A few short weeks ago, I tried to get into Gaza. . .again.
And again. . .I was unsuccessful.
But, one of my friends – Pastor Hanna – went. He is a Palestinian Christian originally from Gaza. He lives now in Jordan but goes often to Gaza to help the poor there. Citing some statistics from UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), here are a few of his comments below from his last two visits to the Gaza Strip – a tragic place that much of the world has forgotten.
I returned yesterday from Gaza after a very fruitful visit. As always, we visited many homes, sharing God’s love and meeting practical needs.
The poverty in Gaza continues to increase, especially after Cairo destroyed hundreds of supply tunnels that connected Gaza with Egypt and which had provided employment for thousands of the young people. We visited families in the poorest areas of Gaza City and in Deir el-Balah — one of Gaza’s nine refugee camps, which houses 1.1 million Palestinian families left homeless as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Deir el-Balah is virtually a concrete ghetto, with 12,000 people packed into 39 acres.
Some of the families we visited are very sick; others are unable to pay rent. We provided food, medicine, and other basic necessities, including mattresses, a refrigerator, and even fixed the roofs on some of the homes.
The woman you see in this picture is a widow with five children.
Her husband, their father, died in a Gaza prison several months ago. There is no work for her, so she and her family depend entirely upon charity. We have been helping her and her family for some time now and will continue to do so. This was how Jesus taught us to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God, not only in words but also in deeds.
In the meantime, I cannot imagine how much worse conditions can get.
As much as 95 percent of Gaza’s water is unfit for drinking, contaminated with fertilizer and human waste. The drinking water is not even safe for agricultural use. The Palestinian Authority’s Water Authority also found that only 14 wells (some 6.5% of all wells in Gaza) provide water that meets World Health Organization standards.
At the same time, the Gaza Strip continues to suffer from electricity shortages and severe problems with infrastructure. This has been going on so long.
As far back as 1 November 2013, Gaza’s power plant was shut down, due to a fuel shortage, and the sewage pumping stations had to be run on generators. On 13 November, one of the stations in a-Zaytun neighborhood, Gaza City, stopped operating due to a generator malfunction, causing millions of cubic litres of raw sewage to flood the neighborhood and leak into homes.
Making matters even worse in Gaza is the rationing of utilities. Destruction of the tunnels choked off the supply of Egyptian petrol, forcing people to sit in gas queues for hours to get fuel for their automobiles and lorries. It also has resulted in electricity being on for 8 hours and then shut off for 8 hours, breaking normal life patterns and causing additional stress.
Yes, Gaza is very dark place, poor and oppressed and paying a huge price for the escalating conflicts in the region. But I thank God for his grace, and I thank you for your faithfulness that enables us to continue to shine a little light in that darkness – to both the Christian minority and the Muslim majority.
We want to help them with basic physical necessities, revealing Jesus to them according his words in Matthew 25 in the Injil:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . .I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
I thank God for my friend, Pastor Hanna, and the work he continues to do in Gaza.
As for me, a few years ago I was in a worship service singing my praises to the Lord and I had a kind of vision in my mind. In the vision, I was in Gaza giving out some kind of supplies (food? water? clothing?) to the people there. I wanted the people there to see that there are Americans – and even American Christians – who love them, who don’t want to harm them.
I still long to see that happen.
Inshallah – if God wills – it will happen.
One day. . .I will go to Gaza!
“. . .you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. . .you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'” (the Injil, the letter of James, chapter 4, verses 14, 15)