Friday, February 20, 2009

A Palestinian woman gives and gives..

"INSYAALLAH, WE'LL MEET IN PARADISE," said Ghada, a school teacher I met in Gaza during Yayasan Salam's mission earlier this month. Ghada had the opportunity to visit Malaysia some years ago on a study tour. The young lady probably typifies a Palestinian woman who knows deeply the meaning of struggle, sacrifice, love, life and death. In an interview in Gaza and acting as our interpreter in one of our field trips, Ghada speaks fluent English and helped us understand local issues better. The interview was recorded and I'm reproducing part of it here. It has better impact when you actually hear her words and see her expression yourself.

Monday, February 16, 2009

CCTV at KLIA - is that the cartoon network?

SALAM EVERYONE! Whatever happened to the CCTV at KLIA? After the armed robbery at our state of the art international airport some months ago, there were voices saying that the airport camera surveillance would be improved. Upgraded. Or replaced with something better and more reliable. The voices came from high places, and were heard loud and clear.

But I believe they were nothing more than just that - voices. I had my laptop nicked in broad daylight at around 7.15am upon returning from my Gaza trip. It happened on the Sunday of Feb 8 as I was unloading my luggage from the trolley into my car. A woman of about 45 or so spoke to me in a foreign language, prompting me to stop as I tried to comprehend what she was saying.

After about 10 or 15 seconds, she gestured with her hand as if to say "never mind" and walked into a waiting grey Kancil. She got into the passenger seat on the front while another man slid into the back seat. I believed the man nicked my laptop which I had placed on the back seat of my car whose door was ajar because there were still bags to be put in.

I duly lodged a police report (not that I expect the laptop to be found and returned) and went home. Later in the week I viewed the CCTV (courtesy of the airport management, thank you) and found the recording to be wanting. It didn't show much, except for a Kancil driving away. It could be any Kancil for that matter.

A blogger without a laptop is no good at all. I got friends in the KLIA office but I wonder if they are doing anything about their CCTV network. After the armed robbery, I would think that the priority would be to ensure safety and security of our airport, its services and the people using it.

It is now my believe that the CCTV installed there is best suited to screen cartoon shows for children and airport users including workers while the thieves go about their job merrily. What was it about first world infra and third world mentality?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Goodbye Gaza - till we meet again!

GOODBYE GAZA! After 10 days in Gaza, and meeting all sorts of people, my team and I left Gaza with a heavy heart. We had befriended many people during that time, from our chain-smoking driver to officials who guided as throughout the mission. There were seven of us in the team, and each of us have fond memories of Gaza and its people. When we got word that foreigners were advised to leave Gaza, the team agonised whether to leave or stay. Staying would mean facing all sorts of risks. My team argued that the risks would be the same as when we first entered, except that the possibility of an escalation in the attacks seemed more probable now. I'll be writing more in the next few days, especially when Internet line is better once outside Gaza. We made our way to the Rafah Gate and onwards to Cairo for more meetings with friendly NGOs to plan for a more sustainable humanitarian work in the coming months. I recall the words of the Christian priest, Father Mussalman, who said: "No one is free until Gaza is free..." Truly, Gaza has touched many a foreigner's heart.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

From the broken heart of Gaza

SALAM FROM GAZA! We know there were some bombings or shellings from some parts of Gaza today. We could hear the explosions, Two of the loudest were during zohor prayers (just after noon in Gaza) and one more around asar (about 330pm Gaza time). In between visits to several damaged sites, I sat with the Christian leader of Gaza, the respected and much-admired Father Musallam. The 70-year old Catholic priest is one of the most passionate speakers about the Palestinian cause, stressing many times that he "would rather die for Palestine than live the life of a slave to Zionist Israel." I had an almost two-hour chat with the man whose original home was in Birzeit on the West Bank. "I've not been back to my village because the Israelis have taken over my land. Don't insult me by asking whether I'm prepared to contribute to Palestine, or by asking if the Christians here are prepared to do the same. Listen, I'm a Palestinian, like all the other 1.5 million who live in the Gaza strip. I'm preoared to die for palestine, and it's the same feelings my congregation feel. This is my home. My struggle is the struggle of the Palestinian people, regardless whether they are Christians or Muslims or whatever." Father Musallman composed a poem/song to show his love for Gaza. It's called the broken heart of Gaza:

Father Musallam is sending out a message
from the broken heart of Gaza
to a strangely silent world
from the valley of tears where Gaza sinks in blood
the blood that has strangled the joy fom every heart
of a million and a half imprisoned people
where love itself was captured
defenceless in the siege
and love has been choked in every threat

O Lord of peace, rain peace upon us
O Lord of peace, grant peace to our land
Have Mercy lord on all of your people
but don't leave us lord in enmity forever

Oh the bitter cruel siege has turned into a hurricane
growing every hour until it became a war crime
a crime against humanity for which we all must answer
in the court of every human heart
and every human conscience
and before the just and holy court of God

O Lord of peace, rain peace upon us
O Lord of peace, grant peace to our land
Hve mercy Lord on all of your people
But don't leave us Lord in enmity forever

We will not live as slaves we will be free
No one is free till Gaza is free
Though here we weep no one wipes our tears
yet no one will be free till Gaza is free

The children are trembling we all live in fear
Muslims and Christians wounded together
between slavery and death there really is no choice
and if death is forced upon us
we'll have courage in our hearts
we will die - honest, brave and strong

we will not live as slaves we will be free
no one is free till Gaza is free
though here we weep - no one wipes our tears
yet no one will be free till Gaza is free
O Lord of peace, rain peace on us
O Lord of peace grant peace to our land
have mercy Lord on all of your people
but don't leave us Lord in enmity forever
Father Musallam is sending out a message
from the broken heart of Gaza
to a strangely silent world.

Friday, Jan 2, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

The warm people of Gaza stay indoors

SALAM FROM GAZA! Gaza is very quiet tonight. Most people are indoors. The hotel I'm staying is running on genset only. Only 11 guests remain here. The rest have checked out, probably to return to their homeland. My team from Yayasan Salam are getting ready to leave Gaza after more than a week in this beautiful city under siege. We made three trips today to visit a girls school where the children drew their impression of the war in Gaza. Next we visited a relief centre for the pyisically-challenged. It was simply amazing to see how the people go on with their lives despite the apparent danger they are exposed. My friends from Global Peace Malaysia, Khairil and Azlan, diehard relief workers from the days of Bosnia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Acheh and many other places, distributed milk and other relief items for the second day running. We had dinner at a nice restaurant where we met Imad, a Gazan who studied at the Universiti Putra Malaysia in Serdang. He still remember a few Malay words and greeted us with "apa khabar?" I took a lot of pictures and plan to upload into my blog, but that may not be possible tonight. We've got word that the border may be closed in a few days time, and this has prompted us to pack our bags and making plans to move out. We made many new friends here, people who are friendly and warm and always willing to take us to their homes for chai (tea) and share their heart=breaking stories. I met several survivors of a family whose houses and properties, including a poultry farm, has been shelled and trampled to the ground. Malaysia is a blessed country, and we must do everything to keep it that way. It's 1030pm here. Catch up with all of you soon, insyaAllah.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Meet some of the children of Gaza

SALAM FROM GAZA! One of the biggest casualties of war, such as the one seen over 22 days in Gaza, are children. Walk through the Gaza ruins and in the streets, and one can see children at play, or trying to make a living selling chai (tea). Others look at you in all their innocence, and make you wonder who in their right mind would inflict such pain and agony to these young souls. Amidst the political equation that adults play, which sometimes result in the blatant display of military arrogance shown by Israel, one wonders whether the children have any place in all their deliberations.