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Occupational Hazards

To my friends,

I have been in Rafah now for two weeks, and it is still very hard for me to communicate to the outside world what I am seeing here. It’s hard to explain the feelings, tastes, and smells of my days here. It seems that we are in this strange in between period, that everyone here is waiting until the silence ends, and Israel resumes it’s reign of terror.

I want everyone in the united states to know that Israel is NOT keeping with the agreements of the ceasefire. Many people (though not enough) are talking about the apartheid wall that is being built inside the 1967 borders of the West Bank. It is very very important for people to connect this wall in their minds with the massive wall that Israel continues to build around the Gaza Strip. Here they call the Gaza Strip a prison cell because no one is aloud to enter or leave, but this wall really makes it official.

Today we got a call from a family whose home is along the border of Egypt where they are building the wall. Several months ago the family was forced to evacuate the house, and they are now living with relatives in another part of town. We went to visit the family, and the mother, Umm Tarick, told us the story.

On Monday, August 4th the family got a call from their old neighbors saying that the Israeli army had begun to demolish their home. (THIS IS IN THE MIDST OF THE CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT) The house was surrounded by mounds of sand, and the family has been forbidden to enter to get any of their belongings. The family owns the land, and the house was built legally in 1995. The construction of their house cost them $50,000 dollars.

On Tuesday morning a group of young children from the neighborhood volunteered to enter the house and retrieve some of the families belongings like their identification papers, and other important documents. they thought that because they were children the army would not shoot at them. While the children were in the house two tanks came and announced that if anyone tried to go near the house they would be shot dead. The next day, the same group of children again entered the house to retrieve what they could. The Israeli army opened fire, and the children all ran from the house. nobody was injured.

Umm Tarrick’s husband worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years to make the money to buy their house and belongings. Between the house, the land, and the families belongings, the Israeli army will be destroying $130,000 of this families hard earned money. We offered to help this family in any way we could, and Umm Tarrick thanked us. She asked us not to try to enter the house, because she is too concerned for our safety. As we left, I turned to see her sobbing into her hands. There was nothing I could say. I feel very helpless here sometimes.

Last night I stayed at Abu Ahmed’s house again, and got to hang out with Sally and Suzanne. At about 10:45 pm we were watching television, and suddenly we heard an extremely loud explosion very close to the house. Suzanne jumped up, and turned off the television quickly. It was unclear to all of us if it had been the Israeli army or some sound grenade that a kid got ahold of, but we were all very visibly shaken. Very soon after we went to bed, but Suzanne could not sleep. She complained of a stomach ache, and told me in Arabic that it was because of the shock of the explosion. we sat up for about half an hour listening to the tanks drive back and forth, and trying to communicate in each other’s languages. She tried on her new mandeel and dress for me, and eventually we went to bed.

I don’t want Suzanne to live in fear anymore, and I’m not sure if I can do much more than sit by her, and try to make her laugh. I have to go now. Thanks so much all of you for listening and hearing.

all my love,

Read another letter home by Emma: Weddings and Martyrs.