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Locals Reflect on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Since late December, every day brings fresh reports of fighting between the Israeli army and Hamas militants in the Gaza strip. Though the war may seem far away, the human cost of the conflict has touched Houstonians on both sides. In the first report of a new project to develop young Houston journalists, “KUHF news lab” reporter Melissa Galvez talked to local residents who have experienced similar conflicts first-hand.


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“From the Galleria to Bellaire, that’s Gaza to Sderot.”

Aaron Friedman looks out the 15th floor window of the Israeli consulate on Wesleyan.  If he were in the Israeli city of Sderot right now, he could probably see the Gaza strip.

“Could you imagine shopping in the Galleria, missiles falling, and every few minutes you have to take cover, because people are launching missiles at you out of Bellaire? That’s the proximity we’re talking about.”

Friedman is American, but he knows what it’s like to live through a rocket attack.  Back in 2006, he was a student in Haifa when Hezbollah began shelling the city.  He had just finished breakfast with his roommates when the explosions started.

During a break in shelling they ran outside amidst the screams and chaos to get to a bomb shelter.  There, Friedman says, they sat for hours in a small, hot room.

“I specifically remember sticking our heads out the window, just to breathe and…then we’d hear the siren. They were kind of like tornado sirens here in Texas. We’d slam the window shut and sit down on the floor and then sure enough a few seconds later — Boom! Boom! Boom!”

Belaynesh Zevadia also remembers rushing into bomb shelters, during the first Gulf War. She’s with the Israeli Consulate here in Houston, but her brother and much of her extended family live in Ashdod, in Southern Israel.  For months now, they have been threatened by rockets from Gaza.

“It’s scary to be in your own country and the rockets are falling at your school, at near the day care, it’s so scary.”

For Said Fattouh, Houston has been home for 25 years-but so is Gaza City.  His mother, sisters, uncles, cousins and friends still live in that town, that is daily being bombarded by the Israeli military.

“It is a living hell, it is indescribable, truly…No water, no electricity for 13 straight days.  Imagine that. How could someone live with no water for 13 days?  Of course there are no shops, no supermarkets, nothing is open.”

Houstonians can imagine what it’s like to go for days without water and electricity.  But remember what it was like after Hurricane Ike — and then add the constant threat of bombs.

“They cannot sleep; they’re unable to sleep, constantly hearing the bombs, not knowing if it will land on top of them, or their neighbor, not knowing if that house will continue to stand or if it’s going to topple next minute, next hour.”

Belaynesh Zevadia and Said Fattouh are waiting by the phone.  Zevadia can’t sleep because she’s worried that her nephews in the Israeli Defense Force may be killed in the fighting.  And every day, Fattouh thinks about his family as he drives the 22 miles from Sugarland to his office downtown.  That’s just about as long as the embattled Gaza Strip.

From the KUHF News Lab, I’m Melissa Galvez.

image of Isreal and West Bank map




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