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Getting on the Road to Recovery

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Just another car, driving down just another road – along the flat Western Negev, then climbing the Jerusalem hills on a rainy day. At times it was raining so hard that however frantically the windshield wipers attempted to keep up, they had mediocre success at best. However this car was transporting passengers, the likes of whom are not usually seen by most. As planned, we had picked up a couple, at the Erez Border Crossing at the northern tip of the Gaza-Israel border, and were driving them to a hospital in the Holy City – that revered “City of Peace” which oxymoronically has been the source of fighting for thousands of years by people from all the main monotheistic religions.

The driver, Arnon, is a friend from my kibbutz. He is Israeli, born and bred on Kibbutz Nirim, in the Western Negev (aka the Gaza Envelope) 2 kms from the border with the Gaza Strip. He is a man who, many times over, has paid dearly the price of the region’s conflict. He lost his brother on this very ground, when the tractor his brother was driving, in the avocado orchard, detonated a landmine. Killed in the line of duty – not as a soldier, as he might have been when he was serving in the IDF just a few years previous, but rather as a farmer making the desert bloom, back in 1971.

Our passengers, today, were two people from the other side of the border, that same border which witnesses intermittent exchanges of rockets and tank shells. Once, not so long ago, Israelis used to cross the border from Israel into Gaza, on a daily basis. Israelis used to live there, until 2005, when all Jews were forcibly evicted by Ariel Sharon’s Likud majority government. These were pioneering people of the time who had built agricultural communities in what came to be known as Gush Katif, at the behest of the Israeli government in the wake of the Six Day War. In 2005 even the remains of Jews who had been buried in Jewish cemeteries there were exhumed and relocated to Israel proper. The hope of the government was to gain peace in return for handing over the land and the keys to the Palestinians to rule their region. Prior to that, we used to visit the Gaza Strip – to go to the sea and enjoy some retail therapy in the Gazan markets. But these days, the only time Israelis cross over is when there is a military escalation, and those Israelis crossing are dressed in full metal jackets.

Crossing the border in the other direction is not easy, either. Gazans used to work in Israel, in construction, agriculture and other occupations. In fact, this time was not the first our passengers Mohammad and Bushra*, had been in Israel. Bushra has vague memories coming here as a child. Mohammad, as an adult, used to work as a watchmaker in different cities in Israel. But that was 25 years ago. Only recently, have permits for Gazan workers been renewed – mostly laborers working in construction or agriculture.

Mohammad and Bushra are a couple from the upscale Rimal........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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