Fears grow as lives lost in Middle East

Aseel Tayah at one of her Bukjeh events in Bunjil Place. Picture: ROB CAREW. 334046_06

by Sahar Foladi

South East protestors have joined a pro-Palestinian rally of more than 10,000 people, gathered in front of the State Library in Melbourne on Sunday 15 October.

Bukjeh organisation founder, Aseel Tayah was there with a heavy heart as she lost three members from her organisation based in Gaza which had established multiple toy libraries for children.

“They are my family and now they’re dead, gone,” she said as tears flowed down.

“None of them were even 30 years old. They had so much more ahead.”

Ms Tayah is an artist, singer and a performer living in City of Casey, telling stories of ‘Bukjeh’ meaning the small belongings carried by refugees as they escape war-torn countries for a better future.

A Palestinian, her entire family is in Palestine in the occupied West Bank – a situation that keeps her awake day and night.

“I’m worried for my family and whoever of my friends is left in Gaza.

“My brother and sister work with an Israeli organisation and now they’re a target (of Israeli settlers).

“I tell my sibling don’t you dare set a foot outside the house, even for work.”

Israel continues striking Gaza, home to more than 2 million Palestinians, as a reprisal to Hamas’s deadly attacks which killed an estimated 1400 Israelis on Saturday 7 October.

So far, Palestinian health ministry states more than 2600 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 720 children.

According to Ms Tayah, no one is safe anywhere.

“All the Muslims even outside Gaza are a target of the angry Israeli settlers.”

Ms Tayah had sent donations collected by the community for the orphans in Gaza on Saturday morning, which a member of her team went to pick up.

She received the money just as the war broke out.

“She found little electricity to charge her phone to tell me. She’s sorry for failing to fulfill her responsibility as she hasn’t delivered the amount to the orphanage.

“She said, if I live, I’ll deliver the amount but if I die the money will go with me, I will not use it.”

Federal and state MPs attended a community vigil at Caulfield on 13 August for Israeli victims of the Hamas terror attacks.

Among them was Isaacs MP and federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus who posted: “Tonight I stood with my community.

“Together we mourned the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust. And we stood united against the ongoing atrocities of Hamas.

“Australia stands with Israel. We stand with the Jewish community.

“And we always will.”

Hotham MP and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil posted that it was “an incredible evening at a peaceful and deeply sad vigil for the victims of the Hamas terrorist attack”.

“As one rabbi said to me, the wound is still open.

“My heart goes out to this beautiful community. They are deeply, deeply suffering and Australians stand with them in their grief.”

Executive Officer for the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia (JCMA), Helen Heath says the loss of lives is tragic.

“There aren’t any words. We share with them their pain and suffering.

“As people of faith we can hold everybody in our prayers and hope for the best and peace.”

Ms Heath is also a development officer at the City of Greater Dandenong’s Interfaith Network and on the board since 2000.

She wishes for the world leaders to engage in “peaceful talks” for a solution.

“We have so many people from all faiths living in City of Greater Dandenong and everyone is affected.

“It’s just very sad that it’s happening, people here are unsettled, and it has created tensions here.”

Dayla Sabawi, a restaurant owner in Greater Dandenong, has family members in Palestine. She says the impact on her and her family here is unbearable.

“We’re very frightened and very worried.

“Every day the situation escalates and it’s harder to reach them.”

Ms Sabawi’s husband’s family are impacted directly by the war as his uncle’s house was bombed.

“It’s scary. Gaza has experienced bombings from Israel, but it was never this bad and constant.

“This time it’s the worst ever we’ve all seen especially when Israel has cut off water, food, aid and electricity.

“We are in contact with them every couple of hours whenever we can reach them.”

However, they’re only able to reach out if the generator or the emergency power box continues. Once it stops it’ll be hard to make get through to them, furthering increasing anxiety for Ms Sabawi’s family.

“We’re not eating well, we’re crying and shaking every time there’s a call from home.

“We’re all on the news and on the phone.”

President of Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Nasser Mashni says the situation in Gaza is the result of 16 years of an air, sea and land blockade.

“We’re hearing from people in Palestine, the most horrible stories of death, survival, children dying, families choosing to huddle together in one room because they want to die together.

“The fact that all this is happening and we’re begging the world to do something for us, stand up for us, speak up for us.

“Our pleas are falling on deaf ears.”

He says the international community are complicit in the atrocities the world is seeing against Palestinians.

“They’ve allowed Israel to get to this point.

“They’ve not pulled Israel out. There’s absolute complicity on behalf of the West in allowing Israel to go unchecked for 75 years and that’s why Israel is like this now and we’re suffering,” he said.

The impact of the war especially on Palestine-Australians has not helped with Israel’s white and blue colours lit across Australian landmarks in solidarity.

“I’m disgusted. I feel completely othered,” Mr Mashni said.

“This is the first time I’ve felt I don’t belong in Australia.

“I’ve experienced racism in my life, but this is the first time I felt like I don’t belong.”