Thursday, 17 February 2011

An Urgent Appeal for Gaza

Gilad Atzmon: In the last month I circulated some invaluable reports by Vera Macht, an ISM (International Solidarity Movement) activist operating in Gaza.
My friend Gabi Weber decided to launch an urgent appeal for Vera Macht and ISM in Gaza.

Gabi writes, “These young activists who work with the ISM in Gaza, do it on a voluntary basis. They do not earn a single penny. In fact most of their activity is financed by themselves. At the moment there is no money left for urgent medical treatment.
The work of these young ISM activists is admirable and should be supported by every humanist. Day by day they witness horrific crimes committed by the Israeli army. The least we can do, is help them financially.

In the following you’ll find data from Vera´s bank account in Germany. We decided to collect all the money on this account and then transfer it to Gaza. This will be less expensive.Jazza production also lends its paypal account for the cause. In the next month (until March 15th 2011) money that will be channeled to Jazza Production’s Paypal will be sent to Vera Macht and the ISM in Gaza.
Please spread this appeal widely, so we’ll have the chance to help Vera and the ISM.

Gabi Weber, Freiburg, South Germany
To donate via Jazza Production’s Paypal
To donate via bank transfer:
Beneficiary: Vera Macht,
Account Number: 2007474881
Bank Code Number: 20130600
Bank: Barclays Bank PLC
Reason for Payment: 4906386296166705
IBAN-Nr.: DE02201306002007474881
Vera's email:
To read Vera's latest reports from Gaza:


"I only have you to count on. From now on, my children depend on you ", this is the desperate call of a man who sees no way out for himself and his children, and we ISM members who came to his phone call, receive it in helpless silence. It is not the first time that we visit this family, and every time we go home more horrified.

The last time we were there was on the 14th July 2010, a day after his wife died. Was murdered, there is no other way to say it. Nasser Jabr Abu Said lives in Johr al-Dik, 350 meters away from the border with Israel. On the evening of the 13th July, Nasser's wife was in the garden with two other women from the family when they were fired at with artillery shells from a nearby tank. With flechette shells, which explode in the air so that 5 to 8000 nails shoot out of them, piercing everyone and everything in a cone of 300 by 100 meters. It is an illegal weapon.

Nasser's wife was not injured, but the shoulder of Nasser's sister was wounded, and the leg of the third woman, Sanaa Ahmed Abu Said, 26. The family took shelter in the house and called an ambulance, which was unable to approach because it was stopped by machine gun fire from the nearby Israeli soldiers. At this point, the 33 year old wife of Nasser, Nema Abu Said, realized that the youngest of her children, Nader, was asleep in the garden. As Nema ran outside to bring him to safety, she and her brother-in-law were pierced by the nails of another flechette shell. It took four endless hours until the ambulance finally got the permission to help the family, by then Nema had died.
When we first visited the family, no one had yet had the heart to explain to Nader that his mother had died. He kept asking for her while we were there. But how do you explain something like that to a three years old child?
But when we came this time, all the children knew only too well what had happened. Nasser explained that he could no longer live in the house because the almost daily incursions, bombs and shootings have destroyed their damaged psyche so much further that they wake up every night screaming from nightmares, having wetted the bed. UNRWA rented a tiny apartment for the family - right next to the cemetery where the mother is buried. "I couldn’t get my children away from their mother's grave. It happened more and more that I suddenly noticed at night that one of the children had gone, and I found them crying in the cemetery, I knew I couldn’t stay there any longer”, Nasser told us.
His alternative is disconcerting. He has pitched a tent funded by the Red Cross, a few hundred meters away from his old house. The Red Cross also brought three blankets, when Nasser requested more aid he was told that he had already been helped. UNRWA told that they could not finance a new house. Although they also recognized that the danger was too great to stay in the old house, the old house would first have to be destroyed. Before the house is destroyed, they don’t act.

In this tent, amid the rain of the winter, Nasser now sleeps with his four sons and his daughter, 3, 5, 8, 9 and 10 years old. On only two mattresses, because he has to burn the old mattresses every few weeks, since every night they are wetted by the children. There is not enough money for new mattresses, as well as for a sufficient amount of blankets, clothes and school uniforms for the children, and for their transportation to school. He doesn’t dare to send them to school before it’s light, which means that they miss two hours of lessons every day. "They urgently need psychological care," says Nasser quietly, he didn’t know where to start when we asked him what he needed the most. They had psychological care, for a short while, the psychologist diagnosed that they remained mentally in the state in which they were when their mother died. When a few days ago the bombs fell, one of them near the house, the children screamingly woke up their father.

They need the continuous care of their father, but that is not the only thing that prevents him from earning money. Nasser can’t farm his land any more, it was too often flattened, it is situated mainly in the inaccessible buffer zone, and he lacks the resources to be able to start farming the rest of his land. He doesn’t have the money for seeds to plant something. "I would love to plant eggplants again, cabbage and watermelons. Also sheep would be a big help. But my water system is completely destroyed from the bombs, and I lack the money to rebuild it."

"I am an old man," Nasser Abu Said says, 37 years old, "to me it is no longer important, but what about my children? Don’t they have the right to life, the right to grow up in safety and with some joy?"
“From now on, my children depend on you,” this sentence stays in your mind. And so I do what is in my power. I write about it. Nasser's misery concerns all of us. This wasn’t fate, that wasn’t a natural disaster. A few years ago, Nema and Nasser Abu Said were a happy and content family.

Vera Macht lives and works in Gaza since April 2010. She is a peace activist and reports about people´s daily struggle in Gaza (



Almost every day the Israeli army breaks into the land of Gaza to flatten ground which can be no more flattened, always accompanied by arbitrary shooting in the area. The Shuhada’ School in Khuza'a, in southern Gaza, is the last building before the high security border. In between are only a few hundred meters barren, flat land. "They have a clear view to the school. It’s obvious for the soldiers in the tanks that this is a school, there's even the UN flag on top of the building," says the headmistress of the school, Myasser Mahmoud Elsalhy. "When they start shooting in this area, the school must be the target for them. During these shootings, we can’t let the children enter the playground, we can’t even let them go to the upper floors of the school. Or we have to finish classes for that day. Generally, there are no extra-curriculum activities we can offer for our students, there is no outdoor sport, no celebrations. These things would be dangerous for all of us." But the school makes the most of it. It has recently opened an exhibition - displaying all the bullets and shrapnel they have found in the last year alone on the school grounds. Asking the students how it is to attend a school that is under attack every day, you first encounter an anxious silence, but when the girls begin to speak, it doesn’t take long until the first of them starts crying. "We are constantly afraid," says Heba, her yet unveiled black hair tied together with a blue ribbon, matching the color of her school uniform. "Every time we hear bombs or artillery shells, we hide in a place far from the windows, where we can’t hear or see anything, and wonder whether the war has started again. My family also lives close to the border, and one night soldiers broke down our door, stormed in and dragged my father out, where he had to stay for a while. We never found out why." Her teacher tells how she entered a classroom one day, and found the students lying on the floor, the teacher above, trying to protect them. And she tells how one morning in 2009 the students of a class were not quick enough to hide, and a boy was hit by the shrapnel of an artillery shell while sitting at his table and writing. The shrapnel went through his nose, some centimeters further to the right and he would have been dead. The ambulance from the Red Cross didn’t come to the school to help – it is too dangerous for the paramedics, according to their security guidelines. The area is also too dangerous for employees of international humanitarian aid organizations who are allowed to approach the border only up to 1000m, according to the UNDP security plan. Without previous coordination with the Israeli military, they can’t even go nearer in armored vehicles. For school children however, the area doesn’t seem to be considered as too dangerous. At the last education cluster meeting of international NGOs, which took place in Gaza city, schools in the buffer zone had been declared to be "not a priority" for humanitarian aid programs. This was the only thing that an employee of Save The Children International was allowed to say publicly about the buffer zone. "I personally regret these rules, but I am not allowed to speak about schools or children in the buffer zone", he says. "We cannot enter the buffer zone, and therefore we don’t work there. My hands are tied." Not all children seem entitled to be saved. Asking the UN, which after all also runs a school there, you get the same answer, and are only pointed to the recent UN report in which the problems of children who grow up under these circumstances, however, are not mentioned at all.

The headmistress of another school in the border area, situated in Bait Hanoun in northern Gaza, tells how organizations make appointments with her to visit the school, only to cancel at the last moment. They cancel because of fear of another incursion, because of failed coordination with the Israeli side, or maybe because none of the employees wants to put himself in such danger. "Workers from UNICEF have also announced themselves, yet no one has come," says the elderly woman, headmistress of a school whose walls are perforated by bullets and artillery shells. "We just want someone to coordinate with the Israeli military that during school hours they won’t shoot around the school building. But nobody does anything to help us." She sounds resigned. And so Aburjela Sabah from the small local NGO "House of Future" is quite alone with her work as a psychologist for the children of Kuza'a’s buffer zone. "The constant fear for their lives and health in which children in the buffer zone are living leads to serious psychological problems," she explains. "When you grow up here, you don’t have a childhood. You have no normality, no peace, and not the basic feeling of security that children are in crucial need of. Children there have no rights, not the right to free education, not the right to play, not even the right to life. They can’t leave their house without putting themselves in danger“. She describes the cases of children playing around their house and running into shells left behind by the Israeli military. “They pick them up, not knowing what it is, and get their hands blown off, or even sustain fatal injuries“, Sabah says. “And at night the children hear the noise of the bullets. The results of these living conditions are sleeping problems, depression, or bedwetting, just to mention some of the psychological disorders. They start to exhibit aggressive behavior amongst each other or don’t want to leave their house at all anymore”. "We, the children here in the buffer zone," says Heba, the black-haired girl with the blue ribbon from Khuza’a’s school, "we carry our souls unprotected on our hands."

Vera Macht lives and works in Gaza since April 2010. She is a peace activist and reports about people´s daily struggle in Gaza (

On a sunny day in March 2009, Wafaa Jehad Elnagar, now 17 years old, did something that millions of children did on that day, and do on every day: she went home from school. But unlike other children in this world who do that safely every day, for Wafaa walking home is a serious danger. On that day, when she was on her usual way home along a street watched over by an Israeli control tower, an Israeli sniper aimed at her, and the bullet smashed her knee for good. Wafaa is one of 89 000 children living in the buffer zone whose parents never know exactly whether or when they will see their children again when they send them to school in the morning. Her brother was shot dead by a soldier during the war, while on his way home. The letters that were dropped by Israeli planes on the houses near the border stated that no one is allowed to approach the area nearer then 300 meters, on threat of death. Since bullets don’t have a feeling for distances, the high risk zone is considered 500 meters by the UN, and in reality children get hit by bullets at much further distances. And how can you avoid an area in which your school is situated? In total, there are thirteen schools in the buffer zone, including one UNRWA school, and they are distributed in seven school buildings. Space is scarce for students in Gaza, where not even the UN gets the required entry permits for enough concrete to build urgently needed school buildings.

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