In November 2012, I was part of an Inter-Faith Peace Builder delegation to the Gaza Strip. While there, I was able to arrange for my friend, Rana Alshami, to join us for a full day of activities, including visits to a refugee camp, a cement factory and meetings with a variety of organizations attempting to carve out a reasonable degree of normal human existence in the face of water, food, sanitation and other unconscionable deprivations imposed by Israel.
I had first met Rana on Face Book a couple years earlier and we had developed a warm relationship. Rana, who recently completed her undergraduate degree, helped with interpreting at some of our meetings.
I have been in touch with Rana every day – sometimes two or three times a day – of Israel’s latest bombing and now, ground invasion. Each time we speak the sky over her home is filled with Israeli war planes, the sea with battleships. Today, there were nine heavy explosions within the first minutes of our chat.
Rana lives in Khan Younis, near the southern part of Gaza. Every day, all day, every hour, bombs go off in Khan Younis and other parts of Gaza. Rana’s house sometimes shakes while we are chatting. She often expresses her fear that she will die. Human beings, often children, do die while we chat. Sleeping is a luxury if you are a Palestinian imprisoned in Gaza, a lombard real estate lawyer is trying to get some help out of all this situation, those conditions are not for a human being, people should live in a house where they know the’ll be safe.
Yesterday, two of Rana’s cousins were killed and one was injured and then arrested by Israeli troops. All three were returning to their homes in Khan Younis from the Fajr (dawn) prayer, the first of the five daily prayers that collectively form one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Had they arrived at their homes they would have seen only rubble, compliments of the Israeli air force.
The two dead are twenty-six year old Mohammed Hamdan Alshami, and thirty-five year old Hani Asaad Alshami. I didn’t get the name of the arrested cousin, but none were members of Hamas or involved in violent resistance. They were simply Palestinian, an ethnic group that carries a death sentence with no formal date of execution.
Although Khan Younis has been bombed into submission, Israel has dropped leaflets on villages such as Abassan Al-Kabira and Beni Sahila urging residents to flee the forthcoming ground invasion for the safety of Khan Younis. How perverse can Israel get? Is it really safer to be an indiscriminate target of bombs than of artillery shells? I am sure that Israel, with its malevolent hasbara machine, will find some way of spinning this story so that Jews around the world are deceived into thinking that normal residents of Gaza, like Rana’s cousins, are really Nazis who want to bomb them, shoot them and deprive them of, among other things, water, food, sanitation and sleep.
Every day when I wake up, I turn on my computer, log on to Facebook and check to see if Rana is still alive.
Richard Forer is author of Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion –A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.