Children in both Gaza and southern Israel were unable to go to school during the conflict. Copyright: Caritas/Katie Orlinsky

Harout Bedrossian, communications officer for Caritas Jerusalem

Finally it is quiet today. Last night’s ceasefire between Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel put an end to a week of brutal warfare which caused suffering on both sides of the border.

Hundreds of lives have been lost and houses, schools and kindergartens lie in ruins. Schools in Gaza and southern Israel have been closed for over a week and people have been unable to earn a living.

Caritas Jerusalem’s health team – two coordinators, medical staff and two psychiatrists – are in the field today to make an assessment of the emergency needs of the Gazans.

Our mobile clinic will try to make its usual rounds to the six locations in the outskirts, two of which were seriously damaged. Tomorrow we have a meeting with the other Catholic organizations and each will discuss its input and its scope of work.

Due to security reasons and life threatening situation we are still assessing immediate needs. But in general this is what is needed now:
• Drinking water – tanks, wells and other infrastructures have been destroyed
• Milk formula for babies and toddlers
• Money for afflicted families
• Psychosocial help and counseling
• Diapers
• Blankets
• Medicines
• Medical supplies

Caritas Jerusalem’s work will be mainly through the mobile clinic, the medical centre and also through the 180 community agents who are well trained by us and know the rural areas and the population. People in rural areas find it very hard to go to the main hospitals. They do not have any access to health and Caritas is going to reach to these people with primary health care, checkups, health screening, psycho-social aid.

Since the very start of the war everyone knew that sooner or later a ceasefire would eventually be reached. Now it’s here, the question remains: what have we learned? And sadly my answer to that is nothing, and a similar scenario will be repeated in a few more years.

When will Israel grasp the notion that Palestinians will not give up their rights to the land, they are not simply going to go away? If they think that force is the answer, they are very wrong.

When will the Palestinians accept that Israel is not going anywhere either? An enduring solution is needed for our children and for the new generation.

I was born in Jerusalem in 1972: I experienced the first Intifada, the second Intifada, operation Cast Lead, wars with Hezbollah, violence in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel.

I hope and pray my children and the children of the Holy Land will have better experiences and happier memories and a brighter future.