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Working Beyond the Rules to Send Gaza Hope
Two young Israeli women, a student and a peace activist, got fed up with politics. They decided to take it upon themselves to organise aid for people in Gaza. And the nation's response has been beyond anything they could have imagined.
Since putting out an email call for blankets, clothing, and food for Gaza, Lee Ziv, 28, and Hadas Balas, 25, have already delivered seven large trucks of supplies to the people in Gaza, with more to come. Confirmation has also been received that the relief is getting to those in need, and is not being held hostage by Hamas militants, as some Israelis feared.
Ziv, a peace activist working with the Sulha Peace Project and the United Religions Initiative, and Balas, a student, were able to appeal to the public because they represented the people, not an agency with political goals. "We are working beyond the rules, with the common goal of ensuring the right to live to those who are alive," said their email plea.
"A lot of mothers and fathers who had soldiers inside Gaza at the time were donating stuff. One woman ... felt terrible that something could happen to her boy. She felt the need to help another mother in Gaza, maybe one whose son has died," says Ziv, who has seen "a lot of compassion" from the Israeli side. A woman who had a missile land on her house in Sderot donated food. "There were young people and old, and they were mostly Israelis," she says.
Since announcing their plans to collect aid via an email that went viral, the women have appeared on TV, radio shows, and in newspapers. Even the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera has expressed an interest in covering their story.
After reaching other human rights organisations, the messages spread across Israel like wildfire. "I thought we might get two truckloads," Balas says. "I wasn't expecting 10."
The truckloads of aid have gone into Gaza with handwritten messages of peace from the donors translated from Hebrew and English into Arabic. The messages were translated by Elad Vazana, a peace activist who has worked with the Sulhita Youth Project to connect youth from Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He was at the Gaza-Israel border with Balas and Ziv last week seeing that the first shipment went through safely, along with the special notes he'd helped create.
"They were messages of hope and faith," says Ziv. "They received them already and now they want to send us back messages."
The Zionist youth movement's organisation, Hashomer Hatzair, helped, and the Greek Catholic Church's Beit Hachesed in Haifa. Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which has been attacked by Qassam missiles from Gaza, offered its storage facilities before the shipments went out.
"It's about people," says Ziv. "We all want to share this country. The Jewish people will stay here. The Muslims and Christians will stay here. For me it's like planting seeds for peace."
(Donations to their efforts can be coordinated with Lee Ziv: firstname.lastname@example.org)
This article first appeared in Peace X Peace. A global network of women working to build peace across the cultures.