Last week Br Peter Bray, Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University provided Friends of Bethlehem the following news from Gaza.
Today, Brother Peter Bray has provided his personal response as well a response from Rashid Shahin, from Gaza:
First, the letter from Friends of Bethlehem to Peter Bray sent on 22 July 2014.
“Dear Peter and community,
We at Friends of Bethlehem in Sydney, Australia, are thinking of you and all the Palestinian people all the time, with solidarity, love and anger at the continuing violence and massacres that inflict innocent Palestinians.
There are mass demonstrations in Sydney’s streets supporting Palestine, solidarity groups continue to raise money for Gaza and our website and Facebook site continue to put out the news about what is happening from a Bethlehem and Gaza perspective.
Thank you for your letter yesterday which we have immediately posted on our site.
Please send similar letters from students, staff or the University’s senior administrators at any time, including any photos you might have – and including anything happening in Bethlehem itself.
Our community in the Municipality of Marrickville is hungry for news about how you are.
Friends of Bethlehem inc.
Br Peter Bray’s reply today (Saturday, July 26):
“Dear Peter [Manning]
Thank you for your e-mail and expression of support. It was good to hear from you.
It is a challenging experience to be here and to feel so helpless and frustrated in knowing what is going on just a short distance away. On Wednesday I was talking to the mother of Berlanty Azzam in Gaza. Berlanty was the girl whom the Israelis returned to Gaza back in 2009 just six weeks short of finishing her degree here and we took the Israeli military to court (cf http://bethlehem.edu/beaconofhope – Mrs Azzam is featured in the DVD). I visited her parents in Gaza when I was down there, so I know her place and the surroundings. Mrs Azzam mentioned that a tower about fifty metres away from her house was bombed on Wednesday morning and she does not know any place where she can be safe! She was very upset and it must be taking a great toll on her to live in such anxiety. We were also in touch with a graduate who has four young children. She was holed up in the corridor of their house which had been badly damaged. She thought this might be a safe place for them, but wasn’t sure. She is terrified about going outside the room and is running out of food and water, so is faced with how she will deal with that. It is really desperate for these people and I feel so helpless in finding a way to respond to them.
Our students feel the same and there is a sense that the Israelis are steamrolling the Palestinians who have no real way to respond. It is a challenge to keep hope alive in such an environment, but I think that is one of our key tasks here. I think one of the important elements in doing that is not so much to promise a brighter future, but for people here to know that they are not alone or abandoned. For them to know that there are people on the other side of the world standing in solidarity with them is a great boost, so I thank you for your support because when I tell people here that there are people in Australia standing with them that is a great help.
It is difficult to deal with some of the media stuff! I don’t agree with so much of what Hamas has done, but at the same time they are getting a very hard time in the international media at present for not agreeing to a ceasefire. The proposal from Egypt, which has the backing of Israel and USA would take Gaza back to what it was before the present conflict began, with the blockade still in place! I have attached an open letter from Gaza reflecting on what it has been like for people to live there with the blockade in place for some eight years. Seeing that it is possible to understand why people do not want to go back to that! There must be a better way and a more just way for people to live there.
Best wishes and thanks for your interest and support.
[Br] Peter [Bray]”
Then the response by Rashid Shahin of Gaza.
Gaza Appeals to the World – Rashid Shahin
Dear Civilized World,
We are not war traders, and our blood is not cheap, and all we want is pride and humanity just like all the other peoples of the world … Just a reminder .. We would like to inform you of a fraction of what the Gaza Strip suffers due to the Israeli blockade – before this current aggression: social and economic problems (in all aspects of life), our right to freedom of self-determination and sovereignty, the crisis of prisoners, the inability to access the West Bank, Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa mosque and other holy sites.
1. Electricity is available for only 8 hours per day, and not even regularly as it depends on the availability of diesel fuel which is controlled by the Israelis.
2. 90% of the water found in the Gaza Strip is unpotable and unfit for human use such as bathing, washing etc …
3. Sanitation and water treatment are nonexistent so waste water is routed directly to the sea, so the beach has been closed because it’s become unfit for swimming. This is the only choice for the population as supplies and equipment are controlled by the Israelis.
4. The problem of fuel and gas … it’s not available in most cases and when it’s available the price is exorbitant so it’s become the most expensive gas in the world at $2.20 per liter for petrol. It is also causing a problem with cooking as there isn’t propane, and if it is available again it is very expensive.
5. Cement and building materials only come for the international institutions with a limited supply and more than half of the goods and materials are not allowed to enter because of false security reasons. They destroy our homes and businesses, and then require us to purchase the materials to rebuild the same at exorbitant prices.
6. Unemployment is above 50% with such a large number of unemployed, aid from international organizations isn’t enough to meet even basic needs.
7. 90% of the factories lie idle as there aren’t materials or supplies to keep them running because of “security” reasons.
8. Agricultural lands of which most are located in the border areas are considered the primary source of food to cover the needs of the population. The occupation doesn’t allow them to grow there because of alleged aggression by farmers. We can’t import food; we can’t grow our own food, so we are to starve ourselves?
9. Fishing is only permitted within 2 miles, and even then the fishermen face aggression and attacks.
10. Waste disposal is almost impossible as there isn’t enough space to handle all the solid waste produced by the population. Attempts to remove it to outlying areas are often met with Israeli aggression.
11. The lack of freedom of travel and movement to and from the Gaza Strip makes the residents of the Gaza Strip prisoners in their own country. Crossings are semi-permanently closed, and the only crossing to the outside world in Rafah crossing is closed almost continuously. The only airport in Gaza has been closed for more than 12 years.
12. The lack of medical supplies and modern treatments is another source of death and suffering for the Gaza Strip. Treatable diseases like diabetes and kidney disease are killing people due to lack of supplies and equipment.
13. Government employees who are working throughout the day and night such as teachers, doctors, nurses etc., haven’t received their salaries to cover even their basic needs due to the economic blockade.
Dear World, how can you accept this suffering and allow your fellow human beings to live like this? The people in your prisons live a much better life, full of dignity and safety than the people of Gaza. Please intervene to stop the siege and suffering from Israel upon us. Don’t we deserve to live humanely and in honor like all other human beings?
‘ITV News witnesses aftermath of UN school attack in Gaza’
– last updated Sat 26 Jul 2014
Mike Carlton, ‘Israel’s rank and rotten fruit is being called fascism’, 26 March 2014
Gaza map (Google)
Marrickville Friends of Bethlehem