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Gaza Report: Where to Under Hamas?

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14 May 2013
by Sami El-Yousef
CNEWA’s regional director, Palestine-Israel

Always good to go back!
It was a pleasure to return to Gaza to check on our various projects there and, more importantly, to show solidarity with the people and to affirm they are not forgotten.

On a rather positive note, there are no longer long lines at gas stations, as the supply of fuel is steadier. We did not hear many complaints about the shortages of basic food or medical supplies or building materials. Other aspects of life seem unchanged. The electric company still provides about 10 hours a day of electricity, while noisy, inefficient, polluting makeshift diesel generators offer power the rest of the day to homes and institutions.

On the other hand, there are still travel restrictions that neither Israel nor Egypt has eased; most of the population continues to complain about the “prison-like” environment they continue to live in. On the political end of things, few in Gaza believe that the much-talked-about “reconciliation efforts” between Hamas and Fatah are leading to anything meaningful. They remain very skeptical about any such discussions. Most feel that neither party is ready for real reconciliation and that it will not happen anytime soon. There is also a deep distrust between Israel and Hamas and a sense that both sides may be planning the next offensive. Many believe it is only a matter of time and that the civilians will again pay a hefty price. Let’s hope I picked up the wrong signals, and that peace will prevail. Keep Gaza and its people in your prayers, especially the small brave Christian community.

Update on Gaza Emergency Intervention Program
One of the main purposes of our visit was to assess the emergency intervention program CNEWA, through its operating agency in the Middle East, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, was able to provide for individuals and institutions in Gaza after the war in November 2012. We were fortunate to have been able to raise over $450,000 from various donors to be able to engage in such a meaningful intervention. In general, all of our emergency intervention activities in Gaza are proceeding well, are on target and appear to be making quite an impact on those who suffered the most during the war. Needless to say, all institutions and individuals we were in contact with were very complimentary of our program, especially that it was designed on needs that were brought to our attention by the people themselves. This certainly is the hallmark of our work. The following summarizes each program’s implementation so far:

Home Renovation Project
We visited two homes out of the 45 (35 were Christian homes) that received minor renovation work as part of our home renovation project in cooperation with Near East Council of Churches (NECC). Meeting with families and listening to their stories was certainly a stressful experience. Parents spoke vividly about the events of the war and their desperate plea to provide safety to their terrified children, as if the attack happened yesterday. In many instances, the visible signs of the damage are still there. Clearly, the traumatic experience will remain with these people for a long time.

What was clear to me was the extent of the damage — not only to the buildings themselves, but clearly to the furniture and equipment. I am proud that we were able to fix these minor damages to enable the families to be protected again from the cold of winter. But clearly these families continue to suffer. It will certainly take much more than our intervention to get back into a normal way of life. However, the beneficiaries clearly appreciated our intervention and asked us to convey their appreciation to the donors.

Institutional Renovation Project
We visited four institutions that sustained war damages: the Rosary Sisters School, the Holy Family School, the Latin Patriarchate School and the Greek Orthodox Cultural Center. Most works have been completed, including fixing windows and doors, water systems, leaky roofs, etc. It was most gratifying to see all the schools operating in a safe environment for the students.





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