Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Alice Rothchild post #12 - 3/30/15

Part One: We Don’t Hate You,   

                                            We Just Don’t Understand What You Are Thinking Of Us 

Another sunny day in Gaza, another ride along the beckoning Mediterranean, another trip where the smell of raw sewerage permeates the car for miles.  We are heading to El Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital. El Wafa means kindness or truthfulness, and by the end of the morning I wonder if there may actually be an undescribed Palestinian affliction: too much goodness. 

We meet with Dr. Basman Alashi, engineer, manager and now an extraordinary hospital director and Dr. Ayman Badr, rehabilitation doctor and medical director who received a BA in Rumania, a masters in Cairo, and who has finished his clinical exams for medical school but has been unable to finish his thesis as he has been trapped in Gaza without a permit. Moussa Abu Mostafa, a PhD student in occupational therapy, head of the rehabilitation team, joins us as well.

Dr. Basman, speaks with a formal sincerity and heartfelt openness; he begins by talking about the facility here, the hospital, lab, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, an elder section where folks with no family supports and the need for 24 hour medical care can live out their days at no charge. There is an outreach program to homes in Rafah and Khan Yunis, There are plans to open up other sites in other areas of Gaza. 90% of the wounded are “needy, poor, cannot afford a shekel for a taxi, so they stay at home, they have pride and they are not going to ask [for help], so we ask them if it is okay to ask what they need.”

But I want to know more about the war; El Wafa Hospital was repeatedly attacked and ultimately leveled.  For me this is unimaginable, I am trying to wrap my brain around bombing a rehabilitation hospital. We look at photos before and after: an extensive modern medical facility reduced to a massive pile of rubble. Dr. Basman explains that “in the days before the war, they felt something was going to happen, there was tension in the building, so they prepared an emergency plan for each patient. Do they need to stay with us or can we train their families, so a few chose to go home, seventeen cannot leave, and then the war started.”

The first day or two were okay. “Day three we were hit by artillery. [This is said calmly but this is a mind boggling concept, the Israelis are bombing a rehabilitation hospital, does this bother anyone out there in international justice land?]. “The hospital stood one kilometer from the border on vacant land.  We were hit in the middle of the night, no warning, just a direct hit to the hospital, to the fourth floor.  We had men on that floor but we moved them to the first floor for safety, so we had no injuries. We thought it was a mistake. Israelis know it is a hospital. It is clearly marked.”
“We just went through our daily activity as nothing happened, afternoon day three, another hit, larger than first four; at that time we went to Shifa Hospital for press release, talked in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, German, telling the world, this is unacceptable, we are connected under Geneva Convention, and so forth. Eight volunteers stayed with us as human shield. At night, I drove them to the hospital under fire; they gave me an ambulance, I gave them free access inside the hospital so they can report any activities showing to the world what kind of patients we treat, unconscious, cannot move, cannot feel, some of them sleeping for year or three, coma for ten days.”

“But we continued to use the media to express our concern that Israeli must not target the hospital. I asked Israelis if there is any evidence [of militant activity in the hospital]?  The army released classified pictures saying this is El Wafa Hospital and a red dot saying this is launching missile.  We looked at the “hospital”, this is not the hospital, this is three to five kilometers away from us. [FYI, according to international law, it is never okay to bomb a hospital].  We made another press release, showed evidence, showed how buildings are totally different so Israelis are misled.”

“But Israeli continued asking the hospital and the area to evacuate.  On 17th July, 9 pm we received a call, pretended to speak Arabic but Hebrew accent, asked us to evacuate the hospital.  We took it as a normal call because all of Shejaria received such a call. Five minutes later, a robo call to evacuate, five minutes later a call from Israeli army, you need to evacuate; we will start targeting the hospital in ten minutes.”

Five minutes later, bombing from artillery, the air, we lost power, no electricity, the 8,000 square meter hospital went dark. We cannot see our hands, we had patients that need oxygen, breath through a tube. At that time we decided to evacuate for the safety of patients and staff, ambulances were scarce.  So we moved them in regular cars, two to four per car, carrying them in bed sheets, just under fire and we are moving and ask everyone around the hospital to move these helpless patients that they do not even know what is going on.”

“We were able to move them safely.  The Red Cross, Gail, called saying I have special message from Israeli army, how much time do you need to evacuate the hospital? I asked the management and doctors, they said we are waiting for a special equipped ambulance to carry four patients, with oxygen. I called her and said I need two hours. She said, okay, I will convey the message to the army.  Fifteen minutes later she called back.  The bombing continuing at the hospital while she is talking to them, chaos and darkness.  We lose our sense of direction. What should we do if not trained to dodge bomb?  She called me back, I have another special message from highest authority from Israeli army.  They will not target the hospital.  But the demand was not fast enough to get to the lower command. I was emotionally upset, it is too late. She said I am just a messenger. I told her she should say do not target the hospital. Which side are you on? Israelis know exactly who we are.”
“On March 17, we moved to a maternity clinic, Sahaba Clinic in the middle of Gaza City, and moved from 8,000 square meters, to 800 square meters. We were not able to take any equipment and medicine, just running to save our lives and our patients’ lives.   With the help of God we evacuated safely.  The next day we need medicine, clothes, bumpers, sheets, etc. At that time I went to the hospital which was a war zone at 10 am to look.  The damage and fire was still on, severe damage to every floor. We could stay no more than 30 minutes, drones flying over us, bombs everywhere.  We felt safety is our main concern so we left. We were able to take some medications, enough for one to two days.  We left the area without anything else.”

“On March 18 we called the Red Cross to arrange escort to the hospital to protect us and not to be targeted.  Israelis target ambulances. The Red Cross refused because the Israelis refused to give them safety, so we stood without any equipment, without any medicine or machines that better the lives, a 30 year investment. We extend our hands to local and international organizations.  Many supported us, brought us beds, sheets, water, food, medicines, free, so we started from zero building up the hospital. We took care of patients as day care, also received new patients, wounded, surgery done [elsewhere] and they need rehabilitation.  We are the only comprehensive completed medical rehabilitation hospital in Gaza City.  There is few that does similar services, not as comprehensive as ours.  We receive patients from the Ministry of Health.”

“The war ended on August 23rd, the building we are in now belong to El Wafa Hospital but it is far away from the original.  We were planning to move the hospital to Gaza City and this building was planned for elderly home. This building was donated by a Palestinian doctor, el Alami, the land given by the government, so once the war ended we moved all our patients to here, at Zahar City. We shared with elderly care home, now half hospital, half elderly care center.”

“We start as a team rebuilding the hospital, equipment, medicine, 19 clinics from the hospital were destroyed. Here we are now 225 days later, we are back in business, not of choice. Gaza needs our services due to blockade, continue preventing Palestinians go outside to get medical help. This puts us in a harder position, despite we have no budget or resources, we must continue our services even if only with our hands and comfort them with our feelings and they continue to improve their life.  The world saw us through the eyes of cameras and many organizations support us…UNDP approved us to enhance, extend this building another floor so we can accommodate more patients.  WHO, UNRWA, UNDP, Interpal, Australian charity care, Malaysian came to our aid. I am not saying we are proud of what we are doing.  The specialties that we carry, none similar in Gaza.  People used to pay thousands of dollars in Egypt or Israel, but since El Wafa was here, they came to us for minimum charge.  El Wafa is specialty, unique in service, in equipment, no one is similar to its equipment.”
“Everything we will see is donated even the food, tubes, needles. Who supports the hospital is Palestinian people, no other continuous income, especially Muslims, part of being a Muslim is helping the poor.  10% of donations go to management, this is low.  The staff put in tremendous efforts, as a team and this is how we work, a tremendous effort to bring back the hospital.  20% of the staff lost their homes, many lived close to the hospital or Shejaria, close to the border.  Our staff during the war, they were at the hospital 48 to 72 hours a time, leaving their families. This is my duty, the others who are not direct services they stayed home. Once we came here, all came back.  We lost two staff at home. One was walking in the street, a man with three daughters, he stopped by the grocery store, bought figs.  He was targeted by a drone walking alone; Israeli did not distinguish from woman, man, child, resistance, young, or old.  [The other staff] her home was destroyed, she went to the UNRWA school [for shelter] and it was targeted. She was hit by shrapnel in her head, her brain was out, she was 21 years old, unmarried.”

“Our concern was how to serve patients, we all risked our life just to continue. We had one lady with cancer in her spinal cord, no sensation in lower part of body.  If a bomb hit her, she would not feel her body frying.  We cannot leave such patient, we cannot live with ourselves, feeling that we left a person who was breathing. As Muslims, serving patients is first, serving us is second.”

“Many patients cannot come this far in our new facility, outpatient services too far, no transport, so we have to go to them and it costs. Only in Rafah and Khan Yunis, the areas really devastated, some of them do not understand the extent of their injuries, very poor, they may not know how to treat them. Need to rehabilitate the soul itself, teach the wife and the family, show him the love. This is 50% of recovery.  We have one patient on chronic ventilators. Now he is child, 10 years old, he was injured with his family, missile in cervical spine, C2 quadriplegia.  He lost his father, brother, uncle, girl twin, and four cousins.  His mother was pregnant, they were farming, bombed from a drone.  Whenever Israelis see a group, sitting in the farm, they were just eating, drone targeted them.”
“[Another patient is] two years old, father was killed, mother was injured, he is in coma, not on a ventilator.  He has a deep brain injury, he is at home now.  He was moved to another house, their house was destroyed, we were following them; he has gastronomy tube.”

“The new building is U shaped, the right side is the hospital, the left side is the elderly, the middle is management, so all separate.  We still have a problem that our space is too small, so children and adults are mixed. We had 17,000 square meters before and a garden, this facility is 4,800 square meters.”  The old hospital was very high tech with a high level of care and included a gym, swimming pool, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, video conferencing.  “We lost a lot.  It is difficult that we lost all this but we are all optimists and we look at the positive side of any events, because we are rehabilitation, anything we face, we look at the positive side of it. The hospital destroyed completely on the 23rd, thanks God we are all safe. We sent a message: we don’t hate you, we just don’t understand what you are thinking of us.  We are just human beings like anything else, we live on planet earth; we all look alike.  The Israeli response was the hospital was a terror site, like all other bombings, they justify everything.”

We ask if there have been an independent investigations. “Officially no, but media did extended investigation, eight independent foreigners with full access to the hospital, they have not reported anything. There is no justification to target children, hospitals, [he lists all the buildings targeted]. The only thing is to terrorize people to leave. So then the young boys out of school and working, the girl married too young, it is circle of devastation.  If I don’t give the father a chance to work, that means a problem in the family, but Gaza still survive.  If Israeli came to the hospital for treatment, my glasses looking to him as a human being and to treat.”

“Some departments like urodynamics, diabetic food center, hyperbaric center, the only one in Gaza, are not up and running, patients are waiting.  The hyperbaric, limbs were saved, five year old wounds were healed; we cannot get another one. I cannot plan where I will be in two hours.”  He says that it is harder now to find donors.  The Islamic Bank in Saudi Arabia four months ago offered four million dollars if the Israelis will agree not to target the hospital and Gaza will remain stable, so no donation. Larger organizations and governments are not donating, but individuals still donate who “believe in cause of Palestine. There are also financial restrictions on wire transfer, so bank calls, we have a wire, we need a contract, where it is coming from, what it is for.  We need to show purpose, restrictions from banks outside of Gaza, it has to go to a certain group that is not labeled as a ‘terrorist.’ We see this as a challenge, we don’t have a choice, succeed or just die, we will continue.”

“Another part of the tragedy, of the siege: killing the victim is part of the crime but also forbidding the victim to say we are victims and are human beings.  This is a human feeling.” This is the other face of the crime.

The tour of the hospital starts with an ambulance that was targeted by a drone filled with nails, we see the entry holes in the back door and the exit holes in the front, (dear IDF soldiers, why would you send a drone attack to the back of an ambulance???); they have not been able to replace the fractured glass so the windows are covered with cardboard sheets.
Ambulance targeted by drone during Israeli attack, summer 2014

 The first floor has a large room for physical therapy equipment; the area is clean and orderly.  The nursing stations and patient rooms are improvised but functional; Dr. Basman knows every patient and his or her story.  He greets the conscious patients warmly, there is a lot of joking around, moments of tenderness, a profound sense of caring.  The windows are open, a fresh breeze blows through the rooms, there is no antiseptic smell, families cluster around beds.  The most tragic patients are in various chronic states of unconsciousness and physical constriction from a variety of causes, motor vehicle accidents, cardiac arrest during labor probably due to a difficult intubation and an urgent C section, brain tumor.  But the patient who will always stay with me is the little boy, Hamad al Reify, with the high level spinal cord injury and quadriplegia.  

When the electricity goes out, he has 30 minutes on his battery run ventilator. They have no cardiac and respiratory monitors so nurses sit near his bed monitoring him with their eyes and their hands. He has a tracheostomy, but is able to communicate and has an unbearably winning smile.  He jokes, he dreams, he was given some toys, but he sent them home for his sister.  The staff clearly love him.  Some IT type person has designed a mechanism that fits under his chin and allows him to change the channels on the TV.  Later we see him in a reclining type wheelchair, basking in the sun. If he is lucky, he will spend his life at El Wafa. The staff has not received a salary in the past six months.

Dr. Basman ends with a message to the world. “Gaza is fine.  What you see from the outside, it looks devastated.  But if you live among the Gazans, you won’t leave. I choose not to return to America [where he lived for a number of years]. We are human.  I am born here.  You don’t have a choice where you will be born, but I have a choice for whom I am.”
Too much goodness.

Part Two:  Here Death, There Death, But Let Me Do Something Useful For People

The Wefaq Society for Women and Child Care founded in 2010, seeks to achieve gender equality and improvement for vulnerable children through economic empowerment and psychosocial support in one of the most challenged areas of the Gaza Strip.  We meet with the leadership and women involved with the organization over coffee as the electricity flickers off (there is no fuel for a generator) and the stories emerge in a warm, open, sisterly environment. (Consider that it is extremely hard for the staff to work when there are no functioning computers let alone functioning civil government.) The situation in the southern Gaza Strip is more difficult and more miserable than many areas, but largely ignored by the media, far from Gaza City.  The society has its roots in the Gaza Community Mental Health Program but we are told that Dr. Eyad el Saraj, (founder of GCMHP and for years the only psychiatrist in the Strip), urged them to be independent; they now have a department for women, children, building capacity, and media.  Another branch in the al-Shoka area, the most marginalized part of Rafah, offers psychosocial support in partnership with ActionAid Palestine, funded by Disaster Emergency Committee-DEC. 

“We are here also implementing our project which is psychosocial empowerment, improvement for women and livelihood, a fund for small projects for women who have been bombed and domestic violence, and widows, divorced, and abandoned. Some of the women lost their livelihood during the war, left their sheep and goats and escaped to the center of Rafah during the war. Black Week started on Friday; they [Israeli forces] were trying to occupy the east area [of the Gaza Strip], they destroyed everything, animals, trees and more but the media doesn’t reflect the picture. Bombing and destruction followed us to the sea shore by F16s.   After [the people] leave the area they try to come back during a cease fire, but they were bombed during the cease fire, intentionally. Many died, injured, houses destroyed, they went to UNRWA shelters or to relatives.  They found after the cease fire, their sheeps and goats were dead, the only hospital in Rafah, Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital was bombed, (see:, the injured couldn’t reach, it was the center of occupation.  The hospital was bombed, so they died, so more casualties. This aggression to the hospital made big problem, bodies in the field, in the street.  To treat the injuries, they moved the injured to a private Kuwaiti Hospital, very small and very limited, no equipments.  The main hospital was closed, surrounded by soldiers.”

“The center has an emergency response plan, so once the war ended, Wefaq quickly responded in shelters, psychosocial program, intervention with people.  The staff went to the shelters, bring donors clothes, food, distribute them.  We are one of the members of the DEC emergency committee in community based organizations, (CBO) with UNRWA.  They formulated an emergency committee and started to respond, especially in the shelters and relatives’ houses.”
“People who are forced to leave especially in the eastern area were without anything, clothes, food, money, nothing; they escaped with nothing. Then it happened during the cease fire! [Israelis] attacked, there is no safe place in Rafah at that moment.  I was at home waiting for bombs. I live next to al-Shoka, my neighbor’s house was hit with a very big rocket; didn’t explode.  The civil defense removed the rocket, many cases like this.”  The women are laughing, gallows humor. “All Gaza like this.”
Another woman explains, “I was leaving my children home in Khan Yunis to bring help and needs for people in shelters. My children say to me, ‘Mom we are afraid, why should you leave us?’  I say, ‘Here death, there death, but let me do something useful for people.’  I was crossing Al Nasser Street while bombing happened ten meters away, another time in Khan Yunis, less than ten meters and the house, they bombed.” I ask, what about fear? “We are used to it, also it was Ramadan.  I have three kids, two in university, one in school. We are as adults, we are fearful, a frightening experience.” So Gazans are experiencing a terrifying unpredictable bombardment and they are fasting for Ramadan. 
Another woman adds, “I was waiting for morning to begin. At night you don’t know when the bombing will begin.  Because of the psychosocial pressure, all categories [of people are] nervous. So violence start to be in every category, not just against female, many incidents in shelters because of the distress of the people.”   (Think New Orleans, Katrina) “Immoral males make it for them, the same for war or not with war, in harassment, sexual threats. The shelter has two to three WCs, how the female teenager can go to the WC? They didn’t have water to wash, they tried to get to relatives’ houses to shower.  Women delivered in the shelters, no medical care, there is no nurses or doctors.  There is no professional equipment. Female doctors were refusing to come to the shelters because they were saying, ‘My children, how could I leave my children?’”
“A mother delivered [in the shelter] but she hadn’t any clothes for baby or for her, so they hired for her the near houses to get some clothes, hygiene was very miserable, UNRWA services were not as proper as they should be.  Three days in Ramadan, UNRWA had no food in shelters, director of UNRWA said he has nothing in Rafah, and probably beyond.  The emergency response of them was to go to restaurants to get food for people. They (the volunteers and NGOs) opened the restaurants even in Ramadan to cook the food. We are trying to get better the situation. We don’t like to talk about war, opens too many wounds, everyone is hurt.  Whatever you saw on TV it is an instant, not as much as actual situation. The Syam family, they bombed their house.  They escaped to the street but there is no place secure, thirteen killed in the street by bomb, plus injured; random killing of entire family, kids babies, many innocent families.”
At this point, the women are crying, the women in charge and the women being served share the same experiences, the same pain, the same tears.
Everyone reconstitutes their fragile psyches and the interview continues.  “Projects here in our branch: we are implementing in cooperation with UNDP, the legal protection for victims of war after the aggression on Gaza for female victims.  We didn’t talk about the other section of the project in al-Shoka, we are implementing psychosocial improvement and livelihood training. [We focus on areas like] gender based violence, IT, young women leadership program for university graduates to prepare them for job opportunities, CBOs, (community based organizations), private sectors.  We also had already finished two months ago a working placement for 200 girls, they got jobs like secretaries, all kinds of jobs, income for their families and this empowers them.  NGOs and us try to change the idea and traditions of people by awareness regarding women’s roles, there is acceptance that the female get out and work, life is very difficult so women will continue working after marriage.”
“We teach life skills, English, sewing, embroidery, but some projects closed, handicrafts and sewing for two years closed, no funds. “Now we are going to make a partnership with Actionaid, new project of psychosocial support and vocational training and small projects. With children six to twele, at al-Shoka, we do drawing, play psychodrama, individual counseling, group counseling, home and school visits, family interventions to fix the relationship between the mother and children.  For low achieving children, there are many success stories in al-Shoka area.”
“Domestic violence, it is a huge problem. Wefaq works on this, in alliance, for combat violence against women.  The procedures we follow, first awareness for the woman about her rights, about gender, the violence and types of violence. We consider this as part of protection for women.  Then home visits for intervention, talks to men, awareness, the same awareness to the men. We do community mediation, separate from the mosque, with mukhtars, leaders, university teachers, social workers, political activists. It is part of changing the tradition of the society towards women’s issues; we encourage women to get independent economically (sewing and handicrafts) especially those who are exposed to violence. Who has the income has the [power of] decision, this is a very effective intervention.”
“We still have problem of early marriage, 13 and up, especially in a bad economy. Previously we start to modify their attitude, but now tradition to make the girl get married early because of economic bad situation. They returned to the idea to get rid of her, the older man has multiple wives.”  There have also been issues of brothers-in-law killing their dead brother’s wives because of money, because of inheritance. “We are implementing legal protection, victims of legal violence, about inheritance, alimony, in divorce.  It is a tyrant’s law. I have three children, divorced, have not seen them for two days, [tears again].  One-and-a-half years ago they were taken by force, I raised them for ten years, I still have my daughter, but they may take her in a few months.” More tears.  So this is woman who is very aware of her rights and her children’s legal rights, she has the support of Wefaz, she has a lawyer, and still her husband has married another woman and has custody of two of their three children. “We are struggling for these rights.  All of us are victims, suffering from one aspect or another, all women in Gaza.”
Another woman is tapping her fingers on the desk.  “We should lead the victim’s movements to help ourselves and to help others.”  I ask if there are safe houses for women and learn that an attempt was made, but the government refused. “The Hamas government, of course they took my children.” We learn that in the past, on occasion, “we refer to Arabs’ safe home in Arab homes in ’48 Israel, to get safe. Now this cannot happen, the border is closed. Hamas and Israel occupation are here and there.”
The center teaches health workshops, “we have health workshop weekly, about burns, about hygiene, but we need a whole program about women’s health.” I give them an Arabic version of Our Bodies Ourselves, sharing my world with theirs. “Why shouldn’t we as females make a committee for worldwide peace? We will make a strategic plan to stop war.  Arab women should work on this idea; the biggest loser is the females.”
The electricity is still off and I discover that some of the more religious women fast on Mondays and Thursdays.  “We get up to wash or iron at 5 am if there is electricity, maybe 12 hours per day, on and off.  Once I come to work, electricity in my house is on, when I back to home, no electricity.  We don’t feel we are alive.  We have tyrant husbands, they do not cook, wash clothes; they are not ready to help.  How will that change here, how to change the culture and attitude? But it is very difficult, women’s work is first step. Of course, the main aim of ours is work. We work hard on gender issue to change the ideas of people and attitude, men a little change, but they are moody in this aspect, not convinced.” I joke that I have heard that men always have PMS and one woman responds, “PMS on a 40 year cycle! May Allah take all men!” The laughter is slightly relief, slightly conspiratorial, slightly guilty.
One woman explains, “I have a terrible story. About twelve years ago I separated from my husband but we stay in the same house, [different bedrooms] just to make a name that I have a husband. In our society, he has no responsibility towards his kids, his house, about money, nothing.”
I ask, how do you help your sons to be different from their fathers?  “We are strong women.  I suffered with my older son, but he start to be older and wiser and he at university.  His father’s behavior made a weakness in his personality, but I intervened, I support him to get stronger and more responsible. Now he is a responsible person. We established this organization for ourselves and our daughters…. and our sons.”
“Daily we meet with about 10 to 12 cases of women victims and provide them with help.”  One of the staff is a psychologist and she feels her problems are small compared to others.  “Occupation circumstances make us stronger, still hard. But I have had enough of getting stronger! I am satisfied, fed up.   We wish you stand by us, this session is good even if it opened wounds; this society helps vulnerable women.”
I ask if guns are prevalent in domestic violence cases? “No guns, but other material for killing, honor killing, related to virginity, are poisoned or with a knife.  These are rare cases, men do get punished if government knows. But Hamas, don’t punish properly, may put him in jail, but are not changing attitudes.”  Two younger men come in, they are the accountants and their relationship with the women is friendly, joking around.  These women clearly enjoy the company of these men, but find the oppressive men in their lives unacceptable.
I turn to the woman who is worried she will lose her daughter post-divorce.  She says she has “a fun life with my daughter, take her to playground, to restaurants, massage.  My daughter misses her brothers, she is confused; what can I do? Try to make her not to think about the explosion in the future if she goes to him [the ex-husband].  He has another tyrant wife.”
“University trained women are desirable because they can contribute to economy in the marriage. Women are used for their money, we are cheating ourselves to say okay [with this].  We are sometimes part of the problem; domestic awareness is a complicated matter.  Mostly, when a woman marries, goes to husband’s family. Independent ones have apartment, no cultural problem with this.  But economic circumstances prevent this. The mother-in-law is practicing violence against who, women practice violence against women. It is about emotions, feelings of the mother that this new woman took her son, a kind of reflection of her inside emotions that this female came and took the son.  The young wife is in competition if her emotions get extremely jealous, this is another issue. Once it is normal for a mother to be jealous of the new bride, sometimes the new wife of the son herself practice violence against the mother-in-law. This is all related to awareness and balance, raising the awareness about domestic violence, gender awareness, how to develop attitudes towards gender and campaigns and community mediation.  None of this is taught in schools, I want to do this, amongst teachers and families, secondary schools, girls and boys, there are a lot of ideas for services, but no funds. We don’t even have electricity.  I am very tired, I have many ideas to develop the community but no funds.”
Talk turns to politics.  “America is the father or mother of Israel but we do not talk about people, we share you in your agonies, it is all about the government.” Then I was asked a most amazing but understandable question: “Is Congress all Jewish?” I launch into a description of the Israel Lobby, AIPAC, Christian Zionists and a quick rundown on how the US system works.  I am amazed to discover that the women have heard about Jewish Voice for Peace but they are unaware of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanction of Israel. 


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