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Rafah - Easter Sunday & remembering Tom


Easter Sunday & remembering Tom

By: Mark April 11, 2004 Bethlehem

I suppose there should be something wonderful about being in Bethlehem on Easter Sunday. The sun is beating down and the town is quiet (without soldiers and without tourists). It is however April 11th and exactly one year to the day I found myself again walking up Milk Grotto Street towards Manger Square.

Mik Grotto is the place where Mary gave Jesus his first milk and also the place where I was standing on April 11th last year when a shrill phone rang breaking the calm of that afternoon to inform us that Tom Hurndall had been shot in the head in Rafah. An injury he later died of.

I cannot find the words to describe the emotions I felt but I when I recall the memory my blood still runs cold. The next morning I travelled to Gaza with Starhawk and we joined ISM Rafah, a shellshocked group of internationals who had seen two of their friends targeted deliberately by the IDF. It was less than four weeks since Rachel had been killed and many of the group were wearing clothes soaked in Tom's blood.

I spent nearly a month in Gaza and made many friends, people I am in touch with weekly as I try to remain a window to an outside world they are not allowed to see. It was only right then that exactly one year on I should try to return to Gaza and onto Rafah to lay flowers at the spot where Tom fell and to spend a short time with my friends in Rafah.

Unfortunately my attempt to gain entry to Gaza was unsuccessful. Unless you are a member of a registered NGO or from an international press organisation who has had advance clearance then Gaza is completely closed off to internationals.

And so this morning I stood in the fierce heat of the early morning sun and squinted towards the concrete-encased prison that is Gaza and could only hope that one day I will be able to return. Thinking of Tom and of the sacrifice he made exactly one year ago I plucked a small flower from the ground and lay it at the entrance to Erez. This the only small gesture I could think to make.

I sincerely hope, but at the same time doubt, that there is even a town called Rafah to visit the next time I come.

Mark

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