The building in which the American International School in Gaza is situated is no longer beautiful. The damage can be seen in many corners of the school — in the front door, in the director’s office, in the cafeteria or in the computer room.
“We have become Iraq,” a dusty man said while bending down on the floor, trying to clear away the debris from an explosion that rocked the school early Saturday morning.
The principal’s office only contains torn apart chairs and shelves, with black big spots on the walls; the cafeteria’s chairs are now black, while the computer room is no longer hi-tech.
Ribhi Salem, the school’s principal and director general, whose office was blown up early this morning, expressed regret over what happened to his school.
“I received a phone call around 3 o’clock in the morning from the guards, telling me that a quite large number of masked gunmen stormed the school and arrested the guards, confiscated their cell phones, belongings and keys, then kept them in an isolated room.
“After half an hour, the masked men broke into the administration office and stole a large number of computers, scanners and printers; they spilled fuel and then they bombed the director’s office and the cafeteria, after they had already kept the guards about 400 meters away in an open area.”
The school’s principal confirmed that his school’s curriculum is an American one.
“We call this school the ‘international American school’ because we believe that the American curriculum is the best in the world and we want our children to be exposed to such a wonderful curriculum. We have nothing to do with American foreign policy; we have no ties with any American officials. I cannot imagine why this happened to our school.”
The school’s principal commented on the recent Palestinian security plan: “as any ordinary Palestinian resident, I only hear about security plans, while I see nothing on the ground; I call upon the Palestinian presidency and government to assume their responsibilities.”
Palestinian interior security minister, Hani Qawasmi, launched last week a security plan across the Palestinian territories, in a bid to contain internal unrest. Despite such an announcement, a series of bombings and attacks have taken place, the latest of which was the attack on the educational institution.
“A nightmare, really a nightmare.” With these words teachers from the school voiced their reactions to what happened to their workplace.
Lobna Al-Rayes, a teacher of five-year-old pupils, said, “we teach children how to live in peace; what happened today is really very bad and a nightmare for us. The school is very nice and great; we don’t like terrorists.”
Islam Alkhaldi, teacher of math and science, voiced the same reaction when asked about his feeling amidst such devastation. “It’s like a nightmare; education has nothing to do with politics, nor does it have nothing to do with what’s going here in the Gaza Strip.
“It is all about communication and knowledge — how to make students able to communicate with the external world. It is an American school, but we do teach here the Islamic religion; we do teach social and Arabic books. It is really a nightmare.”
It is a nightmare not only for the American school, but also for the entire Gaza Strip — a nightmare not only experienced Saturday morning but throughout the past four or five months.
During that time, Gaza has been rocked by various incidents involving murder, robbery, abductions, family feuds, factional fighting and bombings that have claimed the lives of at least 150 Palestinians, injured some hundreds of others and destroyed several private and public properties.
As of today, just a few hours after the American school was bombed, gunmen attacked a local journalist in the nearby Jabalya refugee camp, sparking one more family feud in the Gaza Strip which has slipped into greater impoverishment since an international economic embargo was imposed on the Palestinian government after January 2006’s parliamentary elections.
The question here — will these nightmares soon come to end or will Gaza see more and more, despite repeated calls for calm and restraint and even despite a series of security plans, the latest of which did not prevent today’s nightmare?
Rami Almeghari is currently contributor to several media outlets including the Palestine Chronicle, aljazeerah.info, IMEMC, The Electronic Intifada and Free Speech Radio News. Rami is also a former senior English translator at and editor in chief of the international press center of the Gaza-based Palestinian Information Service. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.