Leaving Gaza, November 15, 2016
Please understand this: the taxes you pay directly support the siege of Gaza.
Two million people live here. In this small plot of land, surrounded by Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, the population density is one of the highest in the world.
At night, or in the dark of early morning, the ominous sound of fighter jets flying low reminds them that no one here is secure from attack. Drones fly over constantly. Gazing out over the Mediterranean, the presence of Israeli war boats emphasizes the reality that deep water fishing is prohibited – and the regular attacks on Gaza fishermen makes fishing a dangerous activity.
Gaza has virtually no clean drinking water – the over pumped water aquifer is not replenished because the water that would refresh the aquifer is diverted by Israel. Movement of people and goods is extremely limited – the rate of unemployment in people ranges from 36 – 63%.
Young people need and want to help support their families, but finding employment is rare. I met with a young man this week who has a master’s degree in social work. His father was killed in the last war – he lives with his wife, his baby, his mother and his sisters. They have NO income. The shoes he wears are separated from the soles. He fears he will not be able to find food for his baby. While the UN Relief Works Agency supplies food for the majority of people in Gaza, every employable person would prefer to be working and paying for their own food.
The coastline of Gaza is beautiful – lovely sand, warm water. It looks inviting until the appearance of raw sewage pouring into the sea reminds the viewer that the brown pools and noxious smell are occasioned by the lack of water treatment. Gaza is forbidden by Israel to install effective water treatment plants that would secure safe drainage into this sea.
Schools here are extremely overcrowded – the best of the schools double shift – some continue to triple shift. The people of Gaza are not allowed to bring in the materials needed to solve the need for adequate schools. We were told that UNRWA is building one new school each month, but to address the requirements of the population, more than 300 schools are needed.
The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, the great agency who sponsors our visits to Gaza, is doing all it can to address the mental health needs here. Living with the pain of the last three major attacks (2008/2009, 2012, 2014) and the constant threat and actual “limited” bombing that plagues every day has created an atmosphere of Continuous Traumatic Stress Injury here. (There is no Post to this injury.)
Yesterday, we met a beautiful first grade boy who carries the trauma of the 2014 war – not able to participate in normal activities of home or school – continually frightened by the threat of more war. Staff of GCMHP will refer this boy to a pediatric psychiatrist in their group – this boy is one of so many carrying constant fear.
Every person in Gaza knows that when unexploded ordinance from wars are recovered, the canisters are emblazoned with these words: “Made in USA.” What will happen to Gaza now, as the US administration changes, is an ongoing matter of worry.