For the first time in many years, a group of rabbis entered Gaza. The event was all the more noteworthy because they were accompanied by imams and priests.
The three religious groups were part of a “convoy for peace” aimed at creating a bridge between the three religions and delivering hygiene kits offered by Caritas. The event was organised by Hommes de Parole, and independent and non-religious movement based in Geneva.
Three truckloads of aid went first to the Israeli city of Sderot where the convoy met with a rabbi and some children from the area. The children created a large banner which bore the word “peace” in Arabic, Hebrew and English.
Then the convoy along with the imams, rabbis and priests entered Gaza through Erez. The trucks were carrying over 2000 hygiene kits comprising soap, detergents for hands, dishes and floors, shampoo, tooth brushes and paste, antiseptic liquid and bath foam.
Following the Israeli bombardments in January the needs of the people of Gaza are great. Many people lost their homes and possessions. Blockades and a poor economy meant that even before the bombardments life was very tough for Gazans. Goods that are freely available may not be of great quality. The hygiene kits will cover families for essentials for a while.
“I heard that Caritas Jerusalem is distributing hygiene kits that contained items we have been unable to purchase because they are either very expensive or have not been available in Gaza due to the closure of the checkpoints,” says Solonge Tarazi.
Gaza’s children gave the members of the convoy letters about living life under siege. Many of them wrote about their constant fear and about how they would like to be able to play in the park or go swimming without the dread of missiles falling from the sky and blowing up themselves and their families.
“The children here are traumatised. They live in constant fear. Every day they are threatened by another attack. They have been deprived of their childhood. Most students here in the school are unable to take their exams or sit still. Any noise they hear they are afraid,” says Fr. Manuel Mussallam, who was on the convoy.
Since the attacks on Gaza, Caritas Jerusalem has distributed food to 4,240 families and blankets to 1000 families. Two thousand families will receive cash.
Caritas has been helping Gazans recover through their mobile medical centres. Approximately 100 Gazans with amputated legs or arms will receive prostheses. Doctors and medical team will continue to care for thousands of injured in several areas in the Gaza Strip. Two ambulances will be donated to two local hospitals.
The damage to Gazans’ lives will not be easily repaired and the trauma will not heal so quickly. But while people from different religions open up to the idea of dialogue in the Holy Land, there is always the hope that the various groups will lay down their arms and Gazans will be able to live a life without poverty, trauma and fear.
“To talk about peace is not enough. We must talk about justice, this is the real peace,” Fr. Mussallam.