Zillur Rahman of Thompsons Solicitors’ London branch shares some of the lessons he learned during his recent trip to Gaza
I travelled to Gaza as part of an Interpal delegation, helping to take urgently needed medical supplies to the people of Palestine. What an amazing journey it was.
I knew before I went there the horrors the people are living through. They are the most agonizing nightmares. They have had their land stolen. They are imprisoned in a strip which is approximately 25 miles long. Their seas are hounded by the Israeli navy, skies polluted with murderous drones and F16s, streets pierced with bullets, homes ripped apart with rockets, peaceful nights occupied by vicious bombings and minds invaded with trauma. For many, spending time with their loved ones is limited to picture frames and graves.
In spite of all the above, there is something distinctly special about Gaza. You find a people there who always embrace you with a smile even though you can see and feel their pain in their eyes. You find a people who are selfless even at their own expense. You find a people who are proud, do not want handouts and graft hard to build and shape their country, their struggle and their destiny.
You find a people who have such strong resilience and an unbreakable will, that even if the whole world were to abandon them, they will continue to struggle for their freedom. They are simple, humble and grateful people.
I met a man who made me take his telephone number and asked me to text him on special occasions like Eid and Ramadan so he that he knows I have not forgotten him and his family and he can feel pleased that he knows someone from another part of the world.
We met a family whose house had been devastated by the recent bombing by the Israelis. There was a gaping hole in their ceiling. The mother of the house, who had recently been widowed as a result of the war, was in tears, not because of the tragedy that had befallen her, but because she could not host us as she would have liked and her house was in such a state.
I was surprised and astonished to see many 5 star standard hotels among the rubble. When I queried this I was told that because the people of Gaza cannot leave the country by land, air or sea, the equivalent of a holiday, or a honey moon for a newly married couple, is staying at one of these hotels. Essentially, the Palestinian state is enabling people to escape the realities of their daily lives and enjoy a little bit of luxury in these well designed, 5 star standard hotels.
The streets of Gaza are filled with posters bearing images of those described as ‘martyrs’. They appear in the hospitals too. I asked the Drs why this was and their response affected me profoundly. They said that the posters were of hospital colleagues who had been killed. In Gaza, they explained, everyone is a freedom fighter and while they may work as Drs, teachers and lawyers during the day, at night, they play their role patrolling the streets. Some die in the process.
The medical supplies we purchased as a result of the donations made by Thompsons staff and others included expensive medicines such as antihemophilic factor 8, used to treat or prevent bleeding, which costs $100,000 for 2kgs, and more basic drugs such as intravenous paracetamol and antibiotics. Supplies also included specialist baby milk formulations for babies with cows milk intolerance and blood sugar monitoring equipment.
I may be physically back in London but my soul remains in Gaza. My fate is now bound to theirs and I will not abandon their cause for freedom and justice. I hope you too will continue to support the Palestinian people.
Thanks once again to everyone at Thompsons who sponsored me so that I could join the Interpal delegation and to Thompsons as a firm for its support.
If you want to know more about the work of Interpal click here