Column: “Assuming I’m still alive”

by Nobuo Ishida, Editorial Writer

It must be surprising to hear a 10-year-old girl say: “I wake up and think what I should do that day, assuming I’m still alive that morning.” She adds that she can never look ahead to the future, since she might die at any moment.

Ryoji Fujiwara, 41, is a journalist who heard this girl’s comment in the Gaza Strip, part of the autonomous territory of the Palestinians, and sent his article to the Chugoku Shimbun four years ago. The Gaza Strip has suffered repeated destruction as a result of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The dire desperation in the hearts of the children living there is greatly distressing.

The Gaza Strip is being attacked again. Over 700 people, including children, have reportedly been killed in air strikes that began at the end of 2008. A message reached Mr. Fujiwara, grim news about the family at whose house he once stayed: seven of the 11-member family have died. “Adults and children alike are hiding in their houses and holding their breath,” he says. “The anxiety and horror are now beyond our control.”

The area of the Gaza Strip resembles an internment camp with no place to flee. The densely populated land, where 1.5 million people live, is littered with high fences and people are unable to move about freely. I worry what happens to its residents when the area is bombarded from the sky, the sea, and tanks on the ground.

Anne Frank, persecuted by the Nazis, wrote of her misery in the diary she kept while in hiding. “I have come to a place where I no longer care whether I live or die,” she said. I ask myself if there is any difference now between Anne Frank and the Palestinian children. The Jewish people, who have suffered tragedy, too, should reflect more profoundly on this matter of life and death.

(Originally published on January 9, 2009)

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