UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with residents of Kibbutz Nirim..
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Ban Ki-moon’s term finishes in December, and he comes to Israel this week for his last hurrah as UN secretary general. Last time Ban was here to visit both sides of the Gaza border I was among a group of handpicked residents who met him, including the family of Daniel Treggerman, a four-year-old from a neighboring kibbutz killed by a Hamas mortar fired from Gaza.
I live barely a mile from the Israel- Gaza border, near my daughter and her baby. My granddaughter arrived nine months after the last war with Hamas and has not yet heard the wail of air raid sirens.
Moon’s post-war visit discussed the need for children on both sides to be able to play safely outside, without the fear of Hamas rockets or Israeli retaliatory fire. After my grandbaby starts walking her mother won’t let her stray far, because when the sirens go off we only have up to 10 seconds to reach shelter before the inevitable explosion of shrapnel.
Despite the promises made on his last visit and pledges of billions in foreign aid to rehabilitate Gaza, almost nothing has happened.
Gaza’s daunting unemployment rate of almost 50 percent means in order to put food on their tables many Gazans work for Hamas digging tunnels under the border near my home.
The rehabilitation of Gaza is going nowhere and pledges of cooperation by the Iran-backed Hamas and the corrupt Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas never materialized.
The future of Gaza looks bleak.
I am an educator and an English teacher. My profession is nurturing our future. My students live within rocket range and spent the summer of 2014 as refugees from their homes-turned-battlefields. Some of them live on my kibbutz, Nirim, where two of our neighbors were killed on the last day of the war.
These kids all know someone who had a parent killed or wounded.
Many of them knew the fathers who were killed.
When school reconvened on September first only four days after burying those fathers, it was clear that class could not be “business as usual” after the traumas we had experienced. Instead of teaching the conventional subjects, I asked my 11th graders to write a report describing to the world what their summer looked like through 16-yearold eyes.
What blew my mind, more than what they wrote, was what they did not write. There were no statements of hate, no calls for revenge. Reading their reports and speaking with them, I understood that the years invested in educating for peace and a desire to coexist with our Palestinian neighbors had paid off. My students described how they helped others, what they felt and feared and experienced. There were expressions of empathy for the “other side.”
One girl wrote: “Why do we keep fighting? Why don’t we just drop the weapons and try to get along with the other side? Will everything that we’ve been through bring us [Israel] and them [the Palestinians] calm?” Explaining her outlook on the regional situation in the summer of 2014 to people who do not live here, the daughter of one of those men killed expressed together with her grief and sense of loss that she empathized with Gazan teens her age.
“At least we have our army who protect us. I hope someday the Gazan children will be able to have a country of their own, a government that supports them and makes them feel safe.”
Fast forward to 2016. Israel continues to invest in civil defense and making evacuation plans for the next war (a question of when, not if). Personally, I think our government – as well as the governments of the world with the UN in the lead – should be investing more in trying to find a political solution and getting Hamas to adopt a policy of coexistence, because it is crystal clear to me that guns and bombs cannot solve this problem.
Under Hamas’ iron-fisted rule, Gazans continue in their downward spiral of poverty, unemployment and disintegrating sewage infrastructure that pollutes the common aquifer we share and both of our shores and beaches. Gaza is a cauldron waiting to boil over. It’s gone from bad to worse, and now on its way from worse to catastrophic. I am sad to say that as far as I can see, this is the legacy from Mr. Ban’s term that our region is being left with.The author is a teacher, mother and grandmother living in Kibbutz Nirim just over the border from Gaza.