GAZA – Dina, a Christian woman originally from Jerusalem, has spent six days in Gaza with a medical team. In her mother’s blog “Reflections from Palestine – A Journey of hope” she tells what is happening in Gaza, and shares the frightening vision of a devastated tight peace of land.
Today is day six in Gaza, the day it all starts getting to you. Yesterday we went out to look around and started saw the devastation. Homes destroyed, pharmacies, doctors’ surgeries…all blatant violations of the Geneva Conventions. I was still detached, I went around with my colleague Dr. Haytham, accompanied by old friends from Gaza. Dr. Yehia drove us around; we started in the Shejaieh neighborhood and Hay al Tuffah. The destruction, the putrid smells – I could see his pain as he showed us where was born and where his children were born. They destroyed my memories, he said. I could see him taking in a deep breath as he said this was enough for today…we were both seeing this destruction for the first time.
Today I knew why he was so reluctant to go through this. I realized what was around the corner. We drove by the site of where the Wafa hospital was. Total destruction – unrecognisable. The site included the old hospital building, the new hospital building, the old people’s nursing home and a centre for disabled children. Also near them was a school that was shelled…..WHAT THE HELL! Next to it was a huge home with the family sitting outside, looking, hoping, talking. Yet the smell of rot and flies all around were nagging on everyone’s mind. Could it be someone was still under all this rubble? They were trying to justify it. Perhaps it’s a cat or some crushed animal. Will it work, I wonder – the smell lingers in the air.
Then we reached Shejayieh. It looked like Hiroshima. Like the bomb had struck again. Again, no words could describe the scale of the devastation. I could not focus anymore, which heroic stand this was and which borders? One thing was for sure, it was total annihilation. HOW COULD THE WORLD have sat back silently?! How. As we approached, the people there ran up to our bus thinking we were the ambulance coming to the rescue as they had identified some body parts… We got out and faced the public. We did not dare take out our cameras. There was a lot of tension and anger. People started telling us their stories, the children, the women, the men. We then came to the destroyed home of a great grandmother who had lost her son and his family and now they were digging up her daughter who herself was a grandmother…and most probably the body of her daughter next to her. It was pieces of a body. Hearing that great grandmother relate her story really moved me and made me realize how much I was part of this reality. In the operating room it was easy to shut out the emotions and let the adrenalin work its way into action.
We waited until the ambulances arrived. We did not want to leave before. The situation was very tense and delicate. What a stench, what a sight. I remembered the man sleeping in the hospital who had told me the first day and the third day, where do I go? Have you seen Shujaieh? We do not know where the house was or where the road was…. The children there were very proud. One did not have shoes on his feet. They related heroic stories of the resistance and of the Israeli army running away and fleeing, leaving their stretchers behind them. If fact the borders were very close, just there. The camera in the sky was watching us. We were taken later to a hill in the liberated part of Gaza where the colony of Gush Katif stood. We were thanked for our efforts and invited to lunch. We met up with our colleagues from the south who had done a similar tour visiting Khuzaa, where resistance fighters were assassinated on their way to fight.
Inside the bus we were sweating in the heat, outside all we could see was destruction. The Gaza beach did not look as liberating or happy as it usually did. As we drove along, there was the coffee shop that was shelled, killing the youth who were watching the world cup match. A few meters more, another site, another home and so on – how could anyone look at the beach…..
We finally got back to Shifa hospital. I asked my colleague Shabaan to come and meet us as we went out to get something for Haneen to cheer her up. We went to a toyshop and a lady asked if she could buy something for the children in the hospital to cheer them up. After I chose what to get, she bought them and gave them to me, asking me to deliver them to the hospital.
We went to see Haneen and her aunt was there. Her face looked more swollen and her hands warm, she had a fever. She thanked us for the colourful image poster and I hung it up so she can look at. We also got her a balloon and a teddy bear. Some toys were already there. Again, she asked me about my daughter and wanted to see a picture. I could not pull up one of Haya, so I promised her to come tomorrow and show her. Her father arrived and she asked him about her mother, hoping she were ok…I later found out that Haneen still has a third sister in the hospital being treated from shell burns and that she was undergoing surgery tomorrow for a muscle transplant. I really hope she does not lose her arm. I asked her father what was happening, he said they will send her to Scotland for surgery. I asked when, he did not know.
On my way going to say goodbye to my colleagues in the operating room I saw a boy being brought in for a wound debridement. As he was in a lot of pain I looked at his foot and it was gangrenous. He was writhing in bed. I got closed to him and asked what was happening. I am scared, he told me. Of what? I asked. It is painful. Even without being touched? Yes, he said. When I asked him his name, it was Omar. They were trying to hurry him in I asked them to stop. I am ‘Im Omar,’ my eldest son is also called Omar, I said, so I am allowed a few seconds. I knelt closer to him and assured him that they will give him some medicine in the IV that will put him to sleep so he will not feel the pain of the dressing and we will see what to do when he wakes up. I stepped out of the theatre and called my friend Shaaban, hoping he will bring me a balloon and a toy for Omar. As soon as Shaaban answered the phone I was chocking up with tears. It was too much to bear these children surviving the shelling like this. Omar will lose a limb and Haneen might too – the pain has just started.
When Shaaban came I went to see Omar. He was fast asleep. He will be coming to Jerusalem tomorrow. They do not know to which hospital yet. I told his parents to insist as each day he will lose more of his limb.
I asked about Scotland. It will take six months for any transfers. I hurried to my computer to find Magda – my colleague, a surgeon from Scotland. I know she will help………but who will take care of the children??????