I’m in a bus, on a day trip with my University along the border of the Gaza Strip. I am excited but I can’t really tell why, since I know there will not be much to see around; hopefully there’s not much to see.
Netiv Ha’asara is one of our stops. It is a moshav (cooperative agrarian community) of less than a thousand inhabitants living right next to the border, 400 meters of separation makes its people the closest Israeli community to the strip and active observers of the development of the events. Red alerts warning from rockets sound on daily basis, seconds of time are available to run into the shelter and dodge the rockets launched from the other side. A state of mind of fear and alarm is a constant, the threat is a reality.
Up from a hill we see a 9-meters security wall dividing both territories, on the other side the disheartening image of the Palestinian village Bayt Lahiya can be perceived from the distance. Congested Gaza versus a secluded farmer community; falling apart buildings versus beautiful private houses; scarcity versus commodity. Opposite sides of a coin within meters of distance and yet a same feeling of distress, dread and tiredness from a situation that cannot be stood much longer. Death and pain are too well-known feeling as to be tolerated, on both sides.
We get an explanation on how rockets (rudimentary ones) are launched from Gaza to the other side on daily/weekly basis even when there’s not media coverage of it. Being Hamas a radical party, dominating Gaza’s politics, these continuous launchings do not usually come from them, but from smaller global Jihadist and Salafist groups.
Israeli communities along the border live threatened. To the immediate question of why would someone live within less than a kilometer away from such a danger, our local speaker would say that it is a quiet, agrarian and familiar community, where everyone knows each other and trust them. Apart from the rockets, obviously. To the question of what requirements would someone need to move to the community, he would answer that it is not possible, since there are not houses or land available. They don’t consider leaving the village even when the menace is 400 meters distance away. 10 seconds time away.
We just can see the Gazan villages from the distance, but it is impossible not to think on its people. Violent members of Hamas, global Jihadists and Salafists; they are there, they represent a real threat to the Israeli communities nearby the border; but they are not the only ones there. In Gaza, one of the most densely populated territories in the world, there are hundreds of thousands of people struggling: Israeli intense blockades; the Egyptian recent shut down on the tunnels that linked both territories and provided Gaza with energy and goods supplies; constant cuts on electricity supply; scarcity of oil for cooking; problems with the water drainage facilities as a consequence of the energy shortage; Israeli IDF raids on the territory; high unemployment rates of nearly 35% of the population; blockade on the cement import from Egypt and Israel to prevent the construction of tunnels that also prevent from repairing the infrastructures that are falling apart; Hamas coercion and focus on fight rather than on people. The situation is not sustainable.
Both sides of the border experience security struggles and uncertainty. Institutional positions, political interests that lead to confrontation, that lead to fear and/or scarcity to these first line spectators that suffer the most the consequences of the animosity between their governments.
Netiv Ha’asara means path to something in Hebrew, the locals living there have decided that the path is going to lead to peace, and this is what we can see in the mural draw in the security wall of this little village in the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip: “Path to Peace” (Netiv L’Shalom). People from one side and the other raise their voices for this craziness to stop; change won’t happen while their representatives keep covering their ears and eyes to reality, the reality of fear and need that their population is living. Guess we’ll have to be louder.
YaLa Young Leaders