My posting in Gaza has ended a bit early as the pharmacy workload does not require that an international staff member continue to support the local pharmacist. The original request for support came while the war was ongoing and, following the ceasefire and hard work by the team, the workload is now manageable.
Another goal of my posting was to provide coverage for the Palestinian pharmacist so she could rest and take holiday now that the war is over. She took a week off and stayed in Gaza but was unable to secure a visa to travel elsewhere. She’s 34 and her husband is 40, putting them in an age group of Palestinians that are particularly challenged to get the permissions to travel outside. Her son is having surgery next month in Tel Aviv and she cannot even secure a visa to travel with him. She will send her mother. How sad.
I reflected on this as well as what I saw and heard during my time in Gaza as I took the long walk down the fenced corridor of the Erez border crossing. The hospitality and kindness of the people. The people in the clinic with their burns and missing limbs. The destroyed buildings around the territory. The chaos in the streets caused by no electricity. Three checkpoints later I am in Israel. Will this change?
Despite all that I have read and the numerous conversations I have had regarding the political situation, I leave not understanding how the limitations placed on Gaza are tolerated. The people of Gaza are essentially restricted to the territory, all 139 square miles (390 square km) of it. I am not politically inclined nor do I profess to understand the long history that has led to the current situation. I understand more now than ever that what I read and hear is only part of the truth. I recognize it is complicated but how is it OK?
From Gaza, I had an overnight in Jerusalem and was able to visit the Old City. Christians, Jewish and Muslims intermixed as they visited some of the most sacred sites of their religion. Peacefully. So it can work?
Walls and barbed wire fences line the highway on the way to the airport. Do the walls keep people in their settlement or out of another settlement? At the airport we were asked to pull aside for inspection. Our driver pulled our MSF car over, provided the security agents with our passports (his Palestinian, a French colleague’s and mine), and opened up the car (hood, truck, doors). As we waited I couldn’t help but glance at the many big automatic weapons carried by the agents. After about 20 minutes our passports were returned and we drove off. A breath of relief.
I am off to Paris for debriefs from Gaza and briefs for my next assignment… what is my next learning opportunity?