain that way forever. As my return journey will mean crossing the Sinai again, it is still very much the wildcard in this adventure.
As for Gaza and it’s inhabitants. The palestinian people are wonderful, they were really happy to see us. The Samouni children are just great. They are one of the main reasons I came. Most of them are orphans and I wanted to see the situation here first hand… all these children, they are so beautiful, the light in their eyes, living in this bombed out war zone. They truly touched my heart. There was this one young boy, we took to each other right away, he’s 10 and lost both his parents in an israeli rocket attack in 2009. At that time, in one of the most shocking war crimes of the Israeli occupation, Israeli soldiers herded almost the entire extended Samouni family of over 100 into one house – in order to keep them safe. Then the house was hit by 2 Israeli rockets and countless bombs were dropped in the surrounding yard. Israel then refused to allow any ambulances into the area for four days, leaving children laying in the rubble next to horribly wounded and murdered family members for the entire time – and it gets quite cold in the desert at night. The result was the death of 29 Samouni family members. Men, women and children alike. One child of 8 lost his mother and father and all four brothers and sisters in that one raid and lay hurt in the rubble next to their broken bodies the entire 4 days it took for help to get through.
I so want to help these people and Im going to be in here in Gaza for 10 more days, so I intend to get busy building a school room for the Samouni kids while Im here, they are so excited at the thought of learning to spell and to read and write.
The Palestinians are a very strong willed people and gaza is a thriving community in the face of massive adversity. They are poor, broke, they have no resources, not even the parts they need to fix the local sewage treatment plant and, due to the Israeli blockade, they are unable to trade and yet they are strong and defiant in the face of it all. They are a beautiful smiling, and generous people who have made me feel so welcome and are so happy to see someone who will support them. Though Gaza is a most dangerous place, I feel in no danger at all here. If I come to any harm during my stay it will be at the hands of either the Israel or Egyptian authorities, not from the people of Palestine.
Entry #31 – 2.35pm September 23st – Gaza
We have now left the hotel we were staying at and have rented a unit for the next 10 days. We have had a translator/guide called Alex provided to us by Hani, a long standing friend of Ken. Alex is a very pleasant young Palestinian man of 22 whom I liked instantly. He has been in Gaza for 2 years now. Prior to 2010 he was living in Dubai for over 20 years, but suddenly had his residence visa cancelled simply due to being Palestinian. When I asked him about it he smiled and shrugged saying, “If you are Palestinian you are automatically a criminal”. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the fact that this is simply the way the Palestinian people are viewed by default, by a large majority of the world, serves as a glaring testament to the power of the Zionist controlled mainstream media and the lack of discernment and critical thinking by a huge portion of mankind.
Gaza only receives electricity for 8 hours per day from around 3pm each afternoon and so it is very difficult to get things done. The truly unsettling thing about it however, is that there seems to be no apparent reason for this electricity rationing other than it being yet another way for Israel to ensure the Palestinian people are kept in a constant state of difficulty. Apart from the pure inconvenience of having no power for up to sixteen hours a day, this rationing of the power supply of course makes the storage of any fresh foods an extremely difficult prospect. The streets of the shopping area in the heart of town are lined with diesel generators that are used to power the shops making the center of town a very noisy place.
There was also once a thriving local fishing industry here, however catches have been very poor of late as Israel will allow no boats further than 3 miles offshore and certainly not into the fishing grounds which are about 10 miles out. To make it work there are always Israeli gunboats clearly visible at regular intervals on the horizon ensuring the no fishing policy is enforced.
The smell in much of Gaza City is also very difficult to deal with as the equipment at the local sewage treatment plant is in need of repair but Israel will allow no outside trade with the palestinian people while Hamas holds the reigns of power. Though the City is quite a relaxed place, there is an underlying tension here that must be felt to be understood. Many of the people can very understanably be somewhat distrustful of strangers and police in black wearing the black beret of Hamas, and bearing Russian made Karashnikov machine guns are to be seen everywhere.
Most of the residential buildings in Gaza city have no glass in the windows. This has been done purposely by the residents themselves as a safety measure. As is the case in all urban war zones, very often a bomb or rocket exploding nearby will cause a pressure wave that will blow the windows of nearby houses inward and there are many innocent people who have been killed or horribly maimed in their homes due to flying glass from a nearby bombing raid, even though they were not targeted personally and the building they were in was not hit.
Despite all of the above (which barely scratches the surface of life in Gaza under the Israeli blockade) Gaza is a thriving community and the Palestinian’s are a very strong and defiant people. I look at this place and see the hundreds of children playing in the bombed out rubble and it causes me to pause, to reflect deeply upon myself and to wonder at the strength of mankind. It also brings me to question what it would take; what belief system must be installed into ones mind for a soldier to carry out such acts of brutality against an innocent people who’s only wish is for a peaceful life, simply because some elected public trustee ordered him to do so. I look at Gaza and feel the energy of this place and the strength and despair of it’s people it becomes clear just how far mankind has strayed from our path.
Entry #32 – 10.40am September 25th – Gaza
I spent yesterday measuring up the school room for the Samouni children and today we are confirming that we have access to tools so we can purchase the materials needed to get started. Nothing is easy in Gaza but once we have secured the tools and materials it should only take 3 or 4 days to fit out the room for the kids. The children are very excited about it. Yesterday afternoon one small girl called Noora ran up and hugged me and said “I love you Max” I had to turn my head to hold back the tears.
Alex our translator has been great. He is a wonderful young man who dreams of travelling and one of his great wishes is to move to Australia, but he can not do so as he cannot get a passport simply because he is a Palestinian and therefore seen by the world as a terrorist, when nothing could be further from the truth. He is not a terrorist, he is a prisoner in the worlds largest open air prison, a prison that holds not only adults but is also home to over 800,000 innocent children.
Entry #33 – 11.07pm September 25th – Gaza
Today we purchased most of the materials we need to fit out the school room for the Samouni kids and tomorrow the work will begin in ernest. When we finished we were invited to tea by Zeinat Samouni, now a widow with four wonderful children to care for on her own, and during our stay she told me her story. While I listened to the ordeal she had suffered I found tears pouring down my cheeks and when it was over I went outside and wept as I walked towards the street. No one should ever have to endure what she has been through and to think the attrocities she suffered were inflicted upon her by people who call themselves human is incomprehensible. The crimes that Israel has carried out upon the people of Gaza are truly among the most brutal in all of human history, bar none, and the purposeful manner and unbridled relish with which the soldiers carry out these attrocities is quite literally unforgivable. Every single house in Gaza has a similar story to tell. There is not one person in this city that does not hold within their soul, the scars of war and brutality.
Such brutality and wanton abuse leave permanent scars on the psyche of the children who witness them and yet still in the face of all they have been through; all the horror they have seen, still the children of Gaza smile.
Upon my return home I intend to devote an entire radio broadcast to my time in Gaza and also, if I can gather enough footage, to make a short film about what is happening here. The truth must be told to the world.
Entry #34 – 6.45pm September 26th – Gaza
Today Ken and I spoke at Gaza university. The response was fantastic, I have quite honestly never received a warmer welcome than that which I received today.
After a 15 minute meeting with the Dean and the higher echelons of his faculty we were led into a conference hall where each of us spoke for around 15 minutes to a very enthusiastic and receptive crowd. After each of us had spoken were took questions before taking some of the students outside to interview regarding their hopes and dreams of post university life. We have decided now extend our stay another week and so will be remaining here until around October 9th.
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