Professor Said Abdelwahad is a middle-aged English Professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza City.
Or he was, until Israel began its bloody offensive against Gaza.
Al Azhar now stands empty and heavily damaged. Its students and teachers have scattered to their homes and other places of refuge, seeking to hide from the terror of the finest U.S. weapons that our taxes can buy.
But no place in Gaza was safe from the F-16s, the drones, the mortar and tank shells, the white phosphorous, the mysterious weapon doctors say burns worse than napalm, or the one that explodes with such extreme force that flesh is literally ripped from bone.
No matter how many leaflets Israel "humanely" dropped telling people to get out of the way, there was just no place to go in Gaza, where 1.5 million people -- half of them children -- are crammed onto a strip of sand smaller than Dane County. This miserable little piece of real estate has been ferociously bombarded since December 27, its borders sealed tight by Egypt and Israel, up through the unilateral cease-fire declared by the latter on January 17.
For the past three weeks, Prof. Abdelwahad, his wife and children have been holed up in an apartment in Gaza City, hoping their food and water will hold out and that the air strikes demolishing neighboring homes wouldn't reach him. He's been trying to keep everyone sane and warm, and communicating sporadically with the outside world by means of a generator-powered computer.
Here is one day's message:
Death is everywhere. More than 70 air raids last night + 30 air raids today! Hundreds of children and women died in the raids. You cannot imagine the havoc and destruction. People are unable to cope ... Whole families were killed under the rubble of bombed buildings. Tanks move slowly towards the city. Night is horrendous and children express jubilation to see day light at dawn. They can hardly sleep for continuous hours with raids here, shelling there and heavy machine guns in the distance. Now, an F16 is flying over our heads. The whole city suffers food problems; of course, there are no fruits and vegetables at all. The situation of electricity and water is still bad. Today, some areas in Gaza received electric power for two hours! Gaza is on the verge of humanitarian and environmental crises. The health situation and poor hospitals are collapsing. Sometimes one cannot express what's going on around him!
Prof. Abdelwahad is not a member or supporter of Hamas, nor of rival Fatah, whose close affiliation with Al Azhar University could not save it from Israel's wrath. But Al Azhar has been luckier than the Islamic University, whose 20,000 students had their futures destroyed because Israel declared it a "Hamas cultural symbol." It has been luckier than the American University, for years Gaza's secular and western-oriented crown jewel whose graduates attend MIT and other prestigious American schools. Both were flattened by Israeli warplanes.
If, God forbid, Prof. Abdelwahad became a victim of Israel's bombardment, he would not be counted as a "civilian" because he is an adult male. The UN claims it cannot say for certain who is a resistance fighter and who is not, and so apparently puts only children, women and the very elderly in the civilian column. As a result, the figure floating around in the media is that "only 40%" of the casualties are civilians. Only? (No one believes Israel's ridiculous 15% figure any longer).
The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project's partner, the (MRSCP). MRSCP will hold a benefit for Gaza relief on Saturday, January 24 from 4-7 p.m. at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, 953 Jenifer St., Madison. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the Madison-Rafah Journal to read all of