When Shefaa was granted permission to leave Gaza for a four-day visit to Israel to meet with a group of Jewish and Palestinian women, it was nothing short of a miracle. There she could tell her story and dispel the myths about life in Gaza.
Photos (from left to right) of the killed siblings Mohammed (12), Yara (8) and Nadeen (16) Mahmoud Al Farra, held by their mother in their home in Khan Younis, February 22, 2015. 9 members of the Al Farra family were killed in the street by an Israeli missile while they were fleeing their home after it was attacked on August 1st, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)
Hamas? What about Israel?
One of the most difficult moments in the group was when Shefaa tried to answer a question whose subtext was, “if life is so bad for you, why don’t you resist?” Something in the Israeli mind does not understand how Hamas, which is described by the Israeli media as a monstrous, murderous organization, can survive and get stronger all the time. Where the is the intifada against Hamas?
The long and painful answer was summarized in one small word: because of you. Because of Israel. In the past Gaza’s residents would work, make a living, and study. It was difficult but tolerable. The Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority was in power. It was clear that it gave more to its supporters and preferred Fatah members over Hamas. But for a moment the Palestinians believed that there was an opportunity to change reality. And then came Hamas and promised social justice, an equal slice of the pie, Palestinian pride, liberation from the occupation, and more.
A despondent nation elected them, just as any nation searching for change. And then it turned out that they were exactly like Fatah, and the street wars began: gun battles in the street, PA members — in coordination with Israel — left Gaza on buses. Then came the blockade.
Israel implemented the blockade in order to punish the Palestinians for making the “wrong” choice — since then everything has grown worse. In order to rule 1.5 million hungry, desperate Palestinians, one needs a lot of power and fear-mongering. Those who open their mouths are taken to prison, and often do not return.
One of the Jewish women asked to speak as the tears rolled down her cheeks. “I want to tell you something. It is important that as a soldier I served in Rafah. I checked these papers all the time, I controlled the lives of people like you, it was my job. I want to apologize. I am sorry. I am sorry that I did that. I am ashamed.” The young, brave Jewish woman then stood up and walked out of the room, leaving behind her 20 Palestinian women from the West Bank, Shefaa from Gaza, Palestinian citizens of women, Jewish Israelis and three discussion leaders. We all sat in a giant circle in a small room at the top of a hill in beautiful Nazareth and just cried.
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