Flying over the Atlantic شكرا

Flying over the Atlantic Ocean on Turkish Airways today, headed back “home” after 8 months in the Middle East. I’m wondering where my “home” is.

I certainly am looking forward to seeing family and friends in the States, and catching up on their news as well as sharing mine. But I feel like a piece of me belongs in Gaza.  It’s really not difficult to understand why.

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Ostensibly, my purpose for traveling to Gaza was to search for answers because I didn’t think I was getting the full story from the mainstream media or the U.S. government.  I needed to see things for myself, meet Palestinians face-to-face, hear their ideas, check out their credibility, and perhaps weigh the evidence.

I also wanted to share my concerns about how climate change is going to impact the 1.7 million people living in the besieged Gaza Strip. I was very fortunate to have that opportunity with environmental engineering students, water utility engineers, NGOs, local government officials, the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority and others.

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I learned alot about the facts on the ground and the daily reality of living in the largest open air prison in the world.  I experienced Israel’s 8-day assault on Gaza in November and saw the traumatized eyes of the children.  My plans this summer include setting aside time to write about everything I learned because I want to share it with as many Americans as possible.

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Along the way I learned some things about myself.

  • I learned I can overcome fear of the unknown.  I tested my limits and I’m proud to say I rose to the challenge.
  • I learned that my instincts and “gut feelings” are pretty sound.  I have greater confidence in my judgment and my own abilities.
  • And the wonderful hospitality and generosity of the Palestinians I met in Gaza made me a better person today than I was a year ago.  This point  deserves a much longer blog post which I intend to write, but I’m returning home today with a profound sense of gratitude for everything the Palestinians shared with me in Gaza.  They often told me it was their “duty” to extend their hospitality to me, as though they must have learned it in school along with reciting the Qur’an, but I found their hospitality rose far above any sense of duty or social decorum.  They are genuinely kind and generous with everyone, and I hope to emulate them.

Thank you!  شكرا

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