< Report Three: Bringing Gaza With Us >

Voices of Conscience: Delegation to the Gaza Strip
November 12, 2012

We invite delegation participants to comment on and react to the experiences they have during our Israel/Palestine delegations in written Trip Reports.

Individual delegates contribute pieces to these reports.  As such, reports are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals.  Submitted reports may be edited for clarity or brevity. Trip reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Peace-Builders, trip leaders, or delegation partner organizations.  We hope you enjoy reading and we encourage you to share these reports with others.


Never the Same
By Maya Harris

Sitting in the airport waiting to head back to Tel Aviv. All that spins through my head are the smiles and laughs of my friends in Gaza, while the dark truth keeps me restless that bombs are raining on them and it may only get worse. I was privileged enough to be able to leave, they cannot and are forced to live under this continuous violence.

I am sick and traumatized from watching a bomb whiz by my window and the flash, boom shaking everything around me. It landed in the neighboring refugee camp. As many more bombs rain around him, my friend Bassel Barakat comforted me and apologized for my fear.

This is the beauty of the people Israel and U.S. call “terrorists”. The ever resilient, smart, caring and beautiful people that will apologize for Israel scaring me.

I didn’t know fear and helplessness till that night. I will never be the same.

This report is excerpted from Maya's blog. To read the original post, visit http://jardingarden.tumblr.com/post/35572479103/sitting-in-the-airport-waiting-to-head-back-to-tel


An Angry Sea
By Wendy Hartley

This morning the Mediterranean is rolling to the shore with a white foamed strength that feels angry; the sky hovers with thick darkness in the distance.

Yesterday the program was set askew by two improvisations and one angry desperate plea for a meeting with us.

The first stop on our bus ride north was a fish farming project. Since the more than 4,000 fishermen can no longer earn their livings by catching fish in the polluted three miles off the coast, the Gazans have developed 30-40 fish farms that raise two varieties of fish. The one we saw produces 1500 tons per year.

The next visit was to a farmer/poet who raises 100's of dunums (one dunum is approximately ¼ acre) of cabbages and spice peppers and strawberries and greenhouse tomatoes.  He is located on the North end of Gaza and deals with frequent incursions. The North was hit hard by Cast Lead; the North was half of our viewing mission for the day. Go to gazastrophe on google to see the poetry.

The ride back on the east side of the strip detoured so that we could pay a condolence call to the parents of the 13 year old boy who was shot killed while playing soccer (his position was goalie) in front of a friend's home.

The men were gathered in mourning in a space across from the mosque. They had already buried Ahmed. The women (whom only the women in our group visited) were inside the apartment of the friend where the killing took place. The Corries were called upon to speak to each parent. At the men's gathering one of us cried a lot. She is our youngest member, age 22. A village man leaned toward her to say, in English, "Don't cry. This is our life. We can't do anything."

After the visits we were taken to an observation post on the roof of a house under construction. From there the area where the tanks and bulldozers had done their damage could be seen. The tanks fire indiscriminately while the bulldozers tear up the trees and land and a helicopter flies overhead patrolling for terrorists and young boys.

Next we drove south to Khan Younis for a shortened neighborhood tour by Ghada, a friend of our co-leader Michael Brown, who has joined us from Canada to help on the tour. She introduced us to several neighbors and her mom. One young man in the poorest section of the camp told us that his two year old daughter had died 7 days ago from a heart condition. He had tried her whole life to get a permit to take her for medical care in Israel and had been denied for two years. Then his mom had died 4 days ago, also needing medical treatment denied her by denial of a permit to go to Israel. Death by denial is an epidemic in Gaza.

After a break for food and relaxation at a new UN club by the sea, we drove for an hour to the hotel where 12 people from the Prisoners Society were waiting to tell us their stories and to ask us what were we going to do make change happen?

There is more to tell, but it will have to wait until I return. I have my permit to travel.


By Maya Harris

When I break down in tears, they tell me not to because this is daily life. The fear in Anees’ eyes when he heard the fighter jet overhead. He said it wasn’t for himself but for us. 10 minutes later we heard the echo of the explosion. Israel strips Gaza naked and exposes her to its wrath. . .

This report is excerpted from Maya's blog. To read the original post, visit http://jardingarden.tumblr.com/post/35432053310/when-i-break-down-in-tears-they-tell-me-not-to


Right to Farm
By Diane Adkin

The land connects all Palestinians, and is the basis of their dispossession.  They live in manufactured poverty; they were not a poor people and were food exporters until 1967. 

We met Said Daour (Abu Anad) and his family in the northern Gaza Strip.  From what is left of his farming lands, you can see the Israeli Erez crossing and the border.  Israel 'shaved' the land along the border for 300 meters (taking out buildings, trees and crops) and takes another 600 meters where they will shoot anyone working on the land. 

Abu Anad lost 1200 trees of all types – citrus, fig, olive, date palm.  Palestinian connection to their trees is like family - when they lose one tree, they wonder how they will live.  The Israelis destroyed his house – it was a villa on top of his hill built 7 years earlier – they lost everything except the clothes on their backs.  His 5 year old nephew and the boy's mother were killed.  “God help us.” 

The 'incursions' continue to this day.  The farmers plant, but can lose all in one incursion.

He says farmers need support.  The government and NGO's document and make statistics, but don't do anything, maybe they get a small amount of irrigation donations, or the like.  He asked us to send a strong message that farmers are suffering, that they just need protection from Israeli bulldozers, they are looking to feed their families.

Abu Anad knows farming.  His cabbages were huge and sweet, his tomato greenhouse full of fruit, his clementines juicy.  We tried them all.  But his natural market besides Gaza is the West Bank and Israel, and Israel has totally blockaded exports from Gaza.  His tomatoes will fetch 1 NIS/kilo in the poverty stricken Gaza market (used to be 5 NIS/kilo when the economy was better before the blockade) and would fetch much more in the West Bank.

He says one of the main obstacles is that the European Union promised to take care of exports if they switched to farming 'cash crops' like strawberries, but less than 5% of the total annual 4500 metric tons of the strawberry crop was successfully exported through the Israeli blockade.  He had 30 dunums (7.5 acres) of strawberries, down now to 10 dunums (2.5 acres).  But it costs $2500 per field to plant, lots of labor with plastic sheeting, and if he can't export it, he won't even get back the cost of planting in the local market. 

What has happened in Gaza is donor policies tied to conventional economic theory have shifted the focus on farming to luxury 'cash crops' like strawberries and flowers for export markets.  How is it possible to consider diverting land and resources to produce flowers and strawberries for European markets while 88% of Gazans receive food aid and 75% are malnourished? 

Must read:  Farming Palestine for Freedom by Al Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. 

Farming can create a resistance economy, protect livelihoods and reduce aid dependency.  They have a right to farm their own land.


By Gary Doupe

I'd like to return
In a thousand years
When Mediterranean tides
Lap playfully along peaceful shores
Inhabited by sensitive women and men
Whose poignant histories have blended
Into one.

I'd like to return
To drink tea again
With the greatest generation
Of great-great grandchildren,
Palestinians, Bedouins, Jews,
Mingled sands, vibrant
With strength.

In this lifetime
I may return,
A friend,
Listening intently to quiet rains
Of revolutionary patience
Sniffing the air, pungent
With citrus and civility
Prison doors unlocked
Never to close
And all gathered round
Savoring strawberries.


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