Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Forgotten Village

The catastrophe of the Bedouin village, Um Nasser, is long past its short moment in the world’s spotlight. Yet, here nothing has changed since that dreadful day just over two months ago. The people are living in tents along the side of a hill at the top of which rests a tank. During my visit there planes flew overhead and a surveillance balloon hung in the air filming our every move there. For Salim Abu Eteq every step is recorded, every motion noticed. At night when homemade projectiles are launched into Israel from Gaza just west of the village, the tank on the hill constantly fires its shells over the heads of the villagers below.

Salim’s home was destroyed in Beit Hanoun when he lived there a few years ago, so he moved to Um Nasser. Here his home was hit by an Israeli missile that was meant for his neighbor’s home. So he moved his family into a shack. This shack is what was wiped out when the sewage flood came on March 27th. His mother and 1 year old boy were killed that day. When I met Salim just days later, he was taking refuge in a UN tent with the survivors of his family. Today, he is afraid to reach even that tent with the tank located just hundreds of meters away.

But the world has forgotten.

He kept insisting to visit me in my home, inside I cringed. How can I host this man in my home with walls, a full fridge, comfortable bed, a guest room and couches, with a door that locks at night? How can I?

I diverted the course of the conversation. The stench of sewage filled the air and I longed for the comfort of the van I would be driving home in.