Shocked by a brutal Israeli assault that led to more than 2100 Palestinian casualties in Gaza, 500 of which amounted to child fatalities, students at the Cape Town branch of the World Seido Karate Organisation have united to collectively raise R25 000 towards relief efforts in the conflict-hit region.
Gaza was the scene of an eight-week long conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian resistance groups, which stemmed from the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli settlers, and the subsequent retaliation killing of a Palestinian youth. During the assault, thousands of bombs rained down on the tiny coastal strip, considered one of the most densely populated places on earth. An open-ended truce was agreed on the 26th August, leaving Gaza with untold damage to its infrastructure as well as psychological damage on the part of its citizens.
The funds, raised through an appeal amongst the senior student division at Seido Cape Town, were donated to humanitarian relief group Gift of the Givers (GOTG) during a special presentation on Wednesday evening. The handover, which took place at the Seido dojo in Athlone, was attended by GOTG founder, Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman.
During an address to the students, Sooliman shared several stories of GOTG’s recent medical mission to the region, highlighting some of the gruesome firsthand accounts of the war, as narrated by Gazans themselves.
He also took time to praise those in the war-stricken Strip for the positive attitude and optimism shown post-conflict.
“People were laughing, smiling, and they were at the beach till 1am in the morning. They were rebuilding, and they refused to let the deaths of 2100 people put the down,” he said.
Upon being handed the check, Sooliman declared that the funds would be channeled into the paediatric wards of several hospitals in Gaza’s neglected south, including those in the border towns of Rafah and Khan Yunis. The funds would be specifically designated for supplies, and the necessary equipment lacking in these wards.
Speaking after the handover, Seido Cape Town chief instructor, Jun Shihan Anver Wahab, said he had initially appealed to students with the hope of personally travelling to Gaza, and handing the funds over to a local relief organization. However, those plans fell through due to problems with obtaining a visa from Egyptian authorities.
“My original plan was to donate it to an organization in Gaza to build wells and dig boreholes, because I found out that water was scarce there. This is how I wanted to assist them,” he said.
With those plans failing to come to fruition, he admitted the decision to go had been an emotional one, based on a compulsion to want to do something constructive towards the rebuilding of Gaza.
“What would I have achieved by going there alone? I would have had to align myself with an organization like Gift of the Givers, but they had already left. Then of course applying for a visa to the Egyptian embassy was a very difficult challenge. We were refused several times, and eventually I gave up on that idea,” he explained.
The collection drive is the biggest humanitarian venture ever embarked on by Seido Cape Town, but by no means the only. The organisation has conducted several similar collection drives in the past, particularly on a local front.
“Every Eid we have a collection drive at our dojo which involves all the students. We have a massive group of people who donate food, clothing, and sometimes even monetary contributions. This is then distributed to the poorer families (in the community),” he said.
Jun Shihan Wahab further expressed satisfaction at the manner in which GOTG had chosen to designate the funds.
“To help the children of Gaza, that was my aim, and that is the aim of our members,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)