The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza placed a spotlight on children — children in southern Israel traumatised by years of rocket fire and children in Gaza who bear the brunt of Israel's retaliation.
The death of any child is indefensible, and many of the deaths in Israel and Gaza were avoidable. The evidence is unequivocal that Hamas sheltered fighters and weapons among civilians, in hospitals and schools, as it has done in the past. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) condemned Hamas for placing rockets in UNRWA schools. In addition, the European Union condemned its use of civilians as human shields. Moreover, the Institute for Palestinian Studies published a report on Gaza's Tunnel Phenomenon, revealing that in excess of 160 Palestinian children were killed constructing these tunnels. Where is the peace and security for these children?
A mortar launched from the Jafar Ali Ibn Taleb school in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza on August 22 landed on Kibbutz Nahal Oz in Southern Israel, killing Daniel Tragerman, aged 4. Since January 2014, more than 4000 rockets have fallen inside Israel. Israeli children have 15 seconds to find shelter from these weapons. There are children suffering post-traumatic stress disorder on both sides of the border. Where is the peace and security for these children?
No child should live or die in fear. Blaming either side will not bring peace. Yet there is hope for Israelis and Palestinians. An Israeli non-profit organisation, Save a Child's Heart, treated Gaza children throughout the war. The Max Rayne Hand in Hand School is a beacon of light that champions Jerusalem's diversity. The student body comprises students from numerous ethnic and religious backgrounds — Arab Christian, Muslim, Armenian Christian, Jewish secular, Jewish traditionalist and more. The school is a microcosm of Israel's diversity and highlights the reality that education can act as a melting-pot for building understanding, exposing children to alternative religions and cultures. The school's mission is to build an inclusive shared society by establishing a network of integrated Jewish-Arab bilingual schools and organised communities. In turn, perhaps education can offer the children of Israel and Gaza a peaceful future.
Two states for two peoples living alongside one another in peace and security may yet become a reality.
Esther Kubie Madar
Part time leave without pay