(a blog report by Jessica, reposted here on PIMC by joe anybody)
Jan 1st, 2010 written by Jessica:
I cannot believe that my time in Gaza is almost up.
We arrived exhausted and were fed a buffet dinner and then brought to our VERY nice hotel. It was surreal being in Gaza, while walking around on marble floors and watching cable television.
The next day, we woke up to a catered breakfast and preparation for the Gaza Freedom March. On our way to the March site, we passed by broken mosques, destroyed homes, and inactive factories, crippled by the blockade.
Once we arrived, we found a car with a large sound system blaring Arabic hiphop and hundreds of Gazans chanting. We quickly got off of the bus and began marching. Soon, I was holding the pink banner that made CNN. We found ourselves stuck in a crowd of men exclusively, so we peeled off to join the women's contingent. The dozen women in attendance were segregated from the men and very, very happy to have us marching with them.
We stopped for a press conference where the media was far more interested in talking to me than the Palestinian women surrounding me. I refused to do any interviews unless it was together with a Palestinian woman. I just happened to be next to an especially amazing woman who was ecstatic to talk to me. We talked about the ugly dog a woman was carrying around with her and the children watching the march from buildings we passed by.
Soon, we were holding the banner behind the press conference speakers. I don't think my peace sign hand has ever been that sore.
We then marched toward the border with Israel. We marched to the wall, sat down, and speakers discussed the significance of the wall with the Israeli occupation.
We loaded back up on the bus and drove past a refugee camp. People were living in shacks made of palm fronds and sticks or tents. Garbage was heaped up five feet high on either side of the street. Children were digging through the rubble of destroyed houses for wires.
We passed a project where Gaza is recycling the rubble and various materials that were recovered from destroyed buildings. Because of the blockade, Gaza cannot get building materials, so it is recycling everything to be used again. They described their practice of digging up old roads to pave new roads with.
We then went back to the hotel long enough to jump on another bus to go give stuffed animals to school children. On the way, the Minister of Education was asking our opinion of Hamas. That discussion is grounds for a whole different blogpost.
At the school, the girls were extremely excited to see us and get stuffed animals. We introduced ourselves, played with stuffed animals, then I asked, "do you have any questions for us?"
The first question was, "how do you feel about the fact that your country made the weapons that destroyed our old school? When will they stop?"
The second question was, "why us? Why do we suffer more than any other children in the world?"
That is impossible to answer. I am overwhelmed with just about every negative emotion I can think of when I reflect on how I could answer those questions.
On our way out, we passed by the old American school which was completely demolished in the Israeli offensive a year ago. Children were playing on piles of rubble that were being pushed around by bulldozers, collecting wires, or playing with garbage. Despite the amount of broken glass, almost none of these kids had shoes on.
The entire situation here is so devastating. Everything is in disarray, from water to sewage to industry to human rights. I still haven't absorbed all of it.
I'm a day behind blogging. Tomorrow I will catch up on the several hour bus ride back to Cairo.
pagelink: ( http://www.sendstudentstogaza.com/?p=110 )
related story: ( http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/31/gaza.march/ )