Gaza, Aug 7 : Amid the deadly Israeli-Hamas conflict, a Kashmiri woman who is married to a Palestinian here feels Israel can learn from India’s experience in Kashmir while dealing with the volatile situation in Gaza. “It used to be quite terrible in Kashmir but things started to take a positive turn when the Indian government started to invest in education and found ways to send youngsters to learn outside the state,” says Lubna, a bio-chemist who works for the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in Gaza in its Department of National Defence.

“Their energies got channelised into constructive things. It helped ease the situation and also get control over the spiralling violence. Things would have been very different if India would have resorted to violent means to take control of the disturbed territory,” she said. Lubna says that Israel could learn quite a lot from the Indian handling of the situation in Kashmir and make good use of it in Gaza.
“There is almost no work but the PNA has retained all its staff even after its ouster from Gaza,” she said. “I went to Aligarh Muslim University and my brother went to Manipal (University). We learnt and moved on in life. There are so many other youngsters my age who benefited from the Indian government’s thinking and came out of the cycle of violence,” Lubna noted.

“Israel tried to suffocate us by imposing closure with the support of the West. Left with no choice the militant factions started building tunnels which kept life going here in Gaza. Even the shoes I wear came through tunnels,” she said. “If youngsters were allowed to go out and learn. If they could find other opportunities, they would probably not have chosen what they have. Who doesn’t want to live a good life at peace. People in Gaza were choked to make the choices that they have made,” Lubna asserted.

“It’s my first visit to Gaza. My daughter has been living here for 17 years after marrying a Palestinian who studied with her in India. I had not seen my three grandchildren for the last six years. I was obviously thrilled at the prospect of spending our first Eid together in Gaza”, said Lubna’s 67-year-old mother Fatima, who is visiting her here. Fatima is planning to go back to India on September 11 but still doesn’t know if and how she would be able to do so. “We hear that Egypt would be opening the Rafah crossing as part of the ceasefire deal. When my mother came the Representative Office of India in Ramallah was extremely helpful in coordinating her entry. I hope she has a safe exit,” Lubna said.

Having gone through the harrowing experience and witnessed massive death and destruction, Lubna’s mother hopes that there would be peace and quiet and common people would be able to live normally in Gaza. Fatima was excitedly looking forward to what she thought was the happiest Eid of her life which she would be spending with her grandchildren and daughter, living in Gaza for the last 17 years, but it turned into a nightmare and she now thanks ‘Allah’ for keeping her dear ones safe.

“I didn’t know that my joy was going to be so short lived and instead of being happy at being with my loved ones, I would be constantly praying to God to keep them safe,” she said. Fatima’s eldest granddaughter, Karima, who can speak Hindi despite having spent all her 16 years in Gaza, has represented Palestine at various music contests in Europe. “Our grandma had a very tough time when all the bombings started. We couldn’t sleep all night. A house right behind ours was completely demolished one night and we were all shaking at the impact and our house trembled too,” Karima said.

“We would be huddled together the whole night and take turns to sleep during the day keeping a strict vigil. We took strength from each other. The sight of death and destruction was traumatic,” the teenager said recalling scenes from the nearly month-long Israeli-Hamas conflict that has killed over 1,800 Palestinians and nearly 70 Israelis. Fatima came to Gaza some two months ago through Egypt, well in advance for the festival, and recalls some exciting times with her grandchildren.

“All the three, two granddaughters and one grandson, are into music and exceptionally good at it. The eldest one plays a local instrument Oud, the second one violin and the third tabla. They are learning music at the Edward Said Music Centre. I had an exciting time with them before it all got messy and the war started”, said the elderly woman who retired as a headmistress from a school in Kashmir.