In January 2016, the Church agreed to become "A Kairos congregation" working with others towards a just and peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine.
During Lent this year, we are going to spend three Sunday afternoons considering the issues involved.
Hearing the stories, seeing the pictures;
getting to know something of the current situation in the region
These videos and stories have been collated from a number of sources, including:
Friends of Sabeel, Amos Trust, Kairos Trust and Musalaha. Check out these amazing charities and trust to see the work they are doing.
“I want to be a doctor – to help others as I have been helped”
*Yasmin greets me with a shy but engaging smile. As a young girl living in Gaza she has endured more suffering than any 12 year old I’ve ever met, but an air of optimism and child-like joy still surround her. She starts by telling me that she loves school, and she’s currently missing her favourite subject, Arabic language.
I’m interviewing Yasmin in the Al Ahli hospital – the only hospital in Gaza run by Christians. It’s a bustling, vibrant place with doctors and patients mingling together in waiting rooms, treatment rooms, and in the gardens that are providing rest for the many waiting to see someone. Here you feel that patients and doctors know each other, and that there is a friendship as well as professional relationship between many.
Yasmin has been receiving care here since the war in Gaza last summer, when her neighbours home was hit by an Israeli missile. She was sitting in a circle with her cousins – chatting and laughing as young people do, when the explosion happened.
“I don’t remember much” she tells me. “I remember that we were talking, and then my body lifted off the ground. I felt like I was flying through the air, and then I hit the ground and all went black. I woke up in hospital a day later and just remember seeing my parents faces. My mother was crying”
The explosion had caused fractures to Yasmin’s left arm and left leg. She arrived at the Al Ahli hospital unconscious, and doctors immediately performed an operation on her leg, and put her arm in a cast. Since then she has had two more operations, and 6 months of physiotherapy to regain the strength in her arm and leg.
Yasmin has now recovered, and is back at school full time. She wants to train to be a doctor, in America. But she’s quick to reassure me that she wants to come back to Gaza after university, to help others as she has been helped.
Despite her physical recovery, the psychological effects of the war are lingering. Her mother tells me that she is angry, and doesn’t want to listen to the news or talk about what happened. She, like many parents I’ll meet in the coming days, is worried about her daughter’s mental health.
“We worry about our children – how could we not? This is our third war in six years. We have all lost children, or seen them injured like Yasmin. What does this do to them? They are not living a normal life here”
Yasmin’s story is all too common in Gaza. The challenge for our Christian partners like the Al Ahli hospital is how to provide hope and stability when so often those things are out of their control. Over the coming months we’ll be listening to these voices from Gaza, and exploring how we can campaign to support an end to the violence and uncertainty in Gaza.
*Name has been changed
“I can bring home food now, and shop for my family”
Mohammad is a graduate of the NECC Vocational training centre in Shejaiya, from the metal and aluminium course. Following that, he was selected for the job creation programme and given a 6-month contract at a workshop which makes kitchen units. After the 6 months his employee was so impressed with his work and commitment that he gave him a permanent contract.
My father works part time as a driver, but other than him I’m the only breadwinner in my family. There are 6 of us in my family, and thankfully this job is becoming permanent in December when the job creation scheme finishes. My employee has said they will keep me on and cover my salary.
I make and finish the aluminium units for kitchens. I finish and prepare them for installation, then I go and install them in the homes. 7 of us work here, the others are all out on jobs at the moment. This department is just for kitchens but there are other ones for bathrooms etc.
I trained for four years to learn how to do this, at the VTC and then two years practical training here. During that time I worked without a salary, just being paid expenses, transport and a meal.
I feel good working here. I enjoy it, and feel happy in my job. My self-esteem is high at the moment. My family are also finding it easier. I bring food home, and buy things in the supermarket.
I would like to be a workshop owner one day, and I’m saving money for this, saving for the tools, instruments etc. I’ll need for my own workshop. I wished and hoped that I would be taken on as permanent staff here from the first day that I started training here. I wanted to prove straight away to my employer that I could take on responsibility and learn quickly.
I work from 7.30-18.00 each day. I spend time in the evening with friends at the beach. All my friends are unemployed, some are at university but most just don’t have jobs. I advise my friends to join the VTC and get trained in something. I found out about the VTC from one of my friends. I applied but wasn’t sure I would get in, and felt it could go either way. My family and friends are very pleased for me that I have this permanent job. I want a stable income, my own workshop, and then, inshallah, I might get married!”
*Areej lives in Shejaiya, and would like to study nursing when she leaves school. She speaks eloquently about how life in Gaza has changed since the last war, and how the sense of community and family is slowly being eroded by the siege. She was injured in the war and has received treatment from Al Ahli hospital.
“We were at home when the missile hit our house during the war last year. Half of the house was destroyed, and we were panicking, trying to get out and run to safety. Our neighbours had come to help us, and as we were fleeing, I was hit by shrapnel – one piece in my hand and one in my leg.
I remember feeling very frightened, especially because I was injured from a drone missile, and these come before the F16’s. When I came to I saw the blood and thought I was going to die. After that I passed out from the pain, and woke up in hospital.
I was confused when I woke up, thinking ‘how did I get here?’ My nephew was there as well because he had been injured too. I thought my hand was paralysed, although it felt like an electric shock each time someone touched it. I stayed in hospital for 2 days and then went home in a wheelchair because I couldn’t walk.
Since then I have had physiotherapy to help me walk again, and 3 months ago I had surgery on my arm at Al Ahli. I feel more pain in the winter when it’s cold but its much better than it was.
come for regular check ups here even now, because we have no money to pay for treatment and its free here. The operation was a success and I’m grateful to the staff here.
Our home was completely destroyed in the war. We were supported by a local NGO who helped us to rebuild it. We have 4 floors, as I have 4 brothers – two are married and have their own children. One was killed in the war.
Before the war in Gaza we were happy, and life was good. But since the war everything has changed. My brothers can only get work as carpenters and tailors, which doesn’t bring in enough money. After the war they had to move away to another place in Gaza because our home was destroyed. Now we are all back together but our sense of family has been lost. We don’t celebrate together anymore, life has changed.”
*Name has been changed