March 2011 marked my second trip to Palestine with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). The first was to Jenin a few years ago.
My dear friend Steve Sosebee, an American and President of PCRF, picked me up from my hotel in Ramallah from where we drove two hours to reach the Israel-Gaza border.
Going through the check point into the kilometre-long wire-fenced walkway, strewn with surveillance cameras, was a surreal experience reminding me of the entrance to the gas chambers in the movie “Schindler’s List”.
On reaching the Gaza side, Suhail, our friend from PCRF picked us up and drove us to Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital where I immediately started triaging children for our surgery list with Doctor Fayez, a young Gaza urologist who graduated and trained in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Over the next five days, Fayez and I performed often complex surgeries on 25 children. The staff, both male and female, were very accommodating. I was very impressed by Fayez’s surgical skills but more so for his humility. We promised to keep in touch.
I was often exhausted, having to rest between surgeries while Fayez continued. I always looking forward to our communal lunch at about 4pm.
My hotel was an hour from the hospital. From the hotel Suhail would take me for dinner at exquisite restaurants with delectable fish entrees. One evening Fayez joined us with his beautiful wife and daughter.
Every day at Al Aqsa, after surgery and my rounds, we would meet the children and smiling Gaza mothers in their hijabs and niqabs. A gratifying experience that I will cherish.
On the last day Suhail drove me around Gaza City and then up to Jabalia, the largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight refugee camps.
Throughout the journey the sight of shell-shattered buildings, devastated, scorched and demolished neighborhoods, rows of cut down olive trees, all bearing the signature of brutal Israeli atrocities, made me feel sad and responsible. I told Suhail,
“I am sorry that my tax payer’s money is responsible for destruction of your country.”
By then I was scared to return through the Israeli check point. Suhail reassured me and accompanied me through the border and up to my hotel in East Jerusalem.
I fell in love with Gaza, its mild mannered, hard working people, the beautiful loving and smiling eyes of the women in their head scarves.
They deserve justice to be free in their own country, to raise their children in their own land with dignity. I truly left my heart in Gaza.
— Sakti Das, 26 March 2011.
If this has inspired you, read more about the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and:
- DONATE or Volunteer
- Watch Steve Sosebee’s interviews from Al Jazeera
- Watch Steve’s TEDx talk: The Power of Positive Action
Other groups supporting PCRF’s work: Medical Aid for Palestinians, Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
A candid quote from Sakti while he was there:
This is my third day here. Really enjoying it, though it is physically taxing, so many children to operate upon and so many complex problems. There were two bombs here today sent by Israeli drones but nobody is concerned.
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