Reporters on the Job

Which Way in Gaza? Visiting the ruins of Neveh Dekelim, a former Israeli settlement in Gaza, was pretty surreal, given how different it looked less than a year ago, says staff writer Ilene Prusher. "Last August we journalists had lived there and gotten to know our way around the settlement, which was the largest in the Gaza Strip. Now, we could hardly tell which way was which, or where our old (rented) house was situated, because all of the homes had been demolished."

Ilene says that most of the former settlement is now just rubble. "I found myself thinking aloud that it was a pity that all of these homes had been demolished when so many Palestinians in Gaza are living in such difficult, overcrowded housing conditions."

But her Palestinian assistant disagreed. "I prefer rubble to letting all these corrupt people in the security forces live in big villas," he told Ilene. She notes that many Israelis and Palestinians said that the settlers' homes – built in US-sized proportions – were not appropriate for Palestinians in Gaza. Both sides worried that the houses would go to powerful Palestinians, rather than to those in need. "There are plans to build high-density housing," she says, "but so far, no projects have gotten going."

Walk – and Walk: Staff writer Danna Harman took a lot of negotiation with Acción Social to hit upon a village in Colombia that they were willing to take her to. "I wanted to go somewhere relatively remote so as to get a sense of the difficulties involved in resettlement, but the officials kept saying they were worried about my safety," she says. "We sat around in Montereya looking at a big map and trying to agree. Every time my photographer and I suggested somewhere, they called army commanders in the region and then said no and suggested somewhere nearby. We began to suspect that the officials (who were to accompany us) were saying no because they were not keen on the big hikes involved.

Indeed, it was a long trip. "We started at 5 a.m., and drove for 4 1/2 hours. We parked and headed into what would be a 5-hour walk," Danna says. While the government officials who accompanied them hired mules, Danna says she managed the round trip on foot. "That impressed the socks off Francisco and Juan Carlos, the officials who accompanied us. Both looked, by the end of the day, like they needed a vacation."

To Danna, though, the day ended on a perfect note. "On our way back, it started bucketing rain. And then, at the very end, a double rainbow came out."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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