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Letters from Rafah

Written by K and M

Special greetings again from Rafah. There is just no way to describe life here at the southern end of the Gaza Strip. We are the only International people in all of Rafah and the news has traveled fast and everyone knows we are here.

This afternoon all of us, along with our two interpreters went over to the Block O neighborhood which is just a short distance from the building where our apartments are located. M, the young man who is serving as translator for the men, lived in Block O before it was destroyed by the Israelis in 2004.

We had visited Block O the first week we were in Rafah and were shocked by the level of destruction. M showed us the mosque where he and his friends would go to pray mosque that was all but demolished. He told us they used to play football in the square in front of the mosque. Now they call it the “Square of Death”. We could not venture close to the wall for fear of being shot without warning. I worry about the children who are not allowed to be children.

While we were climbing among the ruins of Block O, some of M’s friends from the university walked by and invited us to visit his home. We walked along a street strewn with rubble (I didn’t think anyone could possibly be living on this street) and entered a courtyard. It too was a mass of rubble. I noticed a piece of tile that may well have been someone’s living room or kitchen.) From this courtyard of destruction we entered a small yard that was like another world. Roses and other flowers were blooming in a small garden. Several large pieces of cloth created a shady tent-like structure.

Before long, S brought out the usual assortment of lawn chairs and we were joined by his parents, a brother, several young nieces and a number of young boys from the area. We have not gone anywhere in Rafah without attracting a cadre of preadolescent boys.

This family lives at the very edge of the pile of rubble that is now Block O. The mother of the family was a very animated woman who spoke her mind. She told us that she lives in fear of her family’s home being destroyed just as most of the other Block O homes were. The family home is not too far from one of the Israeli “security” towers and we did hear shooting from the tower while we were with the family.

This family also asked us questions as United States citizens. They asked us if we thought Muslims were terrorists and what we thought about U.S. efforts to “export” its brand of democracy around the world. They also expressed their dismay that George Bush was elected president. A number of people have asked us about the election. They can’t understand how a democratic nation would choose someone like Bush. The father of this family had the saddest face I have seen, and in Rafah, we have seen many very sad faces. The image that stays with me from our afternoon is Block O is the roses blooming in this
most unlikely of places. Maybe peace will come to this troubled land in some unlikely way.