Convoy of imams, rabbis and priests bring aid to Gaza

 A group of rabbis, imams and priests entered the Gaza Strip on Friday, March 20, to present a message of hope and peace and to deliver several truckoads of aid..

The 'convoy for peace' traveled first to the southern Israeli city of Sderot where they met with a rabbi and some children from the area. The children decorated a large banner that contained the word peace in three languages, Arabic, English, and Hebrew.

This event was organized by Hommes De Parole an independent, non religious, political, philosophical, ideological or economic movement based in Geneva.

According to Angela Prevot chief of mission, "This is a way to bridge people together despite the tensions. The wall has separated both people from each other and there is no way to really know what is happening on the other side unless you visit the other side".

The next day imams, rabbis, priests and Hommes de Parole staff from France entered into Gaza through Erez. This was the first time in many years that a rabbi has entered Gaza. The point of the visit was to bridge peace between all three religions and to deliver three truck loads of hygiene kits offered by Caritas.

Caritas Jerusalem participated in this peace campaign through donating 2112 hygiene kits (60 palettes) to the people of Gaza. Each kit contained soap bars, hand washing detergent, star dishwashing liquid, star bath foam blue, tooth paste, tooth brush, floor detergence, dish washing sponge, hair shampoo, towels, Dettol and all purpose gel.

The process is long and lots of paperwork must be done for the delivery of aid into Gaza. A detailed paper of the goods first must be sent to the Israeli army with lots of procedures then to be followed. The trucks arrived at the Karm Abu Salem (Karem Shalom) checkpoint at 8am but only reached Gaza at 7pm. Then the goods were unloaded into the Holy Family School warehouse in Gaza City. The goods were received by Caritas assistant Amin Sabbag and Parish Priest Fr Mussallam.

As the convoy awaited the hygiene kits to be unloaded the rabbis and priests spoke and visited Holy Family School run by the Catholic Church. Children ages 6 to 17 years welcomed the convoy with lots of smiles. The rabbi was amazed to see that the children were still smiling despite what they had gone through. It was hopefully the beginning of something new, according to the rabbi.

The children of Gaza handed the convoy letters written about their feelings as children living under siege and war. Each letter described hardships of everyday life of a Palestinian child. They described the fear they face daily. Then the children expressed the wish to have a normal life like other children in the world. They want to be able to travel, play in the park, and swim without any fear of jets and missiles falling on them.

"The children here are traumatized. They live in constant fear. Everyday they are threatened of another attack. They have been deprived of their childhood. Most students here in the school are unable to take their exams or sit still. Any noise they hear they are afraid," Fr Mussallam said.

The convoy also visited the Palestinian university and spoke to students about inter-religious dialogue between the three main religions as part of their course in the university.

Fr Mussallam is very grateful for what Caritas is doing but he said: "The need is still great. It does not mean if the war has stopped that things have improved. Still there is much to be done."

"I understand that what we do as organizations is like a small drop in comparison to the great needs and suffering of the people of Gaza but we hope we can do more in the future with Caritas" and the "hands of God to help us with."

Since the attacks on Gaza in December 27, 2008 Caritas Jerusalem responded to the emergency immediately. We reached out to 4,240 families with food provisions. A thousand blankets were donated to 1000 families. Two thousand families will receive cash money. Two ambulances will be donated to two local hospitals. Approximately 100 Gazans with amputated legs or arms will receive prosthesis. The doctors and medical team will continue to conduct dressing on thousands of injured in several areas in the Gaza Strip.

At the end of the day Fr Mussallem said: "To talk about peace is not enough. We must talk about justice, this is the real peace."

Source: Caritas Jerusalem

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