Saturday, December 10, 2011

The health of Israel's children--an education filled with a false narrative and hate

 Why talk about text books in a blog about health? Child health, by definition,  includes the promotion of psycho-social well-being.  The power of education is great to influence how children grow and develop.  Will the children of Israel grow to be peacemakers? To reach out to get to know their Palestinian neighbors as fellow human-beings who share this small piece of land?  To see the "other" as not "Other", but rather looking for the ways we are all the same-- as equals in their aspiration for full and peaceful and beautiful lives? That is a healthy outcome. 
What is the responsibility of the adults--the parents, teachers and others who guide children to offer a factual narrative? To offer lessons that tell of the true history and aspirations of the Palestinian people, not just the "Jewish narrative"?  We have seen the effects of the hatred that is part of the Israeli textbook narrative in our own Jewish history.  It is so sad and shameful and, for this reason, for the health of Israel's children, we must demand that the Israeli educational system abandon the texts that Prof. Peled-Elhanan analyzed.  This is what Israeli children are being taught. Is it any wonder then that peace feels so unattainable? Is this what we want?  I think not.

This is a painful youtube, but one that is important to watch (you may have to cut and paste into a new window to watch it).  After this youtube, see my final note.  I got it from another blog and it is hopeful and so beautiful.!

" There is a little boy named Ahmed who lives in Khan Younis refugee camp (in Gaza). During one of those hot summer nights last year, he slept on the rooftop of his home and looked at the moon for a long time. Ever since, he has been asking his father to give him the beautiful moon. Ahmed wants the moon. Why not ?!"

It is the same moon over the skies of Jewish Israeli children and Palestinian children.  We can teach and model compassion and how to learn about/from one another to all these beautiful children.  That is how we can give them the moon.  We must teach peace and justice.  No group has exclusive rights to the earth or to the moon.  We must teach the children how to share.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Home in Portland

Early Sunday AM at home.  Got back yesterday evening.  It is 9 hours later in my body, but most importantly it is 9 hours later now in Gaza.  That means 4 PM in Gaza.  Now there is a face on that hour, and what all our new friends are doing at this time.   The clinics are ending their day, people are heading home.  Just as we do on every work day.  It looks so different in that life in Gaza is SO inherently harder than is my life here.  But, I am overall amazed at how really similar we are.   What it has meant for me to go there is that there is a face on this place where we are told terrorists abound.  Sure, there are some "bad" people everywhere, but my impressions from Gaza are so totally the opposite of the "terrorist" narrative.
From the people of Gaza--There is such a yearning for peace and justice.  I NEVER once heard of the desire to wipe Israel out or to claim back all of the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.  I heard of the desire to find a partner in Israel with whom there could be honest negotiations for justice and from that would be the sweetest peace.  EVERYONE is so ready for that.   Every Palestinian in Gaza can tell you the exact place where their, or their parents', or their grandparents' villages were located.  It is so true that many still have keys to the homes they can never go back to. They can all tell of the Naqba, and of the "darkest days" of Operation Cast Lead, and on and on.  And yet, there is not a pervasive bitterness--yes, there is a healthy anger.   Wouldn't we all feel that way if we were driven from our land, then treated to occupation, bombings, ongoing war and sealed borders?  Some sort of just compensation is needed. The siege, occupation and imprisonment of the Palestinians has to stop. 
One important focus was on the pressing issues of the environment.  As we heard from a wonderful hydrologist and environmental scientist, Iyad Abureineh, on our last afternoon,  "The Israelis can put up all the separation walls they want, but we all live in the same environment and, given the misuse of the water and natural resources, Palestinians and Israelis alike will be the losers in this battle."  Another toxicologist who talked to us in Gaza said the same, "Insects, microbes, water and air pollution does not know any Green Line or siege.  We all live in the same toxic mess."
What they said is so true, but again, there is imbalance in power and in access to the very limited and precious resources.  From the Oslo Accords,  Palestinians must get Israeli approval for every water and sewage treatment project, and the layers and delays in this process make projects almost impossible to complete.  In contrast, the Settlements get the fast track to permits and approval.  The inequity in resource use and allocation is unbelievable.  For example, many days, Palestinian villages and towns (In both Gaza and Bethlehem, we experienced this)have no running water for hours.  On the West Bank, 98% of the water is controlled by Israel and runs unimpeded to the Settlements.  The average Israeli household uses 4 times the amount of water than does a Palestinian household.

Pollution from Israeli factories and untreated waste discharge from towns in the Negev is discharged into the tributaries flowing west from The Jordan River which then flows toward Wadi Gaza, the main fresh water source that goes from east to west through central Gaza.  The result is that daily huge amounts of  raw sewage flow through this river (the stench is disgusting) and are dumped straight into the Mediterranean Sea.

I am home and had many hours on the flights and airport delays to think about telling this story.  I divided my trip into 3 themes that I will write more about in the coming days and will also speak about.  My themes are: 1. Health issues and health care delivery; 2. Human Rights Issues; 3.  Visions for the Future (from those we met, not from me!!).  I think I will write about each of these separately and, of course there is so much overlap. 

So, home , but far from done with this trip!  It has been profound and so important.  IF anyone in Gaza is reading this--my heart shouts out to you in gratefulness, peace and most loving friendship.  And to all here in the US, let's re-double our efforts to work for Peace and Justice.

P.S.  Dr Mustafa Barghouti told us that the Palestinians will be starting a targeted and very focused boycott of one Israeli product that all of us can join in with. As soon as they announce what that product is, we can add that to our BDS strategy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

final day in Gaza

This will be short as I have to get ready for our early AM departure from Gaza.  Perhaps more time to write tomorrow evening from the West Bank.
This morning I gave a lecture for the 3rd and 4th year Bachelor's Degree nursing students at the Islamic University.  I talked on infant growth and development.  My colleague, Kara, also presented--on Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Schizophrenia.   It was such a fabulous experience.  There were probably over 100 students in the lecture hall.  The professor who coordinates the class and the Dean of the School of Nursing attended.  It is amazing at how similar the nursing curriculum and discussion was to what we study (nursing process, etc.)  The student questions and comments were very impressive.  There was great discussion about my point to turn off the TV for infants!! The dean and the professor really endorsed the idea--some students balked and one asked the great question, "But what if a mom has lots to do, is it really bad if she lets her infant watch television for a little while?" Universally, we are all the same!!!

I will write more health care specifics soon.  There is so much to say.  Here I want to summarize some of the most important points that  I come away with.  I visited two NGO funded hospitals and their outpatient clinics,  an UNRWA clinic,  an UNRWA school and a government funded Pediatric Specialty care hospital.  ALL are severely lacking in modern technology.  For example, there is no MRI at either of the hospitals.  The siege severely limits their ability to keep a consistent inventory of things like medications, specialized infant formulas, basic equipment such as operating instruments, catheters, vaccines.  Only ICUs in the sites I visited had IV infusion pumps.   They have things, but they are old, if they break, it may be a wait for the replacement or parts to get into Gaza.  And, in terms of meds, the range of choices is severely limited.  Although each of the facilities was quite old, they were spotless. 
The other lack, whether in the medical facilities or the school, is manpower.  There is no money in Gaza and the UN and NGOs are getting less donations as the world economy suffers, so the result is underfunded, understaffed health care and school facilities.

 On the other hand, I cannot say enough about the talent I saw in every situation where I was.  Doctors and nurses are well trained, though they talk of missing the chance to travel and meet colleagues and really keep up to date.  Everyone has research ideas and would love to collaborate.  The amount of creative energy is amazing here.  I swear, Gaza without the internet would be sunk.  It is their lifeline to the outside world.

This evening we had a lovely dinner and reception at the home of the founding sage of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, Dr Eyad Sarraj.  We were honored and thanked, but most important, was the lively discussion--progressives discussing world politics, youth activists, committed health and mental health workers.  You would be so proud to know these people.  There is just absolutely NO resemblance to the Palestinians image portrayed on the media.  As Dr. Sarraj said, "Every Palestinian has a story."  I am so glad I have had the chance to hear some of them and will keep sharing my observations and impressions.   

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gaza day 5

 First off, I want to send a link to the blog of my colleague/our trip organizer, Gerri Haynes.  She does a great job of summarizing our experiences and her husband, Bob is taking such fabulous and expressive photos.  I'm a novice at this, so look at their blog for photos!!

We just came from a presentation given by someone at the Ministry of Environmental Quality.  I think hearing about the environmental issues gives a good idea of the magnitude of the problems here from an ecological perspective.  Ecological not just in the sense of the natural environment, but also in terms of the issues where the human condition in Gaza intersects with nature-- population density, scarcity of resources, loss of infrastructure through internal conflict and (most importantly)the siege and ongoing aggression by Israel,  Israel's control over water, storm water overflow, sea use, and huge disparity in living conditions.   Just one example--the siege totally affects pretty much every aspect of everyone's lives.  However, if you have some money, you can make it a bit easier to live. For example, 50% of the day, on most days, there is no electricity, so those who can afford it own a generator.  If you are poor, you are in the dark.  Everyone in Gaza has to drink bottled water as the tap water is not potable--for those with money, bottled water is a hassle, but available.  Only 5 to 10% of the water is safe.  Sea water and sewage have infiltrated into the aquifer. Water salinity is increasing as is the nitrate concentration in the ground water.  Nitrate content in water is a marker for sewage contamination.  The WHO nitrate limit for drinking water is 45 parts per ml.  In the norther part of Gaza, the concentration is >150 pp ml.

There is about 1300-1400 metric tons/day of municipal solid waste generated in Gaza.  They have 3 solid waste landfills that are all located along the eastern border of the Gaza Strip.  They are there for the best soil conditions.  However, they are located in the "high risk zone"--an area that Israel has declared off limits for their "security" reasons.  Thus, the disposal of solid waste is a public health crisis.    

Unemployment in Gaza is now at 45%.  You just see huge numbers of men sitting around outside and walking in the street in the mid-day.  There are shortages of all kinds of things.  Many of the shortages are being compensated for by goods coming in through the tunnels.  What all the health workers tell us is that sometimes they have certain needed medications and sometimes they don't --depends on how much gets through the borders.  It is intermittent and not dependable.  The Gazans have no control over the situation, it's all in Israel's hands.

Yesterday my colleague, Kara (a Psychiatric Mental health Nurse Practitioner) and I did a discussion group with a group of nurses at one of the hospitals, Public Aid Hospital.  Their backgrounds were varied--practical nurses, several nurses with Bachelor's degrees, a nurse midwife.  There is no such thing as a nurse practitioner in Palestine (or in most of the world, for that matter).  I think it was a bit hard for them to comprehend what we do.  I have found that at all the places I've visited--the notion of nurses being the primary care provider, or prescribing meds is not at all familiar.  I think there was a lot of interest from the nurses in advancing the profession and all were so curious and eager for ongoing education.  I really see the focus on education here.  It was a relaxed and friendly discussion group and so interesting to learn about one another.

Three of us then visited one of the UNRWA schools in the southern part of Gaza.  If you look at Gerri's blog, you'll see a photo of the school with its bare dirt courtyard.  About 1.1 million out of the population of 1.7 million Gazans are classified as refugees.  If you have that classification, you can be served by UNRWA for health care, education and other essential services.  If you imagine refugee camps, you might think of temporary shelters in tents.  These refugees have been here for a very long time--many since being forced out of their homes in 1948, when Israeli statehood was declared.  Others were refugeed during the 1967 war, again under forced exodus by Israel.  So, now families are into their third generation of being refugees, living in the camps.

The refugee camps are pretty much awful to see and describe.  Broken down homes, one on top of another, many in a state of incomplete construction--no glass in the windows, rebar sticking up from unfinished upper levels, dirt streets that are way too narrow for cars, trash in empty lots. Definitely no places to play and no green areas.  They are totally depressing places.

UNRWA schools are built by the UN through contributions of outside governments (notably missing are any US contributions).  They provide education for grades 1 through 9. Then students continue to high schools--either public high schools (for the vast majority) or some go to private high school.   There is a huge need for more schools--the existing ones are overcrowded--often > 50 students per classroom, and running two half day shifts, so students go to school only for 1/2 day, either AMs or in the afternoon.  It is estimated that they need > 100 new schools, however,  only 7 new schools have been completed due to shortage of building supplies.  Even the United Nations cannot get adequate supplies across the borders.  One badly needed supply for schools (and all construction) is cement.  This is one of the things the Israelis greatly limit as they say it could be used in some way for weapons manufacturing.

The school we visited only operates 1/2 day as they do not have salaries to pay the teachers for the full day. So, unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the students were gone.  However, we got to see the school and meet the principal and several of the teachers.  As we arrived a group of parents were there.  They thanked us for visiting and requested that we tell the world of the great needs their children have for adequate places to learn. They told us how they have been waiting for a very long time for a permanent school building. 

The school, in its "temporary" state (for the past 2 years)  is housed in a cluster of metal shipping containers with corrugated metal roofs, with a central dirt courtyard.  There was no outside play equipment and the dirt courtyard was very dusty, so not easy to run around in.  Inside the classrooms were very clean and tidy.  Supplies and furnishings were pretty basic.  There is a computer lab with somewhat antiquated looking computers and usually no internet connection.  The Principal explained that the classrooms are exceedingly hot in the spring/summer and very cold in the winter.  This school has 452 students in 15 (small)  class rooms.

In addition to the UNRWA school, I had the opportunity to visit an UNRWA Clinic.  It was a very busy place.  The doctors and nurses are so dedicated and truly are doing such good work under scarcity and stress.  Today I visited another primary care clinic that is funded by many NGOs and some by the government.  The community around the clinic is exceptionally poor, many are Beduoins, who are among the poorest of the Palestinians.  I donated our huge suitcase full of medications to that clinic. They were very grateful as their pharmacy was low in stock of many medications.

  At all the health facilities I have visited, I have had it confirmed that there is no shortage of talent and fortitude.  What is lacking are supplies, up to date technology and equipment and enough of a work force.  All the clinics are old, pretty run down looking, but totally spotless.  Forget the idea of sharps containers or retractable needles.

I am hoping that tomorrow I can visit one of the hospitals that does pediatrics.  All the doctors in the primary care clinics have told me that hospital resources are the most limited of all.  Whenever possible really sick children get sent to Israel for treatment.  They can only go with one parent.   There are stories everywhere of children being denied a visa to cross the border, or having to wait excessively long time and getting sicker or even dieing as a result of lack of care.

Tomorrow I give a lecture to the Nursing students at Islamic Univ. (the topic is infant development).  My colleague Kara is also lecturing (her topic is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  The Palestinian Nursing Association gave us a proposal for a collaborative project in community health nursing. It is amazing that life goes on in these many creative and inspiring ways.  So to quote the Dean at the School of Nursing yesterday, "And, this is Gaza under siege!"

The person who has mostly been my interpreter is the most lovely young woman named Lima.  She just graduated from Pharmacy School and is doing her internship.  She took me to her cousin's delicious Shwarma restaurant yesterday and then at the end of our day, we did a quick shopping trip for coffee and nuts from Palestine.  She is so smart, "gets" all the things we ask her to translate, loves everything purple, is the only woman to play tennis in all of Gaza, and dreams of studying more in the US.   I cannot believe just how easy it is to fall in love with her and with the other people we are meeting here. Whether it is the people helping to make our tour, or simply the hotel desk clerk who, when I asked him how he is doing today, he gave me the biggest smile and said that he is "very VERY good!" Since that's not usually the magnitude of response, I asked if there was something special.  He replied that he and his wife just found out that they are expecting their first child.  He looked so happy and said he was going to stop on the way home and buy her flowers.  It's just everyday humans being human.   

So as I prepare to wind up this experience with tomorrow as the last full day in Gaza, I truly hold so many people we have met in my heart.  Each dollar spent on bombs and tanks and bulldozers deprives them of their lives.  You cannot believe how similar we are to these people.  Way more the same than different.  What will it take for them to know health and peace and justice?  Whatever it takes, that's our work.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Determination in Gaza

The will of the Gazans is totally amazing.  It makes you realize that humans cannot ever really be oppressed, occupied or cast off.  There is this thing that is bigger than the guns, bombs, toxins, military boats.  That is the determination and forward march of human learning, service, art/creativity, etc. etc. Not just at the level of survival, but is way more than that--truly you would be amazed at the talent here.
I had to write down these two quotes from Reem Abu Jabr, the Director of the Qattan Centre for Children.  She is a beautiful person who radiates the hope for the children of Gaza. Qattan Centre is an amazing, brightly painted,spacious, open-feeling, beautiful center where children can come after school for a library(shelves of beautiful books), art classes or classes in computer technology.  It is truly an oasis!
Her quotes:
"Here in Gaza there are two options--either this should be accomplished, or this should be accomplished."
"When it comes to children, I don't care if I talk to Hamas, to Fatah; I will talk to the devil if I need to."

I cannot imagine a stronger and more courageous will for justice and self-determination.  You can just imagine that if the outside forces were not what they are, that this would be a place of amazing accomplishment and transformation. 
There you have it!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Structural poverty/Inner abundance

 Today was the first of our health visits.  From what I am understanding, health care is administered in a number of ways here.   For those who have refugee status by virtue of having been displaced from their homes and land by Israel in either 1948 or 1967 the UN provides education (until 9th grade) and health care, including all vaccines, until age 3 yrs.  I learned today that each of the doctors and nurses at the UNRWA Clinics see 100 patients a day.  Tomorrow I will go there and see that system.  And I am sure there will be plenty to say about that.  One thing that is amazing is that Gaza has an immunization rate of >90% for the basic childhood vaccines.  That is so unbelievable.
  For Gazans who are not classified as refugees, health care is provided by either government run clinics, private hospitals funded largely by NGOs or a few small private hospitals.  I spent the morning at one of the NGO funded hospitals.  The hospital is called Al Awdah in Gaza City.  Al Awdah in Arabic means, "the return".  It sounds religious, but in actuality it means the right to return--the dream and hope of all Palestinians that they will be able to return to the homes they were forced out of in 48 or 67.  Many still have the key to the door of that home.  Someone said that the Palestinians don't paint their dwellings in Gaza because to do so would make it feel like a permanent home rather than a temporary place.  (I am not sure if that is true, or if it is because paint is a luxury that cannot be afforded here.)
So, Al Awdah Hospital.  My first task was to do a training for ~15 maternity nurses on postpartum depression.  Preparing and thinking about the talk was a bit strange--I had so little information about the group, the health care system and I really had no idea of their needs and how this topic was viewed by them.  I have always dreamed about going to another country and working in health care, including doing health education.  Here was my first chance at it and I realized how really unprepared I was having not had the time to research the cultural dimension of this.   Anyway, I think it went well--aside from some technical glitches.  Post-partum depression was something the group was familiar with, they had a few pt stories to share and, hopefully, I was able to leave them with a few tools to use in screening.  The pediatrician who took me around the hospital and clinics shared that this hospital makes you feel that you are "not in Gaza"9meaning that all other facilities in Gaza are pretty broken down).  It is quite nice, but with about 1950s or 60s technology.  They have lost a lot of their funding stream with the downturn of the global economy and so the shelves of the pharmacy are very empty.  What meds they do have are in short supply and they are out of a lot of things.  They have an 8 bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and a 4 bed ICU that they have had to close due to the shortage of funds and supplies.  It's kind of like a lot of other structures one sees here--started and unfinished for lack of supplies and money.   They have also had to decrease the nursing staff by 30% to manage costs.  The hospital sustained severe bombing in Operation Cast Lead, so the part they have been able to re-build is nice--though very simple and obviously they had to use recycled and older things like the doors and windows.  The equipment, with a few exceptions, looks older and dated--probably someone's cast-offs donated by some EU NGOs.
I think the most intense thing is the poverty, crowding and unbelievable amount of piles of concrete and rebar--buildings started and not finished, bombed and now still in piles of broken cement.  Nothing looks new or tidy or modern.
Again, I am amazed to be "on the ground"--the wide angle lens shows the things I mentioned above--a crowded, dirty, polluted place.  Zoom in and you have these images--the warmth and graciousness with which we are received at every moment, the hotel clerk who was teaching me some Arabic words, holding the room key up over his head and jokingly telling me that I couldn't get it back until I remembered the Arabic word for "key"(which he had just taught me 10 minutes before!), the 10 yr old niece of the just released prisoner who showed me her art work, and on and on.  Most of all I am so full of respect for the health and mental health professionals we met today who are just doing their day's work trying to heal the people here.  The war, occupation, trauma, injustice, and outrage just form the ever-present backdrop for their daily work and lives.  This evening we were talking to the child psychiatrist and a psychologist from the Gaza Community Mental health Program.  One of them talked about the psychology of the Palestinians--that resistance has become a part of the national identity--a part of oneself that cannot be taken away or diminished. You feel it in everyone you meet. 
This is so much bigger than an intellectual political issue to be debated or made deals about.  It is a genuine human right catastrophe of enormous magnitude.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

The six of us, the WA/OR PSR health delegation,  arrived in Gaza this afternoon.  There are the details and there are the impressions.
One detail is that I am writing this in the very dimly lit hotel room--that is all the light there is (it's like candlelight--2 faint lightbulbs).  Apparently the hotel has its own generator which is essential as most of Gaza has electricity only ~ 50% of the time.  We overlook the Mediterranean Sea which presents interesting contrasts--the beautiful sea, its cool breeze, the familiar sound of the surf.  Yet, the beach, like much of the Gaza streets is piled with trash, and out over the water, on the horizon is a row of lights.  I am told they are Israeli surveillance boats--always present. It's quite disturbing.  That Israel has the ability (which they exercise at will) to monitor and to attack at any moment is a fact of life here in Gaza.  We were shown a building that was recently bombed (with "surgical precision") right in the middle of Gaza City, on a block of apartments, the street where children play.  The "crime" for which this particular building was bombed, nobody knows.  It's a way of life thing, they tell us.

Needless to say, we were all filled with a lot of excitement and strong desire to get to Gaza this morning.  I had a lot of emotion as we herded our MANY heavy bags and ourselves onto the little bus that took us from Jerusalem to the Erez Crossing-- the only way into Gaza from Israel.  You go from a nation that has obvious comforts,  running water,  espresso stands, intact buildings, landscaped areas, to a place that feels totally structurally the opposite.  All in much less than 2 hours drive.   Our driver, George, was a lovely Palestinian man with a reflective and sad look as he patiently answered all our questions about life in Palestine/Israel.  There is so much grace and dignity in the matter-of fact way he deals with the long waits at the Bethlehem checkpoint which he must pass through numerous times on many days as he drives visiting groups.  Imagine every time you go to and from work that you have to have your identity and whereabouts scrutinized by a soldier bearing a huge rifle over their shoulder.   George's family was originally made refugees to East Jerusalem from north in Israel.  EVERYBODY can tell you exactly where they or their parents or grandparents were driven away from.   George often drives groups from  Wi'Am-- Palestine Conflict Resolution Center.  Take a look at their website and the wonderful amazing work they do.  The courtyard of Wi'Am where they meet with visiting groups looks right out onto the separation wall--it is their backdrop, their uninvited landscaping and reminder that if you are Palestinian, you do not leave Bethlehem to travel the few miles into Jerusalem unless you have permission to do so.  It would be like, "No, you do not have an identity card, no going to Lloyd Center from SE Portland."

 We had been delayed one day in entering Gaza as the border was closed due to a holiday in Israel. In a really small way this  points to the fact, the constant reminder, of the 100% control that Israel exerts in  every situation pertaining to Gaza and the West Bank.  It is truly not a situation of 2 equal parties.  There is NO WAY it is equal--not in military might and not in who has controls over every aspect of the structure of life.  You can feel it in every moment.   Rather, the situation is one where Israel, wielding all the brute power and has/uses that capability to torment, attack, marginalize and otherwise humiliate the Palestinians.   It is truly hard to grasp the Palestinian experience--from the notion of denial of:  the freedom to travel(checkpoints, sealed borders), to export your goods,  to earn a livelihood,  to have the guarantee of access to basic needs, to safety, clean water, electricity, to experiencing a sense of having some say in the future of your community, or to feel that you are recognized as an equal, cared about and autonomous people.
And yet, I am already seeing in some of today's images and experiences, that there is a certain kind of power and control that Israel really does not wield and can not claim to possess.  It is the upper hand, if you will, of a proud determination for justice and an equal share of the land and resources that the Palestinians display.  It is the incredible resilience we saw today in touring the "flovelo" of the land of the tunnels.  If you cannot have access to cement and flour and medicines and the other things you need through your autonomous borders, well, you dig tunnels deep into the ground to get those things.  What a dangerous but an amazing act of resistence and fortitude.
    Here in Gaza, I am meeting kind, professional, committed, funny, warm people who are just like you and me.  There is such a strong sense of purpose from our hosts--to provide the best health and mental health care, to get from us, trainings, materials, skills that they cannot get any other way as they are living their everyday lives (that could look like any of our ereryday lives) under such duress.  They are so amazingly gracious and grateful towards us.    
This afternoon was an overview with a drive through Gaza to see how it all is.  We met one of the just released prisoners.  A man who spent 26 years in Israeli prison.  He talked of being committed to justice for his people.  He was surrounded by friends and family--including his son, who was 8 months of age at the time this man was imprisoned, and is now a lawyer.  There were some tears in his eyes as he told us of his imprisonment and he is just one of the people who thanked us for coming here and for paying attention to what the world seems to be largely ignoring--that the Palestinians are a people denied their rights and who want to just be allowed to live w/ justice and peace. 

And, despite all the bombed buildings, the piles of untended trash on every corner and curb, the poverty, shortages, hours of darkness, not recalling ever being able to drink clean top water, I am asked to present at 8:30 AM tomorrow to nurses about Post-Partum Depression.  Now if that's not incredible perseverence, I don't know what is.
My last point is that I cannot believe how totally different is the Palestinian narrative from the Israeli one.  I know I have a bias, but I just can't say enough, how important it is to be able to see this total tragic mess through Palestinians' eyes.  Of course, neither side is 100% right, but then again,  the reality of life on the ground makes the Palestinians 100% "wrong."  When you get up close, that is so totally not fair or correct.
Off now to make a powerpoint for the nurses. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thank you to all who donated at the PDX Gaza health fundraiser

We had such an amazing and generous fundraising event last Sunday! A shout out to all who came, helped out, donated and showed so much support.  All the funds are being used (as we speak) to buy medications (at cost) and toys for children's play therapy kits for medical and mental health centers in Gaza, Palestine.  We will be taking those supplies with us on the upcoming WA/OR Physician's for Social Responsibility Gaza Health delegation trip. 
We leave on Tuesday 10/18.  I'll be writing from Gaza.  It should be an incredible learning learning experience that I am so excited to share.
We go to Gaza with such a desire to bring the faces and messages of Americans that we will not forget nor ignore the injustices that are happening to the people of Palestine.  The American policy toward Palestine is not in our name.  What is in our name is a strong desire to work together to STOP the war against the Palestinians and to lend our expertise, hearts and goods to help improve the health of the people in Gaza. 
We are also witnesses to the health effects of war and we will work ever harder to assure that US policy changes.  Justice and peace are the ultimate PRIMARY PREVENTION we must all be working for.  Not just band-aides and pills, but Peace!