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Maltese-Arab woman on a mission to Gaza

'All I want is peace...and a solution to be found...'

Sanaa El-Nahhal and her daughter Lina watching the horrors of the war in Gaza unfold. Photo: Jason Borg

Sanaa El-Nahhal and her daughter Lina watching the horrors of the war in Gaza unfold. Photo: Jason Borg

Sanaa El-Nahhal, a Maltese-Arab from Palestine, flitted from one carton box to another anxiously hoping they will be filled with donations of medicine, food and supplies to take to Gaza.

Having lived in Malta since 1989, the 40-year-old woman is the only member of her family, outside her immediate one, who is not caught up in the war in Gaza.

But that is exactly where she wants to be and she is collecting supplies from her friends and generous souls to take with her on her journey home.

She will head off in the next 10 days, leaving behind her husband and two young girls in San Ġwann, to take supplies and moral support to her family in Rafah.

Speaking to The Times over the phone from his home in Gaza, her 38-year-old brother Samir El-Nahhal, a medical doctor, said he feared for his life and he has been unable to sleep.

"There is no light, no gas, no petroleum, and no bread. It's very cold and dangerous. You never know from where the attacks are going to come, from land, from sea, or from the sky," he explained.

He had just treated young men between the ages of 13 and 15 who had been hit by tank bombs. But Ms El-Nahhal is putting on a strong face.

"I don't want to sit here and do nothing like everyone else. I want to go there and help them," she said.

But what if she gets hurt?

"Nothing will happen to me. That is what I believe. But if God has other plans, so be it. If I die, I will die. There is nothing I can do stop it."

She believes in destiny: that everyone has their lives written out for them, including the instant of their death. So if she is meant to die today she will, regardless of where she is.

She says she does not hate the Israelites: "Just like with us Muslims, some are extremists and some aren't. All I want is peace, and for a solution to be found... and for the history to be arranged."

So is she against the violence by Hamas?

"Yes. Although the retaliation has been disproportionate, Hamas gave Israel the small reason they were looking for to start the massacre, by firing those rockets."

Despite having all her family in the line of fire, Ms El-Nahhal is in high spirits. Before talking about the situation in Gaza she takes out photos and newspaper cuttings of activities she has organised in Malta, where she says she feels welcome and loved.

By profession she is an Arabic teacher but she says that during her lessons she does much more than teach the language. She teaches the culture and tries to highlight the similarities between different people rather than their differences.

She has lots of Maltese friends whom she had first gotten to know while teaching Arabic, or organising intercultural activities. These are the ones who have so far donated most to her cause.

She noticed that her frame of mind has changed a lot since she has been in Malta.

"In Palestine it is expected that you have 13 or 14 children. Although it's a bit embarrassing to admit, I only have two. But society is different here. Over there we try to keep the Palestinian population alive - otherwise we will die out.

"Even the value of life is different. In Malta if your child dies it is a moment of great sadness and shock for the parents. Over there, it is an everyday occurrence. So you have to move on, and have more!"

She is in constant contact with her family back home and she is struck by their positivity.

"I cry when I watch the news but they are always joking about things. They joke about how they have to cook with firewood, for example. They have become used to that way of life."

To get in touch with Ms El-Nahhal and donate food and medication to the Palestinian people, call on 9923 8638 or e-mail [email protected]. Donations can be made to the Bank of Valletta account 4001783940-2.

[email protected]

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