From Gas Chambers to Tear Gas

Desmera G - IMG_9453.jpeg

From gas chambers to tear gas, Palestinian children need their lungs too.

From gas chambers to tear gas, suffering is suffering. Suffocation is suffocation. Pain is pain. Death is death.

During a stop on our delegation, a woman showed our group a crate full of tear gas canisters she picked up from her garden over time. She asked our group to help her research which plans she can grow that will withstand the poisonous fumes emitted from the canisters.  She passed the crate of cans around for the group to see up close, “Made in Philadelphia” they read.

Later, we visited a wall the Israeli government built to divide Bethlehem from Jerusalem. This wall, nicknamed “The Apartheid Wall,” stretches with intimidating ugly cement crowned with barbed wire. There was a man who stood near the wall operating a juice stand; his shirt read, “Make Juice, Not Walls”.

He explained to us that he used the money he made from his juice cart (donated to him from generous members of the international community) to pay the hospital bills for his Palestinian children who suffer from respiratory issues after inhaling tear gas released into their neighborhood by Israeli soldiers.

On this same wall, The Apartheid Wall, as if the wall sought to solidify this man’s plea, reads a message incorporated in a piece of resistance art that says:

“Even the birds wear gas masks in Palestine”

The words are in red beside a painted bird wearing a gas mask.

As I listened to this man and viewed this art, I remembered the devastation I experienced this spring from looking at a photo of a mother holding her lifeless eight month old baby girl named Laila al-Ghandour. Baby Laila was one of at least 60 Palestinians killed in Gaza amid attacks on protestors and bystanders during the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.  The soldiers used live fire and tear gas against groups of men, women, and children. Baby Laila died after inhaling tear gas emitted by canisters thrown by Israeli soldiers.

My heart bleeds for Palestinian children who inhale gas from the canisters made in Philadelphia, just like it bleeds for the Jewish children I learned about in middle school, who inhaled gas from chambers made in Auschwitz.

As the holocaust occurred, as innocent Jewish lungs inhaled the deadly gases, as the death tolls rose, the world stood by in silence.

As innocent Palestinian lungs inhale the deadly gases, will the world stand by in silence again as the death toll of another group rises?  Will you?