In an earlier post, I wrote about how the older children in the YMCA in Gaza seem to have an unofficial responsibility to drum louder on the tabla when an Israeli warplane goes overhead to try to distract the little ones. I wondered how this came about, and asked Issa, the head of our main local partners The Canaan Institute of New Pedagogy, and also of the YMCA at the time. in the process of explanation, I got an insight into Issa’s personality.

Issa explains. During the last war, in 2008/09, while Gaza was being near carpet bombed by the Israeli air force, he roamed Gaza’s streets to get the facilitators and animators experienced from many summer games, and convinced them by force of character to come run impromptu games with him to try to calm Gaza’s children. As there are no shelters for Gaza’s population, it was better to be clear of buildings. And so they were drawing fantastic floor murals as the bombers flew overhead, and he got the animators to get the kids to clap and sing when there were explosions to distract them.

The first day he got the animators, they took a long time to come out of their homes and get on the bus with Issa. And so, mid-drive, he switched off the van in the street, while the bombing was ongoing, and turned to the animators. “We’re all going to die some day. It could be today, or it could be another day. But these children today need us, and we have been given an opportunity to help them. Don’t be late tomorrow.”

Issa and the Cable Drum

Which they weren’t. One of his team later told me, that after the war he had gone to Issa and thanked him. Grateful to have had an opportunity that many people don’t get, the chance to help others in times of extreme crisis.