February 2009, West Bank
West Bank school kids organise to send aid to Gaza
Few could not have been moved by the shocking images and reports of the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza that emerged following Israel’s three-week offensive. It was these images that spurred pupils at the Rosary School in Beit Hanina to take action. In an attempt to ease the suffering of Gaza’s civilians, some of whom have lost everything, pupils at the girls’ school came up with the idea of collecting some of the most essential items that Gaza lacked.
This idea was met with great enthusiasm by students and teachers alike. As the practicalities of the operation were worked out each class was tasked with collecting a specific item - blankets, flour, tinned food - to ensure all essentials were covered. The school also contacted UNRWA, who agreed to coordinate the transport and distribution of the aid.
As word spread of this initiative, other schools in the Jerusalem area and the rest of the West Bank were also eager to join the humanitarian aid effort.
Schools across the West Bank turned into donation hubs where school children, parents and other volunteers turned up en masse to help with sorting and loading the piles of donated goods onto UNRWA trucks. All in all, pupils gathered nine truck loads of aid for Gaza.
It is not just schools in the West Bank that have been busy making collections for Gaza. Institutions and social networks ranging from orphanages to women’s training centres have been collecting goods, as well. The residents of Shu’fat Refugee Camp donated four trucks of aid.
The goods collected represent much more than their vital practical value of nutrition and warmth to those who receive them. These collections are an expression of strong feelings of solidarity and compassion.
Along with food and blankets, students from the Rosary school included letters to the residents of Gaza in their aid consignment. In these letters the students spoke of love, shared dreams and a longing for unity.
"I know my ink won’t be the balm to your wounds, but I must be with you at least in my soul," wrote one student.
While another simply stated "your dream is ours, together we can build all our hopes."
Gaza’s civilian population continues to suffer appalling humanitarian conditions in the wake of Israel’s offensive in the enclave. The ongoing blockade, which has been in place for over 20 months, is severely hampering humanitarian efforts to meet even basic needs. This situation cannot be adequately addressed until all crossings into the beleaguered Gaza strip are opened.
Nevertheless, acts of solidarity and compassion, such as these personal aid donations and messages from West Bank students to their Gazan counterparts, not only address practical needs but also help to counteract the isolation and despair wrought by the blockade.