لنعيد البسمة لاطفال غزة

“To restore a smile to the children of Gaza.”

لنعيد البسمة لاطفال غزة

Young child whose mother completed the training course in Nuseirat, Gaza Strip.

Young child whose mother completed the training course in Nuseirat, Gaza Strip.

When children grow up with the sound of drones and F-16s overhead, and bombs shaking their homes, and rockets dropping through their bedroom ceiling in the middle of the night, how can their parents help them to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults?

I don’t think any parent in the United States can comprehend these challenges, much less offer an answer.

In 2005, the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognized that children around the world have a right to “life, survival and development” among other things.  Certainly Israel’s violent occupation of Palestine and the 5+ year siege of the Gaza Strip denies these children this fundamental right, but who is holding Israel accountable?   When will the occupation end?

One young man in Nusierat told me:

We don’t need conflict management [in the Middle East], we need conflict transformation.

That thought is profound and requires a shift in everyone’s thinking, but I don’t hear world leaders talking about it.  The occupation has become so ingrained in our thinking about the Middle East that we don’t seem capable of imagining a future without it.

The future belongs to the next generation, but the children who live under occupation face fears and trauma that leave life-long, debilitating scars. A program in the Gaza Strip is providing training and instruction to mothers in how to care for their children in this situation.

Yesterday I attended a ceremony recognizing their completion of the program and the accomplishments of these women.  A professional psychologist developed the curriculum and was leading the discussion as I entered the room.  The women were actively engaged and asking questions about what to do in specific circumstances.

Before the certificates were distributed, I was asked to share a few words.

I am a mother too.  I have three children and one granddaughter.  I know that you are the strong ones in your families.  The love and strength you give your children is so important.  We are one!

Raising their certificates over their heads, I could see how much this program affected their self-esteem and confidence.

Women waving their certificates of completion.

Women waving their certificates of completion.

Following the ceremony, I spoke with staff members (most of them are volunteers) and learned about their work with the children using art and play therapy.  One story will stay with me forever.

Play therapist in Gaza explains the impact on children of Israel's bombardment last November.

Play therapist in Gaza explains the impact on children of Israel’s bombardment last November.

The play therapist shared how he went to the schools where many families were taking shelter during the last Israeli offensive in November 2012.  He wanted to engage the children in some play and asked them to get into a circle.   Seeing a very lopsided circle, he asked them to hold hands.

Then one child asked him, “How?” pointing to the child next to him. “He has no hand.”

Children traumatized by war need help to express their feelings.

Children traumatized by war need help to express their feelings.

I am tired of hearing Americans and our politicians say the Middle East conflict is difficult, complex, intractable, unsolvable.  During my time in Gaza, the solution has become crystal clear to me. Israel must end the occupation now, today.   Conflict transformation, not conflict management.  No more talk, no more negotiations, no more truce or ceasefire. Just end the occupation.  InshAllah!

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8 Comments

Filed under Gaza, Israel, Occupation, Peaceful

8 responses to “لنعيد البسمة لاطفال غزة

  1. Yemeni

    Hello Lora you say it’s very simple just end the occupation, but if you ask me, the only occupation that’s going on, is that the Palestinians are occupying Israel. Israelis have to live in fear that the terrorist might blow up a bus, cafe or murder a family of children and parents while they sleep. I will tell you it is very simple stop the hatred and killing and we can live in piece it’s that simple.

    • Dear Yemeni:

      I agree that Israel is occupied — not like the occupation of Palestine, but occupied in the sense that no jailer is truly free. I visited a prison in the U.S. many years ago and saw how the jailers who worked there every day were just as imprisoned as the prisoners they watched. Israel’s soldiers are in a prison too, a prison of their own making.

      I understand your point about living in fear — fear of a bus blowing up, fear of a suicide bomber in the marketplace, fear of drones overhead every night, fear of missiles landing on your house and killing the entire family. There is a lot of fear shared by both the Israelis and Palestinians. And the children. 😦

      But ask yourself “why is there resistance?” “Why are the Palestinians resisting (both violently and nonviolently)?”

      When you answer those questions, then you may understand why I say the solution is simple — end the occupation.

      • Yemeni

        What year did this so called occupation start?
        Do you condone the violence ie. the killing of children and adults by either suiside bombs, rockets and stone throwing. or do you condem the violence?

    • Dear Yemeni:

      The Occupation began in 1947 when the state of Israel was created in Palestine.

      Writing about the “so called occupation” is the same as someone writing about the “so called holocaust”. Pretending that the occupation does not exist is just as hurtful and wrong as pretending there was no holocaust.

      You ask if I condemn violence. Yes! I condemn violence in all of its form and by any person or country. Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians.

      • Yemeni

        So if I understand this correctly, the fact that there is no peace, has nothing to do with settlements, because they were started in 67. The simple way to achieve peace is to end the occupation and go back to the times before 1948, pre Israel. If I understand this correctly you don’t believe in the state of Israel. I’m not sure if your familiar with history or just current events, Palestine was ruled before 48 by the British. Now that means were gonna have to go pre British rule, to achieve piece.

        I don’t understand what your connection you were trying to make with the holocust was. I’m not sure why you find it nessesery to connect apples with oranges.

  2. Thank you Doris! Obama is visiting Bethlehem in the West Bank. I’m in Gaza …. a world away from the West Bank. It is impossible for Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Gaza. I suppose Obama could jump into a helicopter and visit Gaza, but there is no way I could visit the West Bank. The guards would not allow it.

  3. Hope your message reaches lots of people. Maybe you should try to meet with Obama when he is in the area.

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