Gaza: A land of Contrast (Part 2)

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Gaza: A land of Contrast (Part 2)

I recently returned from a trip to the Middle East to visit the Foods Resource Bank (FRB) programs that we have in the region one of which, is located in the Gaza Strip. Since my return home I’ve been struggling to find the best way to describe my experiences and to share the stories of those we visited.  As I think through all that happened in the short 1-day visit to Gaza I keep coming back to the idea that there were many “opposites” existing at once. These opposites occurred in many different forms and I will continue to try to explain them in more details in part 2 of the blog post.

Happiness and Destruction

We were in Gaza on February 7th 2012 and there was still evidence of the conflict with Israel in November.  Buildings were riddled with bullet holes, many buildings had huge holes in them from bombs, and there were even large craters scattered amongst the city where a building had been before it was blown away in a bombing.  As someone privileged enough to not have lived through an experience like this I was shocked by all of the destruction.  But what I find most shocking was the people I met who lived in Gaza.  Sure, things weren’t the greatest and we heard about the hard times, but in general, people had hope that things would get better and were happy to be alive today.  Traveling around with our local partner staff was fun.  You could tell that they enjoyed each other’s company and tried to keep the mood upbeat with their joking.  Their jokes tended to be a little dark but it seemed that they lived their lives by the motto “it is better to laugh than cry”.

Hope and Despair

We talked with many farmers who had lost some or all of the rabbits that they raised in the most recent bombings and unusually cold winter.  The excessive noise and confusion that occurred as a result of the bombs literally scared many of the rabbits to death.  The families of these farmers had come to depend on the extra money and meat that the rabbits provided.  For many, this was their only source of income, and with the loss of the rabbits they were mostly or completely wiped out.  I have met many people who would give up if faced with a situation like this, but none of them include the farmers I met in Gaza.  Amongst all of the chaos and uncertainty the farmers that had huge losses talked about finding ways to start over.  They had hope that they could be successful again and that eventually times would get better.  I wonder if I would be so strong in the face of so much hardship.

Beauty and Ugliness

Most everywhere you looked in Gaza you saw evidence of the conflicts.  The general feeling was not too welcoming, but amongst all this ugliness there were pockets of beauty.  After a long day visiting with the farmers we went out to a recommended restaurant that supported the deaf community in Gaza.  The restaurant was really neat.  Not only was the entire staff deaf – which made ordering an experience in itself- but also the place reminded me of a 4 star restaurant in the States.  Who knew that in a place with so much destruction a place as nice as this that also helps others could exist!

The morning before we left I took a walk down to the Sea and on my walk I came across a mural that depicted scenes of life in a happy and productive time.  Directly behind the mural was a building riddled with bullet holes.  This contrast made me stop.  The mural depicted the life that people envision and the building slapped you in the face with the reality.  

This is just a glimpse into what all I saw and experienced.  Even though it is difficult for me to put it all into words this trip was a very powerful experience that I will keep with me always.  I’m very proud to work for an organization that recognizes the humanity of all civilian populations and offers support through hardships that most of us cannot even imagine. 

If you would like to learn more about this area I would suggest:

Checking out information on FRB's Palestine-Gaza Program or our Palestine-West Bank program.

Reading: “Palestine Inside Out.  An Everyday Occupation” by Saree Makdisi

“I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey” by Izzeldin Abuelaish

Watching: “Five Broken Cameras” directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi”

“The Gatekeepers” directed by Dror Moreh

Eric Mattson, FRB Staff

04/17/2013 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment