Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gaza: a few random thoughts

An abrupt change from talking about my grandmother, I know, but I have a bunch of thoughts floating through my mind about the fighting in Gaza and am also very interested in learning how to care more, in the right ways. So, for those of you who are interested, here are some jottings on the topic. Please do share your thoughts in response if you're so inclined!

Hi! Thanks for asking for my thoughts on Gaza. I'll probably post some version of this on my blog, but in the meantime, here are some random thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head during the past few weeks.

- Someone sent me an article from BBC Brazil with a letter written by a woman in Gaza and her daughter. It was a great reminder to me to try to put my heart in their circumstances. They spoke of hopelessness, of their inability to go on with life, of feelings of guilt for not being able to handle the emotionally difficult situation more tactfully. The girl is processing what it's like to know her good friend has died, but that compared to many of her other friends her personal experience of loss is so little. This is a depth of emotions that is so hard for me to get my mind, much less heart, around!

- On Monday, a google news search told me that the death toll was up to 888 palestinians killed (in a mere 16 days of fighting), 4080 injured. Almost half the deaths have been women and children. Besides the sheer enormity of these numbers, it is also tragic to realise that this means well more than half the casualties have been civilians. And it's also tragic to think that a whole generation of husbands and fathers is in risk of being wiped out. Just to add a bit to the horror of this statistic, think about the fact that the population of Gaza is approximately 1.5 million (and is the stretch of land in the world with the highest population density). So in 2 1/2 weeks of fighting, more than 3% of the population has been hit. If something's not done quickly to stop it, within a few more weeks, ten percent of the population of Gaza could be in hospitals, and 3% dead! This is a little bit staggering.

- The UN reportedly stopped trying to send food aid to Gaza last week. Gaza has been dependent on UN food aid for decades, as its economy is awful and its access to foreign trade severely restricted. But apparently, the UN aid shipments were hit a few times, at least once actually targeted by Israeli patrols, and came very close to the fire several other times, so the UN decided a few days ago that the potential benefit no longer outweighed the risk. Schools are closed, businesses are shut down, religious establishments are keeping a low profile, all out of fear of attack. It's like even those who are still physically alive are not really living.

- I found out that in Jordan all public New Years day celebrations were called off in solidarity with the people of Gaza, and I've also heard that people across the Middle East are protesting their own governments for not sending aid to Gaza.

- On the other hand, many people have been quick to point out that Hamas has been devious, scheming, belligerent, and violent. In other words, Israel is the victim, not Gaza. There's a lot of truth to that statement. Hamas doesn't really play by the rules and has really pressed Israel. But I guess I think of it kind of as an employee with a domineering boss. Maybe not a fair image, but bear with me. The boss wants the company to get ahead, but is very hard on his employees. No vacation days, no breaks, no overtime pay, cubicles with no windows, all social networking sites barred from computers, no coffee room, etc. Like the film Office Space, times ten. The employees are increasingly disgruntled, but they can't really leave the job (in the analogy, I'm not sure why, but in Gaza, not only are Palestinians not given freedom of movement or granted entry to other countries, but there's also a lot of loyalty: they don't particularly want to abandon their homeland), so they have to live with the boss. So they start sabotaging their workplace. Like in Office Space: they beat up the copier, they blow a hole through the wall so they can have windows, they take breaks when they're not supposed to, and they boobeytrap the boss's office. Sure the employees are completely deviant, but most of us will really sympathise with them because their situation was so horrid in the first place. And we're unlikely to think that the boss is justified in tying them to their chairs and giving them a good whipping as a means of disciplining them - even though he's doing it because he feels threatened by his staff. I don't know if this analogy would hold up to close analysis, but I hope it at least gives a little picture of the types of emotions involved.

- This conflict is getting a lot of attention from people all over the world. There's a lot of political pressure on both sides to bring resolution. (Sometimes I mourn that there's not more public pressure, especially when I see how excited many of my U.S.-based Facebook friends are about football and the new season of 24.) But this leads me to two thoughts:
First, why do I personally not care more? Shouldn't I be on the streets protesting, or calling my government officials? The sad fact is that I have emotionally distanced myself from things, largely for the sake of self-preservation. It takes so much heart to care about these issues, and I'm still recovering from my emotional investment in other recent Middle-East conflicts!
Second, what about all the fighting and violence and bloodshed that has happened, and even now is happening, in other parts of the world? The media is not giving those as much hype even if the tragedies elsewhere are just as bad. Again, there's just too much pain and suffering in the world to fully care about all of it, but the whole thing sometimes seems so unfair.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Or, Katie, how about this analogy: In the story of Cinderella, a widow with three daughters marries a widower. We start the story happy for this widow, now a step-mother, because she is no longer alone and her three daughters are no longer fatherless. But then the former widower, the father, dies. The step-mother treats the widower's daughter cruelly, making her do chores that she does not ask her own daughters to do. (Her cruelty may even be a result of her own traumatized past, of having suffered hurt because of the loss of her first husband.) Her unkindness to her step-daughter would have broken the child's father's heart.
The father is like God, who loves all his daughters. The mother in this story can be compared to geo-political Israel, who loves her biological daughters but scorns her husband's other child. And Cinderella is like the Palestinians, who are now experiencing horrible things that would have broken the Father's heart. Of course this analogy is deficient in many, many ways. But since I haven't seen much of "The Office," it's how I see the situation. We feel pity for the step-mother, her daughters, and our hearts are breaking for Cinderella. We wonder how God will bring this sad tale to a good end.
Dad and I have been watching the evening news from here. We pray every day for peace. Love you, Mom

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