The first anniversary of the Israeli offensive in Gaza is being marked this week. Joseph Donnelly from Caritas Internationalis talks about the situation in Gaza one year on.

This podcast made available from Vatican Radio

Joseph Donnelly represents Caritas at the UN in New York and is a special adviser on reconciliation and peace building.

A Palestinian woman walks past a house destroyed after an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip January 5, 2009. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA)

Caritas Internationalis in Gaza

source – www.caritas.org

Home to 1.5 million Palestinians, Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth. Border restrictions mean that people are trapped inside with limited access to goods and services. The consequences of these restrictions was brought into sharp focus when Israel launched a military campaign against militants in Gaza last Christmas. One year later much rebuilding of lives and homes has yet to be done.

Joseph Donnelly is Caritas Internationalis representative at the UN in New York and was the Caritas representative in the Holy Land during the crisis. Here are some extracts from an interview he did with Philippa Hitchen at Vatican Radio.

Resilience amid restrictions

Even in the light of checkpoints, borders and walls, one of the extraordinary paradoxes is that people by and large dont give up.

In the early days after the invasion, there were no pens and pencils in schools, nor were there more substantial things such as building materials. There has been some opening up of restrictions in recent months but the sheer need for movement of supplies into Gaza has prevented any major development.

One year after the Crisis

One year later, people live on an incredible cutting edge of almost despair, but the level of lived faith of Christians and Muslims in Gaza is extraordinary. However, colleagues last month were saying how they were grateful for the 60th anniversary recognition for the work of UNWRA and for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People but they are also weary of waiting for something to happen with all of that.

Caritas in Gaza

The Catholic worlds response to Caritas on the ground has been enormous. Theres been a huge groundswell of support but that could never compensate for the lack of freedom.

Everything that Caritas did before December 2008 is back in motion today. Local families and store owners often offer help with supplies, so that spirit of walking with one another goes on. And Caritas staff in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank have developed a network of exchange. That works fairly well as long as there isnt daily physical violence which would prevent those sorts of negotiating patterns.

Healing and change

There is an overwhelming feeling that the outside world has lost the sense that they can change the situation. There is a call within the Arab world and within Palestinian society that to be healed in this conflict we must heal ourselves and so the rift between Gaza and Ramallah, Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fatah, must be reconciled. Many stakeholders in the Israeli community recognise that in President Abbas they have a peace partner. There is a growing capacity of Palestinian civil society to not only understand their rights but to understand in practical ways that they cant always be saying we didnt create this problem, but rather to seize the day and say so much is at stake that we must seize this opportunity.

Home to 1.5 million Palestinians, Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth.

Border restrictions mean that people are trapped inside with limited access to goods and services.

The consequences of these restrictions was brought into sharp focus when Israel launched a military campaign against militants in Gaza last Christmas.

One year later much rebuilding of lives and homes has yet to be done.

Joseph Donnelly is Caritas Internationalis representative at the UN in New York and was the Caritas representative in the Holy Land during the crisis.

Here are some extracts from an interview he did with Philippa Hitchen at Vatican Radio. Listen

Resilience amid restrictions

Even in the light of checkpoints, borders and walls, one of the extraordinary paradoxes is that people by and large dont give up.

In the early days after the invasion, there were no pens and pencils in schools, nor were there more substantial things such as building materials. There has been some opening up of restrictions in recent months but the sheer need for movement of supplies into Gaza has prevented any major development.

One year after the Crisis

One year later, people live on an incredible cutting edge of almost despair, but the level of lived faith of Christians and Muslims in Gaza is extraordinary. However, colleagues last month were saying how they were grateful for the 60th anniversary recognition for the work of UNWRA and for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People but they are also weary of waiting for something to happen with all of that.

Caritas in Gaza

The Catholic worlds response to Caritas on the ground has been enormous. Theres been a huge groundswell of support but that could never compensate for the lack of freedom.

Everything that Caritas did before December 2008 is back in motion today. Local families and store owners often offer help with supplies, so that spirit of walking with one another goes on. And Caritas staff in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank have developed a network of exchange. That works fairly well as long as there isnt daily physical violence which would prevent those sorts of negotiating patterns.

Healing and change

There is an overwhelming feeling that the outside world has lost the sense that they can change the situation. There is a call within the Arab world and within Palestinian society that to be healed in this conflict we must heal ourselves and so the rift between Gaza and Ramallah, Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and Fatah, must be reconciled. Many stakeholders in the Israeli community recognise that in President Abbas they have a peace partner. There is a growing capacity of Palestinian civil society to not only understand their rights but to understand in practical ways that they cant always be saying we didnt create this problem, but rather to seize the day and say so much is at stake that we must seize this opportunity.