Chris McDonnell: No place is safe.

As the days and weeks roll by and the television images seem to repeat themselves, it is all too easy for our senses to become numb. From the first hours of the October 7th attack by Hamas on Southern Israel and the capture of over 200 Israeli hostages through all the subsequent fighting we find ourselves, mid-way through Advent, in an ever-deepening mess.

With the Israeli Government claiming that the main hospital in Gaza was a cover for entrance to the underground tunnel network built by Hamas, the hospital authorities were told to evacuate staff and patients and move south down the Gaza strip before a planned attack on the facility. How that was to be achieved was not a matter of detail.

Likewise other residents in the immediate neighbourhood were advised to pack up and go.

So, we saw streams of people carrying bundles of hastily prepared belongings set out on foot or for those fortunate enough to have transport, in over-laden cars, seeking shelter.

Pause a while and imagine you were faced with the same demand. How would you cope?

The war followed them to Khan Younis and so they had to move again. Casualty rates were high and medical facilities sparse. In spite of international calls for a cease fire, fighting resumed with greater intensity after the seven-day period of hostage/prisoner exchange.

Many thousands have died, men, women and children. At some point there has to be discussion of the future accommodation between Israel and Palestinians. The standoff has gone on for too long, it has cost too much. Talking must begin.

These words were written a few days back.

Having been told

in no uncertain terms

to pack up and leave the North

for safety, the journey South began,

only for the story to be repeated.

Greeted by onslaught round Khan Younis

the furtive crowds were told to move again

as ground was laid waste about them.

Pleading hands and dried mouths

aching limbs drift pass. ”I thirst!”

but the water bottles were dry.

Hunger and tongue-swelling thirst

worsens by the hour as tanks in the South

wreak vengeance on unarmed women

and children crying in their mother’s arms

no place is safe, nowhere free from fear

homes left behind, toys and clothes, gone.

“Where shall I sleep tonight? Will I wake in

the morning? Daddy has gone missing“

“he’ll be back soon“, the lie is murmured,


that he won’t be coming home at all.

Countless stories of pain and grief have been written into the rough roads of that perilous journey south down the Strip. T S Eliot spoke of showing us “fear in a handful of dust”. Here this Advent that fear is graphically put before us, stone by stone in the detail of this journey.

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