Letter of January 1st 2000 from Jacques Gaillot
Safe-Passage to GAZA 2000
What is fascinating about Gaza is its history of every where and any time. Conquerors of the past have envied this land of passing between Africa and Asia. Country of spices and sand, of palm groves and orangeries, of tents rustling in the wind!
From the Roman ruins of Maîoumas harbor on the seashore on the north through the front of hasty dams of concrete to protect today fishing boats and down to the international airport on the south with its Tower of Air traffic Control ironically located .in Israel, Tel Aviv! There is a surprising summary of the Gaza dedication to commerce, to exchange.
But today, the stretch of Gaza houses a million people, sad record of the highest density of population in the world with the last window-dressing from Israel where one can read on the frontier panels at Erez: "Safe-passage" written in Hebrew, English with subtitles in Arabic. It is the same for the forms given by the army for Palestinian waving permits. The opening of the corridor towards Cisjordanian, 50 km long, had the consequence to increase the number of soldiers at the control posts all along this road where no stop is allowed. Colorful Palestinian taxis are checked by Police dogs, these taxis are full of often controlled young people who rush through this scanty air intake towards their half split country to meet again their family, get a job (50 % are said to be jobless in Gaza) and to find some well being.
Seeing them going away, personally I would refuse to leave. One should resist to that kind of control. I am a westerner, used to demonstrations, to freely express my opinion and I have difficulty to understand this submission to this "liberty of corridor" Palestinians are tired of waiting the only honorable safe-passage towards year 2000, security and peace for every body, Israeli's and Palestinians.
I had never seen so many Associations in Gaza. It is traditional in Palestinian society mostly since the difficult time of the Antifada: Centers for rehabilitation, for the Development, Center of civil rights, Cultural Centers, Unions, Institutes, including 150 Non-Governmental Organizations, they are advertised every where on buildings, on taxis. There is a real dynamism animated by the young generation. Many of the teachers, medicine doctors, lawyers, businessmen were trained abroad. They already make alive the Palestinian State here in Gaza rather than in another planet. Instead of serving the nouveau riche they struggle for their economic development to help the poor for better living conditions, saves them from precariousness and from running into debt.
In the south and in the northern part of the stretch of Gaza, in the 5,000 houses held by Israeli colons, during a week, each night, a candle will be lighted on one of the eight branches of a candelabrum. It is the celebration of Hanukkah that will invade 40% of the Gaza territory. We are in Year 5760 of the Jewish calendar.
Around the Latin and Orthodox churches, a fir tree and the Christmas crib will lighted by 2000 Arab Christians from Gaza or refugees from the 48 and 67 wars, they make a very small group in the Moslem society. For the millennium anniversary of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, they will not be allowed to join the pilgrims coming from all over the world. In the night, the angel sing: " Glory to God, Who is, Who was and is coming among mankind He loves" They will sing for Jesus, "Safe-Passage" toward a humanity of brothers. We are in year 2,000 of the Christian calendar.
Downtown Gaza, "El balad", in front of building constructions spreading all over the city, at night, temporary charcoal pans light and warm up the men. Colorful lanterns hanging in the streets give notice of the month of Ramadan that gives to cities and villages a specific excitement. We are in Year 1,560 of Hegira.
... Light from Judaism, from Christianity and from Islam Let come a time when men will look to each other as brothers in the light of Abraham, the father of the believers.
Like many others, the family which is welcoming me, does not heat the house in spite of the first winter colds. Seating around a low table, the burning teas make us close and warm us. The steam from the tea raises up high from the cups. As high as the dream of a "Safe-passage" for Gaza 2,000, the right of passage to life.
To start Year 2,000, Georges Vimard was kind enough to send us this message of peace. Georges is a priest, a friend of mine, who shares his life with Palestinians in Gaza and visits prisoners. Thanks to him for his evangelic testimony that enlightens our way. (Jacques Gaillot)