Danny Gal, an organizational psychologist who works for the Center for Emerging Futures, helped bring the two men from Sderot and Gaza together.”Peace man” from Gaza and “Hope man” from Israel live less than 10 miles apart, but the border that separates them creates two very different realities, neither of them particularly positive.
Sharing the pain of being caught in the crossfire of the Middle-East conflict are the two men, a Palestinian student and an Israeli father. They are using the Internet to make their friendship public at www.gaza-sderot.blogspot.com.
Writing anonymously in English, on some days it’s as if these two men could be friends living anywhere – not Sderot, Israel or the Sajaia village in Gaza.
They talk about the weather, the winter flowers blooming in the fields, and the desire to better the world through a summer camp for both Palestinian and Israeli kids.
On other days their hopes for normalcy are dashed. Peace man reports on rocket attacks that rain down on his city, threatening the lives of people in their homes, at school, and at work – as they flee for cover.
Hope man talks about how the Israeli sanctions and border blockade on Gaza has impacted his life, and led people in Gaza to live in isolation, poverty and fear.
Last June, Hamas terrorists took control of Gaza and in response to the threat Israel closed its border with Gaza. Escalating violence in the region has led to many deaths and injuries on both sides.
Danny Gal, an organizational psychologist who works for the Center for Emerging Futures, an NGO dedicated to addressing the effects of the Middle East conflict, which helped bring these two men together in real life and online, says the blog does have a healing effect for both communities and enables them to see beyond the conflict.
He cautions, however, that success can only be measured in small amounts. “The guy from Gaza is representative of a huge crowd that is really suffering. People can’t move; they can’t go out and can’t feel free. He had to stop his Masters program abroad,” Gal tells ISRAEL21c.
On the other side, “is the [Israeli] father of three kids. The children are grown, yet sleep with the couple in bed. The kids have nightmares. They see bombs every day and have to think of [planning] a route from home to school and think about where there is shelter for cover. This is not a normal life.”
Readers’ comments have flooded in. This is the most important thing that Gal, based in Tel Aviv, has seen emerge from the month-long correspondence. Both sides recognize that the “world cares,” he explains.
One day not long ago, Peace man from Gaza wrote: “Today it’s a sunny and quiet day in Gaza. There is no special activity or military operations and we hope every day would be quiet on both sides and over the world.
“But still the siege controls our life. The borders are still closed and we have electricity for three to six hours a day, though in some areas they have more…”
Hope man replied: “It has been a very beautiful day, and our area is famous for its red anemone flowers that bloom at this time of the year and cover vast areas painting the hills and fields in bright red. Quite an amazing view… No rockets fell today.”