Never in my wildest imagination could I have imagined that in time of war — (and we know the Israel-Gaza battle is not a war but a lop-sided military operation) — would there be time for tea.
Palestinians in Gaza love their tea, they drink it several times a day, and now I have come to appreciate the ritual. Tea time is for socializing and sharing with family, friends, and even strangers.
So when I was walking through the rubble that remains from Israel’s bombing in Khan Yunis (a city of about 170,000 people in southern Gaza Strip) talking with men and their families about the damage to their homes, I was astonished when one man came up to me and offered me tea.
He had pulled a dozen chairs together in a circle out in the alley behind the rubble. We sat and continued talking while he went inside his make-shift home and brought out a tray with cups of tea for everyone.
These men told me they don’t trust Israel, broken promises for 60+ years. They asked me what Americans think about the situation. I said that some Americans understand the occupation but many do not, and it is my goal to tell more people about what is going on in Gaza. They said they believe Israel is the US’s pet or favorite child. Americans will support Israel no matter what Israel might do. I had to agree.
At another location, I met a teacher (6-9 grades) who showed me his home which was damaged when a neighbor’s home was targeted by a missile strike.
He held his young daughter in his arms. He told me that he teaches his students about human rights which means living in peace with others but also defending their rights. His class reached out to the children in Fukushima, Japan after that terrible earthquake in empathy.
He was not hopeful Americans will listen to the other side because he believes the Israeli propaganda is too strong. I asked him if he had a message for President Obama. He smiled and said he would welcome President Obama to visit him at his house to see the destruction with his own eyes.
I wish President Obama would accept the invitation. His foreign policy objectives might mature a bit, and he might be less inclined to mouth the Israeli soundbites about “the right to defend” itself. And Obama might enjoy a cup of tea.