Category Archives: Gaza

We Are One

Christmas_Hill_Park_in_Gilroy_California_USA,_March_2017

Another senseless tragedy, this time at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California.  At the end of the day on the last day of the festival, a white male entered Christmas Hill Park and started shooting. In a flash 3 people were killed, including a 6 year old boy, and many more were wounded.

On the other side of the country, I learned about it within minutes on Facebook. Friends posted their shock and disbelief, their concern for the victims.

I was shocked too. Gilroy was my home in the 1980s, where I worked, raised children, and made good friends. My home was a block from Christmas Hill Park. I volunteered at the Festival for several years. My first assignment as a city planner in Gilroy was to document a massive flood that impacted much of the city, including Christmas Hill Park.

After hearing news of the tragedy, I posted my personal connection to Gilroy and the Garlic Festival on Facebook, and read many similar messages from people who have even a tenuous connection to Gilroy.

Then it hit me.

Although most people are saddened by a tragedy, we feel a visceral connection when the tragedy “hits home” and touches a place or person we actually know. That’s when we want to share our stories and humanity where there were inhumane acts committed.

WeAreOne-MedI think it must be human nature. When we feel a connection, we can reach across the time and distance that divides us and reconnect with the victims. We are one.

It’s not yet human nature to empathize with the “other” — those we don’t feel a connection with.  I know, because I’ve watched my own empathy quotient rise as I’ve connected with people.

Before 2016, I had no connection to Sudan and probably couldn’t even place it on the map accurately. Then I met a Sudanese woman who made my Subway sandwich in Baltimore every week. We talked, we got together for dinner at each other’s homes, we shared a Christmas Eve together, and we bonded. Today, I can’t hear news about Sudan without thinking of my friend. I hope to visit her in Baltimore in a couple of weeks.

Before 2004, I had no connection with Palestine. That’s when I made my first trip to Gaza with a friend. (I’ve written about that trip on this blog, and it’s included in the book I’m writing.) I knew the Zionist messaging about the Israel-Palestine “conflict” but nothing more. Then my eyes and heart were opened.

I wish all Americans could open their eyes and heart and be one with the Palestinians in Gaza. Maybe I can because I lived there, I worked there, I visited there and I know people there. 

Maybe that’s why the U.S. State Department prevents Americans from traveling to Gaza; it doesn’t want Americans establishing a visceral connection with the Palestinians. Israel doesn’t want the world connecting either, which is clear from its 12 years blockading the 2+ million people in the Gaza Strip. 

Will homo sapiens evolve? Can we connect with each other as one, and leave the “us versus them” paradigm back in the savanna? I hope so.

 

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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

My Coddiwomple

Coddiwomple – to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

Kabir (a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, whose writings, according to some scholars, influenced Hinduism’s Bhakti movement) — “I felt in need of a great pilgrimage so I sat still for three days.”

My journey began in Malaysia and ended in Dubai, with visits to London, Langholm, Edinburgh, Stirling, Cambridge, Brussels, Leuven, Tilburg, Paris, Lyon, Geneva, Milan, Como, Venice, Cairo and finally to the United Arab Emirates. Despite all the miles, I failed to reach my destination: Gaza, Palestine. [That’s another story.]

My itinerary was clearly not of my own making. My path appeared as the opportunities opened up. I simply kept my eyes and heart open to the possibilities.

Living out of my suitcase for nearly nine months was easy; traveling light is my forte. Staying connected with family and friends was easy too, thanks to WhatsApp and social media. My online SCRABBLE friends will never know how much they kept this traveler tethered to home.

SNAPSHOTS OF MY JOURNEY

MALAYSIA: The invitation to attend the Freedom Film Festival in Kuala Lumpur jump-started my adventure.  (I wrote about it here.)  A month in Malaysia included a radio interview about Gaza, a wedding attended by the new (old) Prime Minister and his wife, a press conference in Penang about an ill-advised and poorly planned highway project, and ended with a visit to a remote village in the Kelabit Highlands where I spoke with a classroom of middle school students, and received a simple request through a translator from an old woman sitting next to me in the village church. “Pray for me. My husband just died and I’m lonely.”

The Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak, Malaysia

I learned an important lesson in Malaysia. I’m never traveling alone despite the fact that I’m a solo traveler, an elderly American woman who can’t speak any language but my mother tongue, and without resources to squander on hotels.  My new Malaysian friends opened their homes to me in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, guided me through their country, shared their time and experience with me, and opened up new possibilities (from tasting the durian fruit in Penang to learning about stingless bees and honey at the agricultural expo in Kuching). When I left Malaysia, I had a new appreciation and confidence about traveling. It’s important to be cautious and smart about my surroundings, but I don’t need to fear the unknown.

EGYPT:  In November, I flew to Cairo and returned to my Egyptian family at Pension Roma. My goal was to finish a writing project (which I did) and get permission from the Egyptian authorities to travel to Gaza (which I didn’t).  Pension Roma has been my home away from home since my first visit in 2011, where I’ve met the most interesting people. This time, Elizabeth from the UK, Mona from Paris, Andre from Canada, and Belal from Gaza were my new friends. We traveled to new and old places in Cairo; Mona and Andre and I took the train one day to Alexandria; and Mona and I traveled to an Ecolodge in the Fayoum Oasis where we met Evelyne Porret, a potter from Switzerland, who transported the art and commerce of pottery to the village of Tunis in the 1980s.

Mona and I rode on a Felucca on Qarun Lake, visited the Wadi el Rayan protected area, explored the Meidum Pyramid that hasn’t been open to tourists for years, and dodged the Egyptian security detail following us. On my 65th birthday, my friends surprised me with a cake and a serenade at Filfila, one of my favorite restaurants in Cairo Jimmy Carter visited many years ago. I made a birthday resolution to walk 10,000 steps each day, a reasonable goal since I love to walk so much.

A casual remark from an employee at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo confirmed that the U.S. and Egyptian governments are working together to keep Americans out of Gaza. I was very disheartened and not sure about my next step until an American friend in London invited me to spend the Christmas holidays with him. With my writing project completed and no plans on my horizon, I jumped on a plane to London.

LONDON AND NORTH TO SCOTLAND:

I’ve never been to London, and seeing the city for the first time with Maurice was a wonderful reintroduction to the West following my adventures in Malaysia and Egypt.  In addition to the famous tourist spots, we walked and walked and walked . . . 3 dogs to be exact. Maurice and I decided to accept a house-sitting, dog-sitting assignment in the East End for nearly 3 weeks which allowed me to experience London at the granular level (sidewalk by sidewalk).

One day I met the author of Shy Radicals, another day I met a Facebook friend who shares my passionate advocacy on Gaza and also loves live theater. I joined a protest against the maltreatment of refugees. Amid everything new and exciting, I learned something important about myself. I’m stubborn, judgmental and have little patience when things aren’t going MY WAY.

Maurice and I decided to accept another dog-sitting assignment —- but he headed south and I took the bus north to Langholm where I was suppose to meet up with a retired Buddhist nun. Maurice and I had talked with her on the phone a couple of times from London; Maurice thought she might have a screw loose but I thought she sounded OK. Maurice’s instincts turned out to be accurate. She lived alone in squalid conditions with a little dog. It looked like the kitchen sink held dirty dishes that had piled up for several weeks, and she was a hoarder. I spent the night on her couch and extracted myself at dawn with a quiet “goodbye”.  I would have sought out protective services to assist her but she told me her adult son was visiting later that day, and I told her neighbor that I was leaving.

Without any alternative plans, where should I go? What should I do? I decided to check out the Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery up the road from Langholm, the nun’s spiritual home. I found a quiet retreat center at the monastery and was assigned a bunk bed in a room for six people but I was alone. January is a quiet time in northern England.

Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s quiet serenity included peaceful walks around the large estate, simple but delicious meals, nightly prayers in the temple, reading a very good book set in Scotland (Outlander) and lots of sleep. I arrived with a persistent cough that wasn’t getting better. The monk leading the prayers each night read off a list of names — people we were praying for — and I added my family to the list. Someone added my name to the list as well. One evening I was so tired, I skipped dinner and slept. When I awoke, I found a note next to my bed with a piece of bread and jam. “In case you’re hungry when you wake up.” Another evening the night watchman brought me a special medicinal tea bag that he said might help.

A monk recommended I visit with a doctor in town, and so I caught the bus for the 30 minute ride back into Langholm and the small clinic. A nurse practitioner saw me without an appointment. After many questions, taking my vitals and listening to my chest, she prescribed Amoxicillin and told me to return in a week if I didn’t feel better. Neither the clinic nor the pharmacy wanted a penny from me!

Within a week I was feeling much better and able to sit through the evening prayer in the temple without coughing. I may never know whether the prayers, the Amoxicillin, the medicinal tea, or simply the extended bed rest were responsible for my healing, but I learned an important lesson at Samye Ling. 

There are angels all around us, some we see and many we don’t. Speaking to them through prayer is a powerful way to connect with each other and the universe.  I learned how to pray at Samye Ling.

EDINBURGH: 

Scotland in January is cold, damp and gray but I didn’t know if I’d ever return and so at the end of the month I caught a bus to Edinburgh. I was hooked on getting to know Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland in her Outlander series better.

I walked and walked and walked, but noticed I was walking with more difficulty. Old Edinburgh is a three-dimensional city with steps everywhere. I spent part of every day in the Central Library Reading Room working on another writing assignment. Then I went exploring the city when it wasn’t raining, and sitting in Starbucks reading when it was.

Friends suggested I taste the Scotch. One evening I went up to the bar to ask for a recommendation. The bartender served me and the young man next to me paid for it. He could have been my grandson. I thanked him and asked him why? He said he was paying it forward, and suggested I do the same. The next day I discovered Social Bite where I bought lunch and paid it forward.

In Edinburgh I observed a heated debate about homelessness in Parliament, and watched the Advocates make their oral arguments in court wearing their robes and white wigs. I walked past protesters demanding a vote on whether or not to leave the UK following the ill-conceived Brexit move which a majority in Scotland didn’t support. I found myself caught in the middle of the Irish rugby fans waiting in front of Balmoral Hotel for their team to depart, walked through the Palace of HolyRoodhouse, and felt immersed in history everywhere.  The high points of my visit were the people I connected with — including a friend from Samye Ling, a friend from Gaza, and new friends from South Korea and Italy.  I finished my writing project and reserved a train to London.

I learned an important lesson in Edinburgh.  As much as I love to explore places and cities (I’m a city planner after all), it’s meeting people (old and new) that give my life meaning. The places and cities shape our understanding of the world and each other, but people provide the glue that makes the world turn.

LONDON REDUX:

In February, Maurice and I reconnected in London. This visit involved less tourism and more activism as I stood with the Women in Black at the Edith Cavell memorial, observed a discussion about Palestine in the House of Commons, attended Emma Sky‘s book reading at the Frontline Club, listened to Professor Ilan Pappe speak about colonization versus occupation in Palestine, and joined thousands of students protesting our inaction on the climate crisis.  I was keeping my pace at 10,000 steps or more each day but with difficulty. The pain in my left leg wasn’t going away. Maybe I should visit the doctor when I return to the US.

BRUSSELS, LEUVEN, and TILBURG:

I boarded a train on February 28 to Brussels and must have looked bedraggled when I arrived at the hostel. The receptionist asked me if I knew it was a hostel? Yes. “A youth hostel.” Yes. “We have an age limit of 35.” I didn’t notice any age limits on the website when I booked the reservation. She made an exception for me. Although I was clearly the oldest guest, young people from many countries struck up conversations with me and I felt right at home.

Brussels YOUTH hostel

Lora at a YOUTH hostel in Brussels

The museums, churches and the European Parliament filled my days, as well as a massive march opposing the Death Penalty.  One day I caught the train to Tilburg to visit an Egyptian friend pursuing his graduate studies there. Another day I took the train to Leuven to attend the Women in Black international conference. We stood outside city hall holding our signs in our vigil for peace and the end of war. When the organist in the church across the plaza played John Lennon’s IMAGINE, many of us had tears. It was the most meaningful vigil I’ve ever participated in.

PARIS, LYON and GENEVA:

A train to Paris (3 days), on to Lyon (7 days), and then a bus to Geneva (7 days) connected me to Mona, Naki, Eva and a new friend – Claire Elise. This was my second visit to Paris. I wasn’t interested in seeing the typical tourist sites. Instead, I spent one day walking around the Marais neighborhood only a few steps from my hostel. This is the Jewish quarter with very different architecture and history than most other districts in Paris. The Shoah Memorial and the Museum of Jewish Art and History captured my attention; a beautiful piano recital at the oldest church in Paris where Herbert du Plessis performed Chopin and Liszt soothed my restless soul; and a tour inside Notre Dame Cathedral and the Crypt under the plaza in front turned out to be prescient. Five weeks later, Notre Dame was engulfed in flames.

On March 10, I headed to Lyon on the train (the European Union has wonderful trains) and again I spent the days walking, walking, walking. The stairs up Fourvière Hill, the historical site of Lyon, almost did me in. The effort was worth it to see the whole city of Lyon below and the Basilique de Fourvière.

I joined students protesting climate inaction on Friday, and thousands of people marching and demanding climate action on Saturday. But I was questioning my next steps. Should I return to the US? Then I received a WhatsApp message — my name had been included in a medical convoy traveling to Gaza in a month!

Suddenly, my focus shifted to fundraising for the medical convoy. I consulted with a seasoned fundraiser and decided to record short videos about my campaign. Before returning to Cairo to join the convoy, I decided to meet a friend in Geneva.

Lora and NakiThere are people who touch your heart unlike any other. I hadn’t seen Naki since our days together in Cairo at Pension Roma seven years ago. When we reconnected in Geneva, and I met her husband, I felt the time melting away. We’re bonded together whether we share any physical space or not. I can’t explain it. 

We visited the International Committee of the Red Cross and I dreamed of a career my alter ego could have/should have had. My own career trajectory seemed so pitiful in comparison. Regrets and more regrets.

One day I walked past a well-organized Zionist demonstration in front of the United Nations Building. They were condemning the UN Human Rights Council meeting which had just wrapped up a discussion about Israel, Gaza and the Palestinian Territories. Back at the hostel, a young man overheard me talking with someone about the demonstration. He was from Brussels and had traveled to Geneva to be part of it but had questions after Googling information about some of the people who had spoken. He supported Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism, but the information he found indicated the speakers at the demonstration were Far Right reactionaries. He was questioning what the “other side of the story” might be. We had a good engaging conversation, listening to each other, and both agreeing to disagree respectfully. We agreed on the most important thing —- that it’s important to build bridges across the great divides in our society.

I learned something important in Geneva. It takes courage to walk across the divide and speak with the opposition (whether Israel-Palestine, pro-choice and pro-life, etc). That young man showed me how to do it, with respect and an open mind and heart. I hope I can emulate him in future conversations I have, and take the initiative to reach out across the divide.

MILAN, COMO and VENICE:

My three weeks in Italy (March 23 – April 11) was an adventure of pure convenience. I didn’t know anyone there, but it was so close. I didn’t want to pass up a chance to see a part of Italy I’d never visited. I also didn’t want to pass up the chance to take a bus through the Swiss Alps!

I was still managing 10,000 steps in Milan but not every day, and my gait was much slower. My posture must have given me away. Clerks were routinely asking me if I needed assistance and offering me special consideration to get to the front of the line. My head felt young and inquisitive, but my body was feeling its age. I thought about attending a performance at the Teatro alla Scala but I was too tired to stay out late.

Throughout my journey, I’d been reading history books about the places I visited. For the very first time, my high school history lessons were beginning to make sense. This was especially true in Milan and Venice.

Milan will always stick in my mind as a high-fashion center of clothes and design with very good public transportation, and some of the most magnificent buildings I’ve ever seen. I felt like a country bumpkin wearing the same things I’d been wearing for the past 6 months, but there was no one to complain, and I took a shower every other day. Ha!

A guest at the hostel raved about his visit to Lake Como, so I decided to take the train there the next day. The natural beauty + the town’s charm = a very special spot to return and settle down for a spell to write. I rode the funicular up the mountain. Just imagine — it’s been in operation since 1894.

Then I boarded a train to Venice (March 27 – April 11). Train travel everywhere was easy, inexpensive, and a joy. When will the U.S. emulate Europe’s leadership in public transportation?

Arriving at the Santa Lucia Train Station, I had directions to my hostel on Giudecca and knew I had to get a vaporetto (water taxi).  I knew exactly which one too.

I asked the first man who approached me for directions. He was slick and firm with his response. He could take me to my hostel on his private water taxi for a princely sum. I insisted I was looking for the public taxi, and he finally caved and pointed me in the right direction. As I walked off pulling my suitcase behind me, a young man said “Good job!” I asked “What?” And he told me I handled the pesky taxi sales person very well. On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the highest level of confidence, I think my confidence traveling alone has shot up to 8 or 9 since I started this journey in Malaysia six months ago.

venice-sestieri

I loved Venice so much, and the people were so welcoming, I decided to stay two weeks and really explore. Venice is definitely the city to walk. I walked everywhere, every day, but now slightly limping on my left leg. I explored nooks and crannies that I suspect the first time tourist never sees, but I also visited all of the tourist sites. I purchased Jan Morris’ book “Venice” at the most beautiful bookstore in the world, and took it everywhere I went. The weekly transit pass for the vaporetto was 60 Euros and well worth it. I jumped on and off several times each day, along with Venetians and their pet dogs. Venetians love their dogs.

The Vivaldi concert at Chiesa San Vidal was excellent. The food everywhere was delicious but expensive. Along with the calories, I was counting my Euros carefully.

Naila and the Uprising 3Every day I was fundraising for the medical convoy to Gaza, and slowly making progress. Asking people for money is difficult but I have overcome my reticence because I know the need is so great. One evening I decided to go to the mainland to see “Naila and the Uprising” — the same film that I’d seen at the film festival in Malaysia. I was curious to see how many people might show up. Are the Italians good solidarity activists for Palestine? I was pleased to see a roomful of people (probably 75-100) of all ages. My biggest surprise was seeing Naila herself, the central protagonist of the film, at the event with her husband. They answered questions after the film through an interpreter.

Throughout my travels, I found tremendous support for Palestine, much more so than I’ve seen in the U.S.  Maybe my solidarity work should focus on Americans in my own back yard.

Before I left Venice, I had to know whether there were any plans or actions addressing the inevitable sea rise and impacts of climate change. One evening Piazza San Marco was flooded when there was a convergence of high tides, full moon and lots of rain. It seemed to me the entire city would be under water with rising sea levels.

I asked to meet with the city’s planning director and was pleased that an appointment could be arranged before I traveled. I sat with Vincenzo de Nitto and his colleague, Marco Bordin, and our conversation ranged from the impact of tourism on the historic center of Venice to the inevitable rising sea level. They showed me the MOSE project which should be completed very soon, a series of steel gates at the inlets which will be raised whenever the sea level is expected to rise, and lowered when the water recedes. A technological fix to a new reality, but I wonder if it will work. Many planners and scientists laud Venice as a leader in addressing climate change.

On April 11, I boarded my flight to Cairo to connect up with the medical convoy going to Gaza.  That’s for another story.Coddiwomple

Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019) — “Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon? Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

 

 

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Filed under Climate Change, Gaza, Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

Pull the Curtain Back

Samra boutique

The Samra boutique, before and after the strike. Photos by Samra Fashion – Gaza.

The politically correct message for the Israeli leaders to send to the world after any military operation in Gaza is:

“we’re defending ourselves” and

“the militants in Gaza started it” and

“we hit this and that military target.”

Decipher any news reports in the western media about the latest assault on Gaza and you’ll find versions of all three in every article.

But pull the curtain back and you’ll quickly find a very different story.

The goal of self-defense is a shallow proxy for the goal of systematically destroying the Gaza Strip and making it unlivable for the 2+ million Palestinians imprisoned there. “De-development” is the term coined by economist Sara Roy in her book about the political economy of de-development in the Gaza Strip. This real goal requires destruction of hospitals, utilities, infrastructure, libraries, universities and even retail businesses.  All of which Israel has been successfully accomplishing over the past 12 years or more.

The message of self-defense naturally requires Israel to convince the world that the Palestinians in Gaza are responsible for starting the hostilities. They accomplish this stealth maneuver by simply choosing the date and event which best suits their story. Don’t look too far back at the months of Israeli snipers shooting and killing peaceful protesters at the fence separating Israel and Gaza. Don’t look at Israel’s more recent targeted assassinations in Gaza. Begin the chronology of events when the Palestinian militants shoot rockets towards Israel — perfect for the self-defense narrative.

And finally, Israel is the most moral army of the world, or so it wants the world to believe. That explains the non-stop messaging about military targets. But pull the curtain back and we see a much different picture.

Gisha, the legal center for freedom of movement, reported today about Israel’s destruction of a successful retail business in the center of Gaza. This is the true target of Israel’s military operation — the de-development of Gaza.

“Years of work disappeared in one minute”
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The latest round of hostilities between Israel and Gaza that erupted earlier this week took its toll on the lives, homes and dreams of individuals in Gaza and southern Israel. Media reports tend to focus on the stories of those killed or injured. This is the story of one Palestinian resident of Gaza who was “fortunate” enough not to suffer direct physical harm, but is one of countless people paying a different kind of price. Mahmoud Said Al Nakhaleh, 29-years-old from Gaza City, lost his life’s work in the blink of an eye when Israel bombed the six-story building that housed his women’s clothing boutique in central Gaza City.

Four years ago, Al Nakhaleh opened his boutique, Samra, on the city’s main street, and it became a successful retail business. On Saturday night, just ahead of the start of Ramadan and the holiday that marks its end, Eid Al-Fitr, when people tend to shop for new clothes, Al Nakhaleh lost his property, his investment, and his livelihood in one fell swoop.

“We were working in the store, getting ready for the holiday. I never once thought Mahmoud Said Al Nakhalehanything like this could happen,” Al Nakhaleh told Gisha’s field coordinator, Mohammad Azaiza. “No one contacted us to tell us to leave the store. We ran away when we heard the warning missile hit the building. We didn’t take anything with us. Within minutes the building turned into rubble. Years of work disappeared in a minute.”

Personal documents and cash that were in the store at the time were also destroyed. Al Nakhaleh estimates that merchandise worth tens of thousands of dollars, which was on the shop floor at the time of the bombing, was lost, along with $40,000 worth of brand new stock purchased for Eid Al-Fitr that was still in storage.

The boutique had been the sole source of income for both Al Nakhaleh and his two employees, all of whom are now unemployed. Other offices located in the same building were also demolished. “There are organizations that provide care for orphans, educational centers, media agencies. Why bomb them? Even the Red Cross told us no one had warned them that the building was going to be bombed,” said Al Nakhaleh.

Now Al Nakhaleh is trying to decide what to do next. “I was married recently and I live in a rental. Everything I had is gone and I can’t get it back. I don’t know what to do,” he admits. “I call on the world to take action to stop the firing on civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

There is no military solution that can usher in long-term quiet. Regional stability will only be made possible once Israel takes substantial, forthright steps to protect the human rights of Gaza’s two million residents and allow the Strip’s shattered economy to recover and develop. Ceasefire agreements, the “gestures” by Israel that come with them to “ease” the closure on Gaza, or more humanitarian aid from the international community cannot substitute the only long-term solution, which is an end to the occupation and resolution of the conflict.

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“עבודה של שנים הלכה בדקה”
יום ג’ 7 במאי, 2019
סבב האלימות האחרון גבה קורבנות. חייהם, רכושם ותקוותיהם של תושבים, בעזה ובדרום ישראל, נלקחו מהם באלימות בלתי נסבלת. מתפרסמים סיפוריהם של מי שחייהם קופחו, של מי שנפצעו. הסיפור הבא הוא של אדם שלמזלו לא נפגע בגופו, אך הוא נמנה עם הרבים שמשלמים מחיר אחר. פרנסתו ומפעלו המקצועי של מחמוד סעיד אל-נח’אלה, תושב העיר עזה בן 29, נלקחו ממנו אתמול ברגע כשבוטיק בגדי הנשים שבבעלותו נהרס כליל אתמול בהפצצה של ישראל על הבניין בן שש הקומות שבו נמצא העסק, במרכז עזה.

מאז פתח אל-נח’אלה את הבוטיק לפני ארבע שנים, ברחובה הראשי של העיר עזה, הפך “סמרא” לחנות מצליחה לייבוא ולממכר בגדי נשים. כעת, בשיא עונת הקניות, לקראת הרמדאן והחד שבסופו, איבד ברגע את כל רכושו והונו.

“עבדנו בחנות והתכוננו לחג, ולא עלה בדעתי לרגע שדבר כזה יקרה,” סיפר היום למוחמד עזאיזה, תחקירן “גישה”. “אף אחד לא יצר קשר לבקש שנצא מהחנות. ברחנו כששמענו את פגיעת טיל האזהרה. לא לקחנו איתנו דבר. בתוך דקות הבניין הפך לעיי חורבות. עבודה של שנים הלכה בדקה”.

כסף מזומן ומסמכים אישיים שנשארו בחנות, הושמדו. אל-נח’אלה מעריך כי בהפצצה נפגעו סחורות בשווי עשרת אלפים דולר שהיו בחנות, וסחורה חדשה בשווי 40 אלף דולר שנשמרה במחסן והיתה מיועדת לרמדאן ולקראת עיד אל-פיטר.

בחנות הועסקו גם שני עובדים, שהיא מקור פרנסתם היחיד, וכעת מחוסרי עבודה. בנוסף לבוטיק של מוחמד, נפגעו משרדים נוספים השוכנים בבניין שהופצץ. “יש כאן ארגונים לטיפול ביתומים, מרכזים חינוכיים, סוכנויות תקשורת. למה להפציץ? אפילו הצלב האדום מסרו לנו שאיש לא עדכן אותם בכוונה להפגיז את הבניין,” אמר אל-נח’אלה.

הוא מנסה כעת לחשב את צעדיו. “התחתנתי לאחרונה ואני גר בשכירות. כל מה שיש לי הלך ללא חזור. אני לא יודע מה לעשות,” הוא מודה. “אני קורא לעולם לפעול למען הפסקת הירי לעבר אזרחים ברצועה”.

כל עוד לא ייעשו צעדים כנים לקידום זכויות האדם של תושבי הרצועה, נדונו לחזרה מעגלית איומה של פרצי אלימות, לעוד ועוד סיפורים כשל מחמוד אל-נח’אלה. הסכמים קצרי טווח ו”מחוות” ישראליות שמבטיחות “להקל” על הסגר, כמו גם עוד סיוע הומניטרי מידי הקהילה הבינלאומית, אינם תחליף למהלכים ארוכי-טווח שיובילו לסיום הכיבוש ולפתרון לסכסוך.
העבירו לחברים | תרמו לגישה
“تعب السنين ضاع بلحظة”
‫الثلاثاء‬ 7 أيار، 2019

حصدت جولة التصعيد الحالية الكثير من الضحايا. السكان، الذين يعانون أصلاً وزر الحياة اليومية القاسية، يخسرون أرواحهم، ممتلكاتهم وأحلامهم بعنف لا يطاق. نسمع قصص الضحايا والجرحى، لكن السطور التالية مخصصة لشخص حالفه الحظ ولم يخسر حياته ولم يصب بجسده، لكنه ككثيرين آخرين، دفع ثمنًا من نوع آخر. محمود النخالة، من سكان غزة ويبلغ من العمر 29 عامًا، خسر مصدر رزقه ومشروعه التجاري، بعد ان تم هدم بوتيك الملابس النسائية التابع له جراء قصف إسرائيلي لعمارة في مركز مدينة غزة.

منذ ان افتتح النخالة هذا البوتيك قبل أربع سنوات، في شارع أحمد عبد العزيز في مدينة غزة، أصبح بوتيك سمرا، متجرًا ناجحًا ومتميزًا لاستيراد وتسويق الملابس النسائية. الآن، وفي ذروة موسم المبيعات، عشية شهر رمضان وعيد الفطر، خسر بلحظة كل ما يملك.

“عملنا في البوتيك وتحضرنا للعيد، ولم يخطر ببالي للحظة أن يحدث شيء من هذا القبيل،” قال النخالة للباحث الميداني في “ﭼيشاه – مسلك” محمد العزايزة. “لم يتصل بنا أحد ليخبرنا بأن نخرج من الدكان. هربنا عندما سمعنا انفجار صاروخ التحذير. لم نأخذ معنا أي شيء. خلال دقائق تحولت البناية لخرابة. تعب السنين ضاع بلحظة.”

الأموال والمستندات الشخصية التي ظلت في الدكان، أبيدت. ويقدر النخالة أن قيمة البضائع التي كانت في الدكان تبلغ نحو 10 آلاف دولار، بالإضافة إلى بضائع جديدة بقيمة 40 ألف دولار وصلت مؤخرًا وحفظت في المخزن لعرضها في رمضان وعيد الفطر.

كما عمل في البوتيك شخصان آخران، كان ذلك هو مصدر رزقهما الوحيد، والآن بقيا بلا عمل. بالإضافة إلى بوتيك محمد، ضمت العمارة مكاتب أخرى دمرها القصف. “يوجد هنا جمعيات لرعاية الأيتام، مراكز تربوية، مكاتب إعلامية. لماذا تم قصف المبنى؟ حتى الصليب الأحمر أخبرنا أن أحدًا لم يبلغهم عن النية بقصف المبنى” يقول النخالة.

يحاول محمد الآن دراسة خطواته. “تزوجت منذ فترة قصيرة وأسكن بشقة مستأجرة. كل ما أملكه ذهب بلا عودة. لا أعرف ما يمكنني فعله” يقول محمد ويضيف “أناشد كل العالم بالعمل من اجل وقف قصف المدنيين في غزة”.

طالما لم يتم اتخاذ اجراءات حقيقية وصادقة لتعزيز حقوق الإنسان لسكان قطاع غزة، سنبقى جميعنا نعاني من هذا الواقع المرير، الذي تحكمه جولات التصعيد المتكررة، ونشاهد المزيد من الحالات الشبيهة بحالة محمود النخالة. اتفاقيات قصيرة الأمد و”بوادر حسن نية” من قبل إسرائيل، التي بموجبها يتم “تخفيف” وطأة الإغلاق المفروض على القطاع، وحتى ضخ المزيد من المساعدات الإنسانية، جميعها ليست بديلات عن حلول جذرية تؤدي إلى إنهاء الاحتلال وحل الصراع.

ارسلوا للاصدقاء | تبرعوا لـمسلك

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Our mailing address is:
Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
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Tel Aviv-Jaffa 67770
Israel

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Filed under Economic Development, Gaza, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, Media, People, Uncategorized, Video

The “other” is so difficult to see

Living under aerial bombardment and threat of death year after year is a fact of life that most Americans cannot understand or appreciate.

Am I speaking of the Palestinians living in Gaza or the Israelis living in Sderot near Gaza?

Both.

But the value of life, and the righteousness of suffering, are often co-opted by each side to such a great extent that Israelis and their supporters are blind to the humanity of the Palestinians living a mere 7 miles away.  And many Palestinians and their supporters disregard,  discount or fail to even acknowledge the fact that the civilians living in Sderot are humans too.

When pressed about this lack of empathy or understanding for the “other” — the typical “But what about….?” responses surface reflexively without any thought.

An Israeli: “But what about the Hamas terrorists who want to destroy Israel?”

A Palestinian: “But what about Israel’s disproportionate firepower, the disproportionate numbers of Palestinian victims, and the fact that Israel is the occupier and oppressor for decades on end?”

An Israeli: “But what about that Israeli who was killed last night and the others who were wounded?”

A Palestinian: “But what about the pregnant mother and her infant toddler killed by an Israeli airstrike last night?”

An Israeli: “But what about Israel’s right to defend herself?  And the Palestinians started it with the rockets they are shooting at us.”

A Palestinian: “But what about international law and our right to fight the occupier in whatever way we choose?”

And the list goes on, with heightened rhetoric and memes shooting back and forth at ever greater speed on social media when the rockets and missiles are flying.

I don’t expect a Palestinian or an Israeli, sitting in an active blast zone with the threat of death hanging over them and their families, to ponder these thoughts about the humanity of the “other”.

I don’t expect them to agree with a word I’m writing.

But for those of us who are not in the blast zone, and have the privilege of thinking quietly about the “other” let me posit the following:

  • The “but what about?” questions are irrelevant to the fact of the other’s humanity.
  • Genuine solidarity requires us to see and acknowledge the humanity of everyone, even when each side can’t recognize the other’s humanity.
  • Although international law is relevant, both sides are violating it when they shoot into areas populated with civilians.
  • And the status quo isn’t working for either side, although clearly the occupier would prefer to remain in charge.

Six years ago, when I was living in Gaza, my sincerity as a solidarity activist was challenged.  I wrote a response which is as relevant today as it was then.  Check it out here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Deflated but not defeated

I learned Wednesday evening that the Egyptian authorities have not approved my travel with the medical convoy to Gaza tomorrow. No reason given.

When I heard the news about 12 hours before our expected departure, I felt like a deflated balloon.  All the air and energy left me and I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I asked the convoy organizer if the other member of the VPM delegation (Viva Palestinia Malaysia) with whom I’m traveling was approved.

He was. That was good news.

And I knew my 375 cans of PediaSure, the bag of books for the library in Gaza, and the bag of vitamins for a sick doctor, would all make it to Gaza without me. InshaAllah.

PediaSure going to Gaza

But I was angry, depressed, and wanted to engage in combat with someone, anyone, everyone!

I returned to my room and the first post I saw on Facebook was by Stephen Zunes.  He wrote:

Hanan Ashrawi is a Quaker-educated Palestinian Christian who holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Virginia. She served as the Palestine Authority’s minister of education and is the founder of MIFTA, a Palestinian NGO working to build a democratic society, and the Independent Commission for Human Rights. An anti-corruption and human rights campaigner and a feminist, she has long advocated for nonviolence and a two-state solution. She was scheduled to give a talk at the University of Massachusetts this week, but the U.S. government denied her a visa.”

This news puts my disappointment into perspective.

Then I read Vanunu Mordechai‘s post. He’s the Israeli whistleblower who many years ago leaked to the world that Israel has nuclear weapons, a fact that Israel still refuses to acknowledge to this day.  Since 1986, Mordechai has been under constant surveillance by the Israeli government, and under a court order not to leave Israel nor speak with any foreigners who visit Israel. His legal team is still trying to get his forced internal exile reversed.

And then I read that Israel turned down all 181 applications of Palestinians invited by the organizers of a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv this week. “Sources told Haaretz that the order banning the Palestinians came from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister. Netanyahu’s bureau declined to comment.”

This morning the convoy left Cairo bright and early. They are making very good progress today, crossing the Suez Canal and heading to Al-Arish.  I wish them safe travels and many rewarding encounters when they arrive in Gaza.

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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized

Alhamdulillah!

PediaSure going to Gaza

Scurrying around downtown Cairo today, I was very anxious and full of doubts.

My goal was to purchase 500 cans of PediaSure, a nutritional supplement, for the medical convoy to Gaza.  Last week the organizer of the convoy received an urgent plea from Gaza for baby formula supplement.  His contact in Cairo was able to locate 400 cans of PediaSure, but could I find more?

I checked with the neighborhood pharmacist, a friend of a friend, and he said he would make some calls and try to find 500 cans. We negotiated a fair price and he started calling. Within an hour, he said he had located 375 cans of PediaSure.  “Would that be sufficient?” he asked. I jumped and said Alhamdulillah!

My “first world” assumption was that I would pay for the PediaSure with my credit card and reimburse my credit card from the funds donated by many generous Americans.  Earlier, the pharmacist said he could take a credit card. ==whew!== But then I learned the suppliers could not. Cash only!

Scratching my head, I knew I couldn’t access several thousand dollars in cash. The Egyptian bank wouldn’t let me withdraw those funds from my US bank. And I certainly couldn’t pull that much cash from the ubiquitous ATMs in downtown Cairo.

I returned to the pharmacist and told him I couldn’t collect that much cash, and he should cancel the order from the suppliers. I felt disheartened but saw no alternatives.

The pharmacist sat down, put his head in his hands, and then looked up. “Let me go talk to my bank and see if they will help.”

Thirty minutes later he returned and said his bank would give him a short-term loan to cover the purchase of the PediaSure so he could pay the suppliers. He swiped my credit card, and the sale was approved. Alhamdulillah!

While he coordinated the delivery of the PediaSure, I went out to a street stall and purchased a small bag to carry the books I had purchased for the library in Gaza.

Five hours later the pharmacist called me and said the PediaSure had arrived. I returned to the store and we hailed a taxi to deliver me and the boxes to the hotel where the medical convoy team was convening.

As I was leaving his store, the pharmacist asked “Who is paying for all of this PediaSure? The United Nations?”  

I told him “Nope!  Many Americans who care about the Palestinians in Gaza donated money to make this purchase.”  Then he said, “Alhamdulillah!”

Lora taxi boxes to convoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fiduciary duty

I’ve arrived in Cairo to join up with the medical convoy to Gaza. Until we actually travel, I’m going to keep raising funds.  If you’d like to contribute, please check out my GoFundMe campaign.

wheelchair

Last night I learned that the convoy is purchasing an electric wheelchair to take to Gaza.  I’m told it costs $600 USD.

There are many, many physically disabled people in Gaza, even more so now that the Israeli military has been targeting protesters by shooting them in the legs.  The bullets explode inside the body and cause serious internal damage resulting in a high number of amputations.

I have no doubt that there is a high demand for wheelchairs. But can an electric wheelchair navigate the alleys of the refugee camps? Who will benefit from an electric wheelchair?  And would the money be better spent on purchasing more conventional wheel chairs?

I hope to meet up with the convoy organizer in Cairo soon, and I will have many questions to ask him.  I have a fiduciary duty to everyone who has contributed to this medical convoy to make sure every dollar is wisely spent.

I have a duty to the two + million Palestinians in Gaza to help as many as I possibly can with the resources available.  If you can help, here’s the link for online donations. Thank you!

 

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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, Uncategorized, Video