Tuesday, January 20

The Aftermath

Now that Israel and Hamas have declared their separate ceasefires and explosions have stopped, at least for now, perhaps news networks will tire of broadcasting the less sensational work of cleaning up. With or without the tremendous media attention of the last three weeks, the Palestinians of Gaza still have to pick up the pieces, literally, of their lives, of their homes, of their land. It has been estimated that thousands of houses have been destroyed, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. Bodies continue to be pulled from the rubble and some seriously wounded Gazans are also perishing, raising the death toll even when the troops have left. Assessing the damage is only possible now, when residents can emerge from the dark, cold waiting and see in the light what has become of their neighborhoods, and when journalists who have been camped out on the border counting airstrikes are permitted to enter and see the stricken.
I believe it is the uncountable losses that will be most devastating to the people of Gaza. When funerals are finished and buildings are rebuilt and after flesh heals and when life goes on, what kind of life is going to go on? I find the pain unimaginable. Children especially, who have no frame of reference but bombs and rockets---what will their future be? Undoubtedly, people there will pick up and begin again their lives as best they can to survive, but this war will forever alter them. I find myself wondering about the psychological damage, the unquantifiable ache and the immeasurable scar that will be left on the people of Gaza young and old, as it is on survivors of all warfare. The words of our MCC partner Majeda in Khan Younis, Gaza, have haunted me. Even the birds have suffered from the relentless fighting.
"What's wrong with your rooster?" my friend shouts down the phone line.
"It’s 9 pm and he's crowing as if it's dawn!"
"Suffering jetlag," I explain.
"They didn't sleep all night because of the explosions.
"They're hungry because there's no feed for them in the market.
"And an Apache just lit up the whole Khan Younis skyline with their flares.
"They think it’s the morning.
"But don't worry, they'll go back to sleep," I assure her.
A rooster’s confusion is somewhat comical, given the seriousness of the situation Majeda and her fellow Gazans were in. But the lack of sleep, the hunger, the fear that lingered for those chickens was much more real for the families that owned them. Maybe now the people and the animals can sleep again in this relative calm, but mental recovery will not be easy. How many nightmares, how many behavioral problems, how many bullies will this war produce? Will young people be able to see a future beyond the rising clouds of smoke from the artillery? Beyond the blockades and the crossings? Or will there be a surge of volunteers for a fanatical group bent on violent revenge?
As we read or watch the unfolding story of tragic loss and devastation, hearing those never-ending facts and figures that Peter reflected on last week, the physical dimensions, let us remember the incalculable, sometimes invisible, but very real aspects of this disaster as well. Pray for those who suffer internally who likely don’t have access to therapy or counseling and for the fragile children who don’t ever feel safe anymore.

Kimberly MacVaugh is an MCC SALT worker, serving her one year term in Israel/Palestine. She is a recent graduate of Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

No comments: