By Gina Raphael
There has been every opportunity for Gaza to become its own version of the “Start-Up Nation” like Israel, with blooming agriculture and beautiful beaches.
When Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, the farmers of the Gush Katif area (approximately 20 communities with almost 10,000 residents) were responsible for 15 percent of Israel’s agricultural exports. With love, they literally made the sand dunes bloom. The opportunity existed to expand upon this richness when Israel left the Gaza Strip. Instead, the Strip has become an area of misery, despair and hatred.
Hamas, which has been recognized as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada and the EU, has run the Gaza strip for more than a decade, beginning shortly after the disengagement. They have misused donations meant for human aid to enrich their leaders, built terror tunnels to infiltrate Israel, used schools and hospitals as cover to shoot missiles, and have sent explosive balloons across the border to Israel to harm children. Hamas denies their people basic human rights including freedom of speech. Children are taught in schools to hate and to kill.
On an almost weekly basis, Hamas has sent rioters including children to the border with Israel, hoping for them to be shot and provide negative media coverage against Israel. The cycle of violence and hatred has basically gone unchecked by the public. Gaza has almost two million residents who live under this tyrannical existence. And, Israel on the other side is affected constantly from these attacks.
Where is the outrage against Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the region in addition to the funders of this terrorism for over a decade? We continue to hope for real change and a positive outcome for so many.
We can only advocate and bring light to the truth of the horrors of Hamas. And, we can work to make a difference in Israel. We can find ways to help those in harm’s way and say thank you to those who keep us safe.
This January, I had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Alon Davidi of Sderot who lives with his family and a community of over 28,000 – literally one mile from the border with Gaza. They have been a target of constant barrage of rockets.
I am so honoured to be part of The Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), who provide rocket proof day care centers and therapy to those affected by PTSD from the constant attacks in Sderot. Not only is Sderot surviving, under the leadership of Mayor Davidi – they are thriving. They continue to build their community despite attacks of Qassam Rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip.
Last month, I also began fulfilling a promise made during the summer of 2019 to an American Soldier serving in the IDF to provide extra assistance to soldiers who face challenges. Unity Warriors, founded by Ben Goldstein, distributes supplies in addition to those provided by the IDF and extra items that are often too expensive for the soldiers to provide for themselves.
We decided to bring a gift of high-power flashlights to a battalion of soldiers serving at the Gaza border, a small token to help them see more clearly when they patrol the area at night.
The highlight of my trip was bringing these much needed suppliers of light and thanking these soldiers who fulfill their duty in keeping Israel safe. Day by day they ensure that those of us who live in Israel and in the diaspora will always have a safe haven.
These soldiers face a reality every day at the border that is hard to understand. They do this with grace, dignity and honour amid explosive balloons, missiles, terrorist attacks and civilians looking to flee the misery of Hamas, living in sparse conditions.
I came to thank the soldiers, but they came to thank me. They thanked me for visiting and listening to their stories about their life at the border and their hopes for the future. They inspired me so and gave me a gift of badges of the Israeli flag. Together we got to share our pride of Israel.
It was beyond meaningful to walk the border at Gaza and deliver my own prayer for peace for the future. On the site, I visited “Path to Peace,” a mosaic wall created by thousands who share the same vision. While we stand strong against hatred, we work towards and pray for peace and love.
As we literally brought light to the soldiers, we pray for the light of justice to make a difference in Gaza.