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A week of Israeli raids on Gaza has left over 200 people dead and tens of thousands displaced. Almost a million people are without water. Caritas is working out how to best help people. In the following blog, Ameen Sabbagh, Caritas Jerusalem’s coordinator in Jerusalem shows that Gazans need more than food, water and shelter.

Ameen comforting Ismael follow the deaths of members of his family in bombardments on Gaza. Credit: Caritas Jerusalem

Ameen comforting Ismael follow the deaths of members of his family in bombardments on Gaza. Credit: Caritas Jerusalem

As evening prayers ended on Saturday July 12, 2014 a strike hit the home of a cousin of Gaza police chief Taysir al-Batsh, killing at least 18 family members and wounding 50.

I went to visit the family to see what I could do. I saw Ismael, sitting on a plastic chair in front of his destroyed house; he looked desperate, confused and dizzy. He was in utter shock. I couldn’t find the right words to convey my condolences. I just shook his hand and sat beside him. He kept his head down and his eyes on the ground.

After a moment I got up grabbed his hand and kissed his head. This was the nature of our conversation – communication without words – sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

I walked around to continue my assessment of the day, a boy around 12 accompanied me, (Mohammad, one of the neighbours) the boy didn’t need any probing questions from my side to start a conversation.

“I started crying when I saw the destruction of the house,” he said. “I knew that my friend and neighbours had been killed, my dad told me to get up and help them! We ran to the site together, among the rubble and dust I could see body parts. I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t. I have to be strong for this is not the first time that I witness such chaos. This is my third war in Gaza and I’m only 12.”

Then he bombarded me with questions that I couldn’t possibly answer. “How many more wars will I see? How many air strikes can we survive? When is it all going to end? When can I enjoy my childhood and play in the streets like other boys of my age? What will happen to us?”

I asked him other questions to change the conversation and he gladly obliged. I was content that he looked much calmer after talking to me although I didn’t say much or could do much to comfort him!

Caritas Jerusalem has appealed for an emergency intervention in Gaza with food, medications, cash and other basic necessities. But sometimes what people really need is a listening ear or a sympathetic look or just a kind word. Sometimes, small acts of kindness are more effective than all the material aid we can provide to people in need.