A Glimmer of Hope in Gaza

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Essam Khaled Zurb painted this little girl (top picture).

Gaza appears to be the most hopeless place on earth.  In “Winds of War in Gaza” (Mar. 8, ’15) New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof visits a man there whose cookie factory was destroyed by bombing in last year’s war.  Mohammed Pellani says that “What I created in 45 years, [the Israelis] destroyed in less than two hours…  People have nothing to lose.  So I expect another war.”

That despair extends to some of the young people there.  Times columnist Roger Cohen visited and writes that “There is another war waiting to happen in Gaza.” (Dec. 31, ’14).  During his visit he met 16-year-old Saleem Elja who said he expected “War after war.”  And Mr. Cohen heard of little 8-year-old Zeina whose faith in God has been shaken.  She told her father, “God is a weak one.  I will never say God again.  He can’t change anything.”

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Mariam Zakout

Not all is hopeless, though. Mariam Zakout, pictured here, founded the Culture and Free Thought Association in Gaza along with four other women in order to protect their children from the violence and give them a chance to explore their creativity.  Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), which along with numerous other prominent Non-Governmental Organizations supports the Culture and Free Thought Association, cited Mariam Zakout as a peacemaker.
Former MCC staffer Rachelle Friesen, profiled in last week’s blog, often visited the children at the Culture and Free Thought Association in Gaza.  “The paintings reflect the resiliency of the people of Gaza who live under siege, frequent war, and a perpetual state of crisis,” she said.

Common Humanity, a non-profit organization I work with, is currently (June 4-20, 2015) holding an exhibit in New York City with paintings by 11 students from Gaza.  Details at CommonHumanity.org.

10245350_657643827656606_1637181608663430797_nDalia Emad Abu, age 16, painted the vivid colors of oranges in this picture.   “I want to travel abroad to express the suffering of the Palestinian children,” she said.  Essam Khaled Zurb painted this little girl. “I want to travel abroad to publish my art works and increase my potential as a professional artist,” Essam said.

Sadly, it is very unlikely that Dalia or Essam will have a chance to travel any time soon from what many people describe as the “open air prison” of their homeland,  Gaza.  Let us keep Dalia and Essam and all of the children of Gaza in our prayers.

Mel Lehman

Mel Lehman is the director of of Common Humanity. He has worked in international humanitarian issues for several decades, inducing two decades at the National Council of Churches. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East and has published a number of articles about his experience.
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