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Personal Account — Visit to Gaza

I was delighted to see the park in full operation: old people sitting on benches chatting, children playing in the sandy playground, and youth playing a game of soccer in the basketball court. Even some of the grass was greener than ever and some of the rose bushes in full bloom. The areas that needed renovation and maintenance were pointed out to me including the mid-park pool area, some broken benches and tables, maintenance work for the restrooms, painting for the wooden and steel panels, new basket board rings, etc. Much of the needed work is a result of normal wear and tear after it has been in use with minimal regular maintenance for over 9 years. There was no evidence of vandalism or war related damage. The park area seemed to be an oasis, despite the needed maintenance works, in a sea of destruction.

This was one space where the residents seemed to want to cling to, to keep clean. There was a different feeling around the park, away from the crowded dusty streets; a safe, clean place that people wanted to preserve. There was a desperate plea to provide funding to do the needed restoration and maintenance works. We took many photos and promised my hosts and the municipal staff to lobby on their behalf to secure the necessary funding to do the works.

Quality and not Quantity is what Counts

The last stop was a working lunch with the board of trustees and senior staff of the NECC at a fish restaurant on the Mediterranean Sea. This was an opportunity to get an honest assessment of the situation on the ground from the leaders of the Christian community in Gaza, a group of dedicated professionals, successful businessmen, doctors, and university professors.

After the first 10 minute social encounter, it was clear to me that these professionals were not a bunch of defeated people facing the challenges of the blockade or life under Hamas. On the contrary, what I heard was much of the same discussions I hear in Jerusalem and during my travels and encounters with Christians on the West Bank. As Christians, we have a role to play in society despite our small number. “Quality and not quantity is what counts” said the chairman of the board Mr. Elias Manneh and continued “despite our small number, we are a force to be reckoned with and we have our weight in society”. These are proud people of their contributions to society, of their long history in Gaza, and of the importance of the Christian presence. No one was speaking of emigration or of persecution around the table, but rather how best we can strengthen the Christian presence in Gaza. The discussions were truly inspirational and only solidified my belief that our intervention in Gaza was timely, much needed, and went a long way in strengthening the Christian presence.

The Rush Back

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