Arriving in Gaza | Sojourners

Arriving in Gaza

090116-gaza-aidAs of Thursday, the Red Cross reported 900 Palestinians from Gaza killed, half of them civilians, over 3,400 severely wounded, and 28,000 displaced from their homes. The special medical supplies which I brought here from the U.S., augmented by blankets and powdered milk and other food bought locally in Cairo, all seemed a drop in the bucket compared to the dimension of need. But we had reached our target and we were elated.

Five hours drive east of Cairo, the little Egyptian town of Rafah sits on the border with Gaza, a Palestinian enclave sandwiched by man-made walls between Israel and Egypt. As I traveled I was reminded that Mary and Joseph had crossed the bleak Sinai from Palestine with baby Jesus to escape Herod's murderous decree, without the benefit of the kind of modern vehicle we were in. I also remembered that our Lord and his family were familiar with the kind of hardships refugees face today.

On our way to Rafah we crossed the spectacular Peace Bridge over the Suez Canal. When we finally reached Rafah, after several check points where soldiers asked to see our ID, we reached a narrow buffer zone between Rafah and Gaza. After some strenuous convincing of border guards, we crossed from Egypt into the zone between Egypt and Gaza.

Spotter aircraft (pilotless drones) were flying overhead as we arrived. Soon after the spotter planes had done their aerial "research," American F16 fighter aircraft, flown by Israelis, arrived dropping their 500-pound laser-guided bombs.

Our little ad-hoc team -- Mustafa, Philip, and Rafaat, all Egyptians, Audrey from the States, and Pablo from Spain, along with me -- had reached the no-man's land when the first of the 500-pound bombs hit. Having delivered relief supplies during the 2006 war in Lebanon and again in Beirut during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, I was once again staggered by the impact on the ground and air around us and by the fire and smoke that ensued. We were even more astonished to realize the bomb had not hit a target in Gaza, but had struck a target on land belonging to Egypt just outside the Gaza wall, only a matter of two or three football fields from where we were standing.

Few in America seem to notice the treaties and agreements Israel has transgressed; most only notice the rockets sent by Hamas into Israel, without observing that Israel has killed untold of men, women, and children in Gaza (non-military) -- not only with bombs, but by withholding medical and food supplies and violating the same treaties they expect the people of Gaza to obey.

In the end I agree with my friend, Rabbi Ascherman, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, when he "calls upon Israel not to harm civilians either through firing on them or through the collective punishment of the ongoing closure severely limiting the amount of food, fuel and other basic goods entering Gaza. Rabbis for Human Rights calls upon Hamas to cease the intentional harming of civilians through firing on the residents of the Western Negev."

Leonard Rodgers is the President/Founder of Venture International and the executive director of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding.