Who is paying the price? - a story from the humanitarian crisis in Gaza

When the Israeli military offensive in Gaza started on the 27th of December, Israel Dadon, a 20-year-old man in the town of Moshav Tlamim in Southern Israel, went out into his local community with the aim to change people's perspectives about the conflict.

Israel is a member of a commune established by Oxfam's partner organisation, Sadaka. The overall aim of the commune is to build partnership between Jewish and Arab youth in Israel.

Oxfam's Eitan Reich, Civil Society Officer in Jerusalem, spoke with Israel to find out what motivated him to be part of such a project.

I have been interested in Jewish-Palestinian relations for some time now. I felt that even though rocket attacks continued to be launched from Gaza into the south of Israel where I am from, the people of Gaza were suffering also, especially with life under the blockade. I wanted to talk to others about the situation in Gaza.

I wanted to give the message that Gazans are people who live a hard life under siege. The people around me did not seem to recognise the humanity of the people in Gaza. So, I decided to gather information and when the war started together with the other members of my commune, we made posters about Gaza aimed at the people of southern Israel. It was important for me to be critical about rocket attacks into Israel but to at the same time convey concern for the people of Gaza and to portray both Gazans and Israelis as human.

The posters were entitled, ‘Who is paying the price?’ Underneath were images of a frightened family in Gaza and a destroyed house in southern Israel. This was part of the text that we put under the images:

"We as youth, Jews and Arabs who live and work together are concerned about what is taking place in the south of Israel and in Gaza and object to the damage inflicted on innocent people on both sides. We are certain that you want to live in peace next to each other and raise your kids in peace and safety. In order to do so, we need an end to the occupation and to reach a just solution for both Palestinians and Israelis. This solution needs to be based on equality, recognition of the collective rights of both people and their right to exist next to each other."

What we wanted to achieve by doing this was to make people in the south aware of the difficulties in southern Israel and Gaza – that we are both paying the price for this conflict. If we have reached one or two people with this message then I think we achieved a lot.

We wanted to raise a different voice, one that does not compare the number of dead in Gaza and Israel but that values the life of every human being. We wanted to mention the killing that is happening now in the war but also the disruption that Gazans have to face in their day-to-day life because of the blockade.

During the night of January 8th we put up 200 posters in my Moshav (community), called Tlamim and in the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon. In the Moshav where I am from, all the posters that I put up were torn down only days later.

From the Moshav, where my family live, we can see the smoke billowing out of Gaza and there we sit, having dinner, while Gaza is in flames. Here in Israel like in Gaza, suffering varies from one place to the next. In Sderot, for example the education system has become irregular. At the moment my siblings have to stay at home and in my Moshav the only place that is open is the grocery store. I worry for my brothers and sisters who study in Sderot and Kyriat Gat. I think about them all the time and phone them to find out if all is OK.

Some people here are for the military operation and others just want peace.

I used to hold quite extreme views but my thinking changed and my mind opened when I started to see everyone as being a human rather than being Israeli or Palestinian.

In order to stop this conflict we need both the state of Israel and Hamas to be mature. I sometimes feel like this is a game where both sides are waiting for the other to first stop fighting. Both sides seem to be losing their human feelings and do not look at the cost of this conflict. Maybe what we need is international intervention or a third party.

Overall, we need to broaden our thinking and remember that we are all human beings.

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