Wednesday, January 7, 2009

ahlam, musawa, gishaf - "dreams, equality, freedom of movement"

this will probably be my last post, as i return home tomorrow. i tried to post some photos but ended up having to load them onto flickr if you want (and know how to) look at them - username is palhealth.

i leave with a heavy heart, jokingly in my mind i thought for a moment heavy enough to weigh the plane down, sitting surrounded by laughing - even cheering israelis. israeli security definitely questioned me a couple of times but i found it easy to play clueless, and they didn't seem to be too wary of me. but they were really concerned that i might have met and actually befriended anyone on the other side of their apartheid wall. making sure no one gave me anything, etc. i played along...

my last couple of days were spent finishing the training in alrowwad giving a couple of treatments and traveling back to harduf to see harry and channah one last time.

i met a beautiful woman named samira who came to the first training but had tremendous back pain and couldn't stay for the other one. i arranged to give her a treatment later. it seemed people had been excited from the first training and a few of them were really good and i hope they can try to start treatments when they comfortable enough. i had become friends with marwa who is the women's unit coordinator and she was excited to continuing practicing so that she could start treating women in a group setting. we talked of many things and after spending the time i have with the women there i have so much respect. they all feel overburdened and they seem to keep their households together while also working always feeling like they have so much to do with children, home, etc. so strong.

i had one of my most profound experiences that last day in aida camp. i had only given a handful of treatments while on my visit and realized so much from them. after using only one needle on my friend i realized body acupuncture is too moving sometimes for people who are constantly bombarded with trauma in daily life. it made me have so much more appreciation for the simplicity and effectiveness of the auricular treatments. i did a simple treatment mainly just using acupressure. her body trembled and shook as she tried to keep back the emotions and tears streamed. her young daughter came in and out throughout the treatment, looking at her mother and smiling at me. when she saw her mother crying she took her hands and kissed her forehead while i continued the treatment. it was a really beautiful moment.

after the treatment she felt like she couldn't get up, i think it's because she finally had a moment to rest. she told me she doesn't like to cry in front of others especially her children because she wants to be strong for them, and with what is happening in gaza she had been holding so much in. she remembered the exact moment when she began shutting things out and not being able to express herself. she was 17 and she had heard that a settler in hebron had shot 2 villagers. she broke down in the middle of the street wailing with her sister trying to tell her to get a hndle on herself. she said she really hadn't been able to express her feelings openly since then. she asked if i had been here before because she said from the first moment she saw me something was so familiar - my face, laugh and my smile. i cry now with how much that touched me. as i left we joked about how it was nice meeting 'again' she looked so different afterwards. i asked her to be easy on herself and rest for as long as she could. she often suffers from insomnia, stress and back pain. as i left she called in to her daughter who brought me out a beautiful scarf so i wouldn't forget her - as if i could, she taught me so much about living.

i was overwhelmed by sadness at the thought that we are all sensitive beings and being forced to live in such oppressive, unhealthy situations as caused by occupation they are not allowed to feel the same way as those of us who have the luxury to. they have to shut themselves off from the pain that surrounds them daily, to continue on living and provide the best care they can for their beloved children so that maybe they will have a better life. but slowly as we shut out pain we start to shut out other feelings as well, especially when the pain in overwhelming, as it is for most living in their country, a country they love, palestine. she had told me of having a few instances where she just 'shut down'. she could hear everything but couldn't move or respond. her husband worried and took her to the doctor for a brain scan but they found nothing, because the cause is not physically perceptible. it comes from a caging of the spirit. just being there a couple of weeks and making many frends and having intimate conversations with them about this has brought such an awareness of the true inhumanty that is occuring. and they all hope for the same - a future that will let their children live freely and in equality with those who 'share' their homeland, not being treated as 'second class' citizens. a term i am disgusted even exists. please try to remember the individuals whenever confronted with the question of whether war is ever justified. haven't we learned that violence against any harms us all, even if we aren't aware of the direct effects of it. and we will never be free unless all are.

fuck alan dershowitz

okay last post about the news. i found that aljazeera in english is probably one of the better news stations i've ever watched they seem to have pretty balanced coverage with less biased interpretations.

over the last few days the news has been a constant presence in homes, shops, restaurants, etc. arabic and english. but it's been interesting to watch events unfold and watch as the first account gets distorted. there was coverage of the 3 israeli soldiers who died in "friendly fire" a news reporter standing with israeli troops on the border of gaza near where it happened had just talked to them and found out that the 3 israeli soldiers had taken shelter from heavy fighting in a building that the army targeted. she then went on to mantion it's implications of the israeli army not having proper knowledge of their targets and good ground communication with troops in battle. at the end of her report the flash at the bottom of the screen said "3 israeli troops killed in errant tank fire" i wonder which story made it to international press.

then i saw a debate between a female palestinian rights activist and alan dershowitz. he kept condemning hamas saying the children dying are their faults citing international law regarding hostage takers being at fault when police kill a hostage. as if international law has ever been followed here. and he kept getting really dramatic about everything saying what would you do if bombs were being dropped in your schoolyards, and israel has a right to defend itself against those who don't think it should exist, i kept thinking - "which side is he talking about", it's fucked up that you can defend the actions of one by stating something applicable to both. the woman replied calmly that it was impossible to have a real conversation if he kept being dramatic and that this was not a hollywood movie. she pointed out that one of the reasons for the actions of hamas has been in response to the year and a half blockade of gaza since it was democratically elected and that israel does not respect the rights of palestinians or recognize them as a state. he replied with the falsity - of course israel recognizes palestine. are you kidding me? i've seen again and again with the coverage of this was in the west that they really do believe that if you say something enough, the truth has no bearing. and the way in which he addressed any of her questions was by invalidating them. i wish i could find the video, if i do i'll post it.

i wish i could do this justice it was laughably inaccurate on his part but gave tremendous insight into how anyone who supports what is going actually believes. disgusting.

looking at the history (or the brief history that i know) hamas was democratically elected - yes extreme but still democratically elected by a people living under tremendous pressure from an occupying force. then israel blocked its borders because it didn't like the government chosen by those people, supported internationally because they are a known "terrorist" organization. not letting in food - it rotted waiting days to be let in, medical supplies, fuel, etc. hamas has had one continuos demand since this began - end the blockade. it declared a 6 month cease fire in which nothing changed and when it was lifted it continued lauching rockets into the parts of israel it could reach. horrendous as any violence is, what happens when the needs of a people are continuosly not met or addressed, they start acting out. hamas is very stubborn and has violent extreme ways of dealing with these issues which is unexcusable but that still does not justify any of the actions israel has taken that has ended up hurting the people and continuing the cycle of violence and created more support for any "leadership" which is trying to change the situation. and when violence is what you are treated with it seems to be the way in which you respond. from what i've heard many palestinians in the west bank do not support hamas, they are stubborn and not serving the needs of the people. but once again we need to look at the causes that have let such a government take power.

and in response to that look at the right wing extreme government elected by the israeli people, just because they aren't labeled "terrorists" doesn't mean there actions aren't just as reprehensible. they killed 100+ people yesterday, bombed a UN school. watching the news you see blood spattered streets, the still functionaing hospitals can't take care of everyone. the bloodbath continues and the UN security council is talking about it in the lounge over coffee and cigarettes. wtf?

i can't talk about this anymore. i've thrown up twice today since arriving back in israel. seeing the soldiers who i know play a game with...whenever i see someone that i think they might mess with i go up and ask inane questions until they pass. maybe they wouldn't have harassed them anyway...who knows after what i've seen. and then seeing a tank in transport next to the bus i was in. i've luckily never seen one up close until now. unlike my friend yosef who had his leg blown off by one in front of al rowwad center in 2001, but at least he really enjoys playing wheelchair basketball. i bet he liked being able to run and jump too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

don't forget jenin

over the last few days i have travelled thru the most secured checkpoint to get into jenin and travelled through the west bank from jenin to bethlehem.

i went to jenin with the plans of working at a hospital there called patients friends hospital. we were set up in the physiology department. it's not very busy and it was best if i just treated women. jenin is the most conservative place i've been to so far. i only saw one woman without her head covered. there was definitely the awareness that there are not many foreigners who come.

if you aren't familiar with jenin, i suggest you look up it's history. for many years it was a strongly resistant to the israeli occupation, in april of 2002 israeli soldiers 'cleaned it up' in what has become known as the jenin massacre. simialr to what is happening today in gaza. under the auspices of getting rid of terrorists israel entered te jenin refugee camp and literally flatenned an area of the town the size of a few football fields, in it's 'fight' with palestinian gunmen. medical teams were not allowed in until after the 'clean up' was finished. when human ights and medical teams were allowed back in what they found was dead bodies and rubble. there was much propaghanda in the western press trying to justify israel's actions and downplay the extent of the damage and civilian casualties.

it is much different today, but there is a sense of heaviness everywhere you go. we were invited to stay with one of the physiologists in his town of anin just north 20km of jenin. it was a different experience than any other i have had so far, except the hospitality which i have come so much to appreciate here. expecially being a woman in a place where men and women stay seperated most of the time. at first many of the older men did not know how to interact with me but as we sat and talked soon we were laughing and they were calling me over to show me things and eat together. talking about what was happening in gaza and similar conversations i have had with many. typically families live together - building one story on top of another for each of the sons to live in when they have married. it was a beautiful house with a balcony on top that had a lovely view of sunrise and sunset as well as a neighboring town in 'israel' that abdala's father works in. he used to be able to travel to work walking there in 15 minutes, but the view also included the boundaries defined by an electric fence where i'm sure they will build the wall when they get the chance. it outlined the entire hillside to the west of our view. so know his father has to travel 10 hours to get to his place of work 5km from his home. he stay there most the time now and only comes home for a few days every couple of months. and to compound things further palestinian workers in israel don't have any rights. he works in construcion and does amazing tile work. he worked for 5 months and on a project and then never got paid. and he has no legal recourse to get what he deserves. so not only does he not see his family but for all his efforts he can't even provide for them. jenin and the outlying towns are very poor. there is no work, so most of the men travel far to try to provide for their families.

one of the older gentleman i met invited me over to treat his daughter with cereral palsey which seems to be very common in jenin. much more than i have heard in other areas. we had met with two doctors from the jenin refugee camp about treating the children there and they said most of them would be cerebral palsey patients. i treated her and we were offered a second dinner with olives and olive oil made in the village. it was the best olive oil i have ever tried.

when night came i went downstairs to sleep with his mother and sisters. it was almost like a slumber party. they were so excited to ask me many questions. we stayed up for hours communicating with their little english and my very little arabic. but we had fun and laughed. i get the feeling i was something very different to them. expecially being 29 and not married with a family. which has been another common topic of conversation. when we finally got to sleep the youngest daughter,iman, woke 3 times in the night with screams and asking for her mother to comfort her. i saw first hand how the young are affected even before they can intellectually understand the events around them they embody and are gripped with the fear.

in the morning we returned to the hospital and tried to contact the unrwa medical treatment facility which we heard has over 700 patients a day. but they were not interested in our services so we headed back towards bethlehem, which i think worked out best so i could finish the training to help people quite smoking at al-rowwad center in aida camp.

travelling through the west bank we passed at least 5 or 6 checkpoints and travelled along the wall in some area for quita a distance. at every checkpoint the first israeli soldier you see has his gun trained on every car that passes. someimtes you are stopped and questioned and other times they let you through somewhat quicker. but often times you have to wait for long periods of time. you see gates on evera road that they can easily shut is they don't want to allow travel between the areas at all. on our way we passed one of the biggest settlements and the army presence was the most i had seen so far. they were atop al the hills always with hands on there guns, talking and laughing, but always prepared to use it. the roads we travelled were bumpy and winding and i got to see the large well cared for roads used by he settlers that are in the west bank but not allowed for palestinian travel. i'm sure they get to use there 'highways' for quick and easy passage that easily takes palestinians at least 3 to 4 times longer depending on the conditions of the roads and how difficult the checkpoints are that day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

history repeats

as i watch the news daily and the numbers of those killed and injured (on both sides) increases, sometimes by the minute, the details keep repeating. so far close to 600 palestinians have been killed and 1 israeli confirmed dead. the injured are 2500 in gaza and "in the tens" for israelis. it's like a macabric scoreboard. and israel continues saying it's defensive and they won't stop until their military objectives are obtained - to stop the missile launches by hamas. while hamas is trying to defend it's people as well.

each time they record whole families are the latest to be killed or most of families - whole families wiped out, some of the latest were paremedics trying to help the injured. and the injured are dying waiting for treatment. puting it in terms of the injured allows people to dissociate from the impact on their lives, because they are still living. but the injured consists of missing appendages, eyes, brain damage, etc. not cuts and bruises. i saw video footage from a hospital with a young child - wide eyed, in shock as his parents described what they had just witnessed and endured. he had blood spattered acroos his face, as did his brother, his siter had a bloody cloth over her eye that her father held there while holding her in his lap. the mother had both hands in bloody bandages. and this is as israel continues to play the role of defender and saying that it is only targeting military objectives - which now seems to extend to anyone who might grow up to struggle against the cruelty, and those who raise them.

how many times do we have to make the same mistakes. the holocuast, berlin wall, south african apartheid, etc. after the end we are ready to recognize that it is wrong, when are we going to wake up and stop it as it happens and hopefully next time not allow it happen at all. i am also reminded of what happened to the native peoples of america when it was formed. millions were massacred and drove off land to live in small reservations and lose their culture. now we see it for what it was and are saddened by the facts of our history. history is being made now. how is this not the same? they fought and defended the land that another claimed as their own, by a people considered terrorists to the government it broke away and declared freedom from. i would rather our history say that we came back from the brink and truly allowed others to be self-governed.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

"it has begun"

(this post was started on the 4th)

i attended 2 protests yesterday against the war in gaza - the first in sakhnin and then we got on a bus and headed to the one in tel aviv.

sakhnin is an arab town in the northern part of israel. the residents there although technically israeli citizens are not treated as such. israel has taken the land surrounding the town, literally on each of the edges - there is an army base, an industrial center, and an olive grove. the residents feel strangled - their town hasn't been able to expand since the nakba (disaster) of '48. the young adults of the town are forced to move out because of no space to live and the land available is too expensive for anyone to afford and no one can find jobs. i met with a resident of the town, mustafa, who gave me the history and provided me with a indispensable resource during the demonstration. he told me this is typical of arab towns within israel. the arab residents are not allowed to work within certain jobs - such as electricity, and they are not given the same support theough funding for infrastructure as jewish israeli residents. and as they are forced to move out into jewish communities they often suffer from severe racism.

on the way isralei police were everywhere in large numbers.

the march was peaceful and huge - i could not see either end the entire time i was there. mustafa said it was the largest seen in sakhnin. there were palestinian protest chants of - "gaza - don't be shaken "be still", "let us change, let us change - the law of the jungle", "you have taken our land, our freedom, even though we bleed we keep fighting", etc. i heard there was an estimated 10,000 people at it, but little to no coverage of it internationally. i found an article on it linked to the right. it was quite amazing to be a part of. it's hard to describe the feeling of love and truth that was felt in solidarity asking for peace and an end to killing.

from there there was a bus leaving for the rally that night in tel aviv, i went with my new friend mirja with a group of arab-israeli protestors. the entire way down we sang the songs i have come to recognize of palestinian spirit not easily defeated. the march in tel aviv had a much different feel and i'm thankful for being able to experience both. in tel aviv the chants were for peace not war and unity of palestine and israel. people threw eggs from there apartments that overlooked the streets and there were small groups of counter-protestors waving the israeli flag in a manner that reminded me of a young child throwing something in the face of another. and although the protest just asked for peace and the end to killing the counter-protestors were vehemently yelling at us. but the israeli army and police present did a good job of keeping them seperated and quiting them down. but at the end when we gathered at the cinematech were the buses were parked we seperated from the group to find our bus with an arab friend muofa (sp?) he had a sign about no blood of the children being spilled. we were standing by the buses - just the 3 of us when some of the counter-protestors started coming. at first it was just a few. they would pass us and then look back and after reading his sign started yelling at us - "go to gaza", "fuck you". if only they knew i would go to gaza if i thought i would be let in and thought i might be able to offer help or bring supplies. i just responded with one of the few words i know - shalom, which pissed them off even more. then i got a little worried as more came and started climbing over a fence and trying to push through a locked gate. more and more of them yelled at us so we made our way back to the bulk of the protestors as the israeli police came to keep the counter-protestors back.

when we got in the bus to return it was slow going and the pro-israeli flag wavers follwed our buses and spit on us while yelling many things i couldn't interpret but got the gist of. the held up there middle fingers, held there hands around there crotches, and slit at their throats towards us. it was intensely disgusting, just because we ask for people not to be killed. it allowed me to see the underlying aggression that allows for such wars to be waged. how much hate. when i returned to where i was staying i was told - "it has begun". they had entered gaza with ground troops on the day of the protests - what assholes. so as internationally the cry of outrage is rising israel contends that its actions are defensive. but i just learned today that they had created a replica of gaza to train troops in weeks ago - BEFORE the end of the cease fire. so as far as i can tell they were just waiting for any excuse to enter.

Friday, January 2, 2009

on my way here

when i was in al-quds (jerusalem) the man at the internet cafe, mohammad, and i talked of many things. he says he enjoys meeting people like me who are interested in learning the truth about the situation. he invited me to return if i make it through there again so he can show me the area of abu dis. people live in jail there. it is literally imprisoned by the israeli military - if they need to leave they have to call the military to open the gates. and often times they come only when they want to. so once again people are trapped in their own homes, at the whims of others. i hope to meet up and talk with him more sometime. when i left he told me of a place to eat before leaving to meet hary in tel aviv.

on my way to the pizza place that has been family run for the last 35 years by an arab man and his family who have lived their entire lives in al-quds, i saw an israeli military person stopping everyone who looked arabic and making them show them their i.d. and when i arrived at the shop their was a group of 10-12 military people harassing people trying to pass. they would stop them and ask for their i.d.'s and even if they provided the right credential they took many over to the corner and made them stand up against the wall and pat them down. if they asked why the military person elbowed them in the face or stomach and told them to shut up. a woman asked for the soldier who was harassing her for his name, he said michal (sp?) and said "but they just call me rambo". i heard them tell others - "fuck you" or "you son of a bitch" as they hit them while searching them, for no reason other than their arabic features and names.

when i got into the pizza place, the owner was understably upset by the events right outside his place of business. i asked him if their was a reason, he said they had been doing this since the war in gaza began. i watched what happened outside and everytime they looked at me i just returned with a scowl. i tried to take some pictures but the light was too low for many of them to turn out. i got to have many conversations with the owner and his family, he turned on the news and 12 more had died earlier that day from more bombings in gaza. we talked again about the skewed coverage that occurs in the media. it's the same with any war - we keep track of every number of deaths of the side we support but the others remain countless and nameless. so far - (and it may be more today) 412 palestinians have been killed in gaza and 1800 wounded, 4 israelis have been killed and 6 wounded. the hospitals do not have the means to care for them all. and he expressed what so many others have, who knows if we will be here next year or even tomorrow. he told me of a man yesterday who had been stopped in the same manner and asked for his i.d. the man was 35 and had a beard. the guard who stopped him said this isn't you, where's the beard in the picture. before the man could protest the soldier took him around the corner and beat him. when he was done he threw the i.d back at him and said "my mistake, i guess it is you" and laughed.

after relating the stories and watching the news together the owner said "what can we do?", "what you hear and what you see are 2 different things, please tell others".

and so i sit in a kibbutz in north israel and feel like i am betraying all those i have met in some way. on my ride to tel aviv i was in a shared taxi between a paramilitary person and a security guard, the radio played "heal the world" by micheal jackson. how fucking ironic. i (almost) felt shame telling my palestinian friends that i was headed to tel aviv and then to stay in a kibbutz, knowing that many of them can't ever (and will probably never want to) go to these places that are symbols against their humanity and home.

everyone i have met hear has asked my experiences in israel so far, when i tell them where i have been and the warmth of my experiences they seem a little confused, but aren't you scared to travel there? i tell them no and let them know of the people i have met and the friends i have made. they live thinking all palestinians are wanting to harm them, and with the fear of missiles from hamas and hezbollah, in this land where anything can happen. the family i am staying with are amazing, hary, his wife channah, and their oldest daughter have all been so nice and give me a different perspective, i look forward to what i will learn from them as well. their son david is in the army and he comes home to visit tonight.

people are people and we need to start treating everyone with respect and supporting life not guided by label and dogmatic ideologies.


every day i am confronted with hope and the feeling of hopelessness, love and anger

in talking with people here about how the traumatic events experienced by the people of gaza during the bombardment that continues for the last week we often find ourselves talking about what the children teach us in this conflict. there are the stories from those who experience it first hand and those who are secondarily affected by it (most of us).

while watching the events unfold in gaza there is an urgency that i think is hard for most of us to identify with, especially if we have not experienced events that give us the reference for it ourselves. that may be why it is so easy to say -"israel has a right to defend itself". in that case why is the right to defend not extended to all peoples? and the right to defend does not equal the right to massacre. the people of gaza are dying daily and running out of supplies. in all the years of the conflict i have been told that what is going on now is the most extreme abuse of human rights that has been seen. and i have heard that most of the news (especially in the states) focuses on the fact that 4 israelis have been killed and that is the validation for the horrific acts that continue in gaza. as far as i can tell if we just look at the definition of words: israel is the real terrorist - one who uses or advocates terror:

1. intense, sharp, overmastering fear
2. an instance or cause of intense fear or anxiety; quality of causing terror
3. any period of frightful violence or bloodshed likened to the Reign of Terror in France.
4. violence or threats of violence used for intimidation or coercion
5. Informal. a person or thing that is especially annoying or unpleasant.

in the bombing of a mosque that happened days ago the reason stated by the israeli government was because two members of hamas were standing outside of it. while they succeeded in destroying the mosque, the 2 "members of hamas", and whoever was inside - the bombing also destroyed the house next door of a family of 10, mother, father, 2 sons, 6 daughters. in it were the 6 sisters, earlier that day the oldest sister had told her family - "i think we will die". she watched her other 5 sisters die in the explosion, and was the only one to survive.

i was told ghandi said - the best war against war is the children.

we are talking about death here: children, people, our neighbors, our families. maybe some find it easy to say it's not my family, i feel sorry for them if they think like that and are so easy to seperate yourself from the suffering of another. just because we don't live with the iminent threat let us not devalue the lives that have been lost and the many others who have been damaged: physically, emotionally , and mentally, probably never to recover. these are not just numbers on a tv. each one is you and me and someone that we love and will miss. and who knows what their life might have brought, we will never know. and in that the tragedy influences the lives of all those who survive. we need to stop blaming the actions and start looking at what is causing them, and what we are doing to support it, tacitly or otherwise.

i saw an interview with a woman and her 5 children. the children will not leave her side, they stand outside the door when she goes to the bathroom and everytime she leaves their sight they think she is dead. and she shares a sentiment that many do in gaza, that they will die at any moment. most have not left there home in days since the onslaught has begun, only briefly to get supplies. and many of them wonder if today is the day they will die and they say, they want die at home and with their families. can you imagine as a mother or parent not being able to assure the saftey of your kids and how that must make them feel?

this is very hard for me to write about - i have been nauseated and crying the last few days. and since i am often around others i find myself fighting back tears when i think of what they must be going through and feeling viscerally the impending doom of death that seems to wait. since being in the occupied land - "israel" i have had many mixed emotions, but what i've realized is we need to start seeing this on a humanistic level. wanting to support human rights and safety for palestinians is not anti-anyone else. when looking at the health of a society it should be measured by how well that society functions to fulfill the needs for a prosperous life of all individuals. at the very basic levels: food, shelter, and security. as humans we are failing miserably, not just here in palestine. how can we continue to live the way we do when we know that others are suffering and wondering if they might not see tomorrow. what happens to families when children don't feel they can be protected and parents feel hopeless and not able to provide safety for their children.

many people i have met in palestine were children during the 1st intifada and as they reflect on the effects that had on them they look to try to help the children now from having the same experiences. as safety is taken from them by seeing deaths on a daily basis, hearing bombs in the distance, seeing their parents fearful...they start thinking they have no one to count on, their parents can't protect them, expecting that wars are a part of life. as adults we have developed the coping mechanisms that will help us endure but the children need more and they deserve to be able to develop without the fear of death being just around the corner (literally). then they start seeing themselves through the political situation and less through self. the parents are distracted by news and the events and traumatized themselves, this leads to tense interactions. children need to be held and feel secure to develop into healthy adults with healthy relationships. they need to be able to express their feelings and be asked about what they are experiencing.

a man here in the west bank asked about letting his 4 year old daughter watch the news. she asked him to turn it on to watch what was happening in gaza. when he did she saw the footage of children and adults being carried out of rubble...she went to the tv and kissed it, while crying she said "i love gaza". he turned the tv off and she shouted at him to turn it back on, saying he didn't care about the people. he felt hurt by this because he was just trying to protect her. the lady presenting the lecture on maslow's pyramid and treating children after trauma told him to let her express her feelings by talking with her and try to get her to draw what is going on for her.

what kind of society are we creating that perpetuates events like these causing trauma to others and then wondering why they act out in childhood and when they become adults, trying to regain some sense of control over thier lives lost so early on.

"like two longtime friends...may we walk this road together"

I have met many here who say "share our stories". The director of Alrowwad Center, Dr. Abdelfattah Absrour has written some heartwrenching poems that can be found on the Alrowwad site (linked to the right) under the section - Poems and Writings. Please read them, especially "I witnessed". And here are some poems from the famous palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

A Lover From Palestine by Mahmoud Darwish

Her eyes are Palestinian
Her name is Palestinian
Her dress and sorrow Palestinian
Her kerchief, her feet and body Palestinian
Her words and silence Palestinian
Her voice Palestinian
Her birth and her death Palestinian

Rita And The Rifle by Mahmoud Darwish

Between Rita and my eyes
There is a rifle
And whoever knows Rita
Kneels and plays
To the divinity in those honey-colored eyes
And I kissed Rita
When she was young
And I remember how she approached
And how my arm covered the loveliest of braids
And I remember Rita
The way a sparrow remembers its stream
Ah, Rita
Between us there are a million sparrows and images
And many a rendezvous
Fired at by a rifle

Rita's name was a feast in my mouth
Rita's body was a wedding in my blood
And I was lost in Rita for two years
And for two years she slept on my arm
And we made promises
Over the most beautiful of cups
And we burned in the wine of our lips
And we were born again

Ah, Rita!
What before this rifle could have turned my eyes from yours
Except a nap or two or honey-colored clouds?
Once upon a time
Oh, the silence of dusk
In the morning my moon migrated to a far place
Towards those honey-colored eyes
And the city swept away all the singers
And Rita

Between Rita and my eyes—
A rifle

(excerpts from)Under Siege by Mahmoud Darwish

Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time
Close to the gardens of broken shadows,
We do what prisoners do,
And what the jobless do:
We cultivate hope.

The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty!

Resisting means assuring oneself of the heart’s health,
The health of the testicles and of your tenacious disease:
The disease of hope.

When the planes disappear, the white, white doves
Fly off and wash the cheeks of heaven
With unbound wings taking radiance back again, taking possession
Of the ether and of play. Higher, higher still, the white, white doves
Fly off. Ah, if only the sky
Were real [a man passing between two bombs said to me].

It is up to the soul to come down from its mount
And on its silken feet walk
By my side, hand in hand, like two longtime
Friends who share the ancient bread
And the antique glass of wine
May we walk this road together

Here there is no "I".
Here Adam remembers the dust of his clay.

On the verge of death, he says:
I have no trace left to lose:
Free I am so close to my liberty. My future lies in my own hand.
Soon I shall penetrate my life,
I shall be born free and parentless,
And as my name I shall choose azure letters...

You who stand in the doorway, come in,
Drink Arabic coffee with us
And you will sense that you are men like us
You who stand in the doorways of houses
Come out of our morningtimes,
We shall feel reassured to be
Men like you!

[To a killer] If you had contemplated the victim’s face
And thought it through, you would have remembered your mother in the
Gas chamber, you would have been freed from the reason for the rifle
And you would have changed your mind: this is not the way
to find one’s identity again.

Alone, we are alone as far down as the sediment
Were it not for the visits of the rainbows.

We have brothers behind this expanse.
Excellent brothers. They love us. They watch us and weep.
Then, in secret, they tell each other:
"Ah! if this siege had been declared..." They do not finish their sentence:
"Don’t abandon us, don’t leave us."

Our losses: between two and eight martyrs each day.
And ten wounded.
And twenty homes.
And fifty olive trees...
Added to this the structural flaw that
Will arrive at the poem, the play, and the unfinished canvas.

A woman told the cloud: cover my beloved
For my clothing is drenched with his blood.

If you are not rain, my love
Be tree
Sated with fertility, be tree
If you are not tree, my love
Be stone
Saturated with humidity, be stone
If you are not stone, my love
Be moon
In the dream of the beloved woman, be moon
[So spoke a woman
to her son at his funeral]


A little of this absolute and blue infinity
Would be enough
To lighten the burden of these times
And to cleanse the mire of this place.

On my rubble the shadow grows green,
And the wolf is dozing on the skin of my goat
He dreams as I do, as the angel does
That life is here...not over there.

In the state of siege, time becomes space
Transfixed in its eternity
In the state of siege, space becomes time
That has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow.

The martyr enlightens me: beyond the expanse
I did not look...for I love life
On earth, amid fig trees and pines,
But I cannot reach it, and then, too, I took aim at it
With my last possession: the blood in the body of azure.

The martyr warned me: Do not believe their ululations
Believe my father when, weeping, he looks at my photograph
How did we trade roles, my son, how did you precede me.
I first, I the first one!

The martyr encircles me: my place and my crude furniture are all that I have changed.
I put a gazelle on my bed,
And a crescent of moon on my finger
To appease my sorrow.

And in what remains of the dawn, I walk toward my exterior
And in what remains of the night, I hear the sound of footsteps inside me.

Greetings to the one who shares with me an attention to
The drunkenness of light, the light of the butterfly, in the
Blackness of this tunnel!

Greetings to the one who shares my glass with me
In the denseness of a night outflanking the two spaces:
Greetings to my apparition.

My friends are always preparing a farewell feast for me,
A soothing grave in the shade of oak trees
A marble epitaph of time
And always I anticipate them at the funeral:
Who then has died...who?

Writing is a puppy biting nothingness
Writing wounds without a trace of blood.

Our cups of coffee. Birds green trees
In the blue shade, the sun gambols from one wall
To another like a gazelle
The water in the clouds has the unlimited shape of what is left to us
Of the sky. And other things of suspended memories
Reveal that this morning is powerful and splendid,
And that we are the guests of eternity.

I Come From There by Mahmoud Darwish

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I have learned and dismantled all the words
to construct a single one: Homeland....

more about misinformation

There are many groups inside Israel and Palestine that are trying to inform us on the truth of events that we do not hear. here are some links to news articles about:

protecting civilians

bombed truck carrying oxygen was claimed to have been carrying grad rockets

civilians are not legitimate military targets, the geneva convention

there are many more articles and information on their site.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

new year - salam

The training in bethlehem ended up only being an introduction but everyonw seemed to learn quickly and i am going to try to return on th 6th before i leave to finish it. i was a little sad to leave aida camp and everyone i had become friends with, but excited for my work with the center in ramallah.

my friend ahlam accompanied me on my journey and hen i arrived i was invited to attend a workshop on how to treat children who have experienced trauma. the speaker went over maslow's hierarchy of needs and because of the events in gaza we focused on what those children in particular would be experiencing. i had heard of it before but never studied it. within the specific context in gaza i understood it viscerally. i will get into it more.

After she was done speaking they made an announcement for my workshop the next day in the context of another form of treatment for those who have experienced trauma. they tried to limit it to 20 people but so many were excited about it that they ended up allowing 26 to sign up. it was nice to watch the interest in what i came to do.

That night I had dinner ith my friend Ahlam who wanted me to cook, her neighbor was coming over that night. although i've only been here a week and most the conversations are in arabic i find myself understanding alot through context or maybe body language and intonation? we talked a lot about foreign foundations and their work in the west bank. and how many of them do very little to help the people here and have contracts that end up just serving their own interests often times. it makes me have mixed feelings about my work here because i don't want to be the same, or at least viewed as such.

the center put me up in the hotel where the conference took place, it was nice to take a warm shower, there are many things i don't think i'll ever take for granted again.

the next day as i prepared for the workshop i started feeling a little nervous. but since being here i have found myself very present and taking everything as it comes. because we had originally arrange for it to take 2 days i have found myself having to present a lot of information in a very short period of time. what ended up happening was similar to aida camp, it was more of an introduction to the work to foster interest in the future. i was helped by 3 people who had done the training in june: fardous, dr. nidal, and anham. i was very thankful for there support. and 2 of them have expressed interest in the possibility of working together with our organization to try to set up a center just for acupuncture. insha'allah. at the end i think many people were enthused at the prospect of learning more later. and the response from the staff seemed hopeful. also a local news crew came by to report on the workshop. so now i have a 30 second byte on local ramallah tv. it was weird though because i was talking to the reporter ho didn't ask any questions. i don't even know what i said. but those from the center were interviewed as well. i am so thankful ith the hospitality in which i have received from everyone here.

that night i had dinner with fardous and her family. it was wonderful we talked of many things and her mother assured me that i now have a place any time i visit and she made me promise that would be soon. and her sister, mira, said next time i come it should be for longer and she will give me private arabic lessons, w'allah! i wish i could express gratitude for how eceryone i've met has ewlcomed me into their homes and family with open arms. we often talk of the situation here and what is happening in gaza and how the international community is informed and what that creates in their perceptions of not only palestine but the arab world. and often times they express that they are so happy to meet me and know that soem of us are trying to learn the truth. her mother, fatima, said my visit has been very good and balancing for her because she needs to know that not all americans think poorly of palestinians and support what is being done here. i thanked her for sharing her experiences and home with me. i hope to return soon for longer, maybe even a couple of months, we'll see.

this morning i met with an amazing man, friend of a friend, abed. it took him an hour and a half to travel 28 km from his village north of ramallah due to the checkpoints, today there were 2 one palestinian and one israeli. he works with unions here and does workshops with palestinian workers in jerusalem to help educate them on their workers rights which are often not respected here (unfortunately not much of a surprise). he also started a fair trade for palestinian products organization (link on the right). we walked around ramallah a while and he helped me make it to the bus station for my trip to jerusalem. I am sad i didn't have more time to spend with this lovely man. maybe soon. he invited me to his village and said one day we will take a tour of the surrounding villages and all the farms he works with. and he assured me that if there is anything that i need i can call him and he will come. and again that i have a second home here. such a big heart and kind eyes. i look forward to getting to know him better in the future.

my heart is heavy as i sit here in jerusalem wondering when i will see my friends again and wishing them safety as the events here seem unpredictable. i have seen many other things which i will relate later. i just wanted to keep this one light and let everyone know of my wonderful experience with all the people i've met here. what love and sincere caring. i hope this finds you all well and you take the time to inform yourself with news from this perspective as well as what you see in the other medias, we owe it to everyone here to listen to their voices. i have included a link to an english site for aljazeera, please look into it.

wishing everyone a new year with hope for change