From top: Wael Najjar holding his brother Fares; their home in Gaza; Shahd Al Najja, one of ten people living in the tent (centre).
The ‘Irish In Gaza’ write:
How far is it to Bethlehem – not very far. 61 miles to be exact.
The light from inside gives the makeshift tent a beautiful orange glow against the darkening cobalt of the Palestine night. Winter-clear stars spangle in the frosty Gaza sky and the fronds of palm trees, visible in silhouette, give a ubiquity to the scene – one familiar to Christians the world over. All is calm, all is bright – but this belies the reality of the situation.
Inside the flimsy shelter – ineffectual against the Middle Eastern winter winds and rain, a baby, just a few weeks old is asleep in the arms of his mother. Her face is careworn, she has been crying.
The Al Najjar family of two adults and eight children were driven from their home that now lies in ruins beside where they have taken refuge in the mish mash structure of corrugated metal, UN food sacks, sheets of plastic and wooden pallets.
During the summer’s onslaught, they fled with the clothes on their back and all they could carry – not much – to the refuge of a UN school. Now these possessions, and little more, are all that they have.
With over 110,000 similar cases, the UN are finding it hard to provide adequate aid to all those who need it. Less than 2% of the donor aid donated by the international community has made it into Gaza, sitting instead on the border; caught up in political wrangles including demands for pathological monitoring of every item that enters Gaza.
This is despite the fact that Israel’s siege of Gaza, now in its 7th year, is illegal under international law. Besides the lack of food, clothes, bedding, electricity and water – the much trumpeted reconstruction of Gaza is an illusion – the UN’s Shelter Cluster have said it will take more than 20 years to rebuild Gaza at the current rate.
Meanwhile, in the deep mid-winter, while frosty wind makes moan, baby Fares Al Najjar has no crib for a bed – he sleeps on a mattress on the cold ground, huddled with the rest of his family.
And across 60 miles and 2000 years, we are certain that Jesus wept.
The ‘Irish In Gaza’ is a number of Irish volunteers on the ground supporting people (including the Najjar family) displaced by fighting in Gaza. They wish to remain anonymous.
Pics: Anne Paq and Irish In Gaza.