A Lesson from the Past

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I spent an insightful and peaceful afternoon at the Gaza War Cemetery.   As friends will know, I’ve been an anti war activist all my life, and my spending time and effort to publicize such a place, may seem out of character for me.  But there is a lot to learn from such places, especially at this war like time and especially in Gaza Palestine.  And I discovered some strong connections to Canada there…22 of them.

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As you can see, it is a beautifully and honourably tended graveyard, especially considering the deprivations that the Gazans have gone through, with a lack of water, power, supplies and materials, all with a back drop of a continuous occupation and war.  In a parched, sandy, overcrowded Gaza City, this place is a quiet oasis.  Over 4000 are buried here, from both world wars.  British, Australian, New Zealanders, Polish, Germans, Scots, South Africans, Irish and unknowns are buried in individual graves, with marked mass graves for Indians and unmarked mass graves for 124 Turkish and four Egyptian labourers.  And if you look at the left rear of this photo, you can see a stone arch entrance to a special area, just for Canadian United Nations peace keepers, who died from 1959 to 1966.  They were part of the UN Sinai peacekeeping mission, following the French, British and Israeli assault on Egypt in 1956.  Again, I well know that there are often dirty, behind the scenes, politics involved in any peacekeeping mission, but that does not distract from these folks who died during it.

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I am not much of a nationalist, but I respect the efforts of good people trying to do the right thing, regardless of their citizenship.  I spent 12 years working as a civilian employee for the Canadian Department of National Defense, and I met a few fine soldiers, who volunteered for peace keeping duties around the world.  They sincerely wanted to make the world a better and more peaceful place.  The peace keepers buried here, are certainly receiving appropriate care, attention and recognition for their efforts.

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I suspect that due to the Israeli occupation and blockade of Gaza, that few of these 22 soldiers have recently had their families visit their graves. And from personal experience, I know the difficulty of finding and visiting distant relative’s graves.  So I took photos of each stone, in case some of these soldiers family members might see this website, and so learn where their kin are buried, and that their graves are being well taken care of.  This is the left (East) side of the Canadian cemetery.

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And here are close ups of those four stones, starting from the previous photo’s left side.  Just click on the photo to see an enlargement of it.

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And here is the right (West) side and below are the 18 individual stones, again going from left to right in the above photo.

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And who, you might ask, was the person who has taken such good care of all these fallen soldiers graves?

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This fine gentleman seated with me,76 year old  Ibrahim Jeradeh.  He maintained this cemetery for over 45 years, as did his father before him, and now his son has taken over for him.  Ibrahim has been awarded a “Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (an MBE) by the Queen for his good work.  He stayed at his post during Israeli attacks on the cemetery, which left numerous shell holes and broken gravestones.  These damaged stones took years to replace, as the Israelis strangely classified the new gravestones, as having some sort of potential military uses, and barred their entry to Gaza.  I’m told it took a call from the Queen herself, to put the Israelis straight.

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So in these times of war in Syria, I have to wonder if the various leaders involved, just stepped back for a moment, and visited a graveyard such as this one, and a civilian cemetery, from any one of the past wars, and perhaps they would start talking instead of shooting.

Goodnight from Gaza City.

PS- Yes I’m still in Gaza.  I was prevented from crossing into Egypt as planned on the 8th, due to a military flare up in the Sinai.  I’ll try again some time soon, when things cool down a little next door.  For now I’m doing fine, and am being treated very well here.

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