GAZA 9-2016

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I had to go back there to see how the people of Bait Hanoon doing after almost 2 years
when Israel totally leveled down this neighborhood in the summer of 2014. I wanted to go
back to try finding Haja Rawiheiah ?.. Remember her? The old lady who apologized for not
offering me coffee while sitting on the wreckage of her home. I didn?t? find her or the
ruins of her home. The rubble was removed. The houses with some standing columns have
people living in them. They used sheets and blankets to replace walls so they can have
some privacy in their own homes. What about those without homes? They are living in
prefabricated cabins!! No, They are not like the cabins you rent for a summer holiday on
the lake or a ski holiday.. they are 40 square meters boxes with no windows, no
insulation or water resistance walls where families with average of 6 kids live!! The
kids spend most of their time in the streets and alleys till its bed time? they greeted
me with smiles and lots of inquisitive questions.

The questions I have are how these children go to school and still learn? How the young
people who just attended my lecture at the Islamic University and asked me intelligent
questions deal with their devastating living realities and they still dare to dream of
the future? How their professors come to work everyday to build learning institutions and
inspire their students? How can they do all of that when their basic human rights are
taken away from them? I really don?t know!

I exited Gaza through the same fenced path to Erez crossing leaving behind almost 2M
fellow Palestinians in the world?s largest open prison. Their needs are as monumental as
their dreams and they are counting on us. In the mean time they will continue to live and
love life.

Till I come back to Gaza, warmest regards

Rand

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GAZA 8-2016

Dear Friends and Supporters

After four very busy days in the West Bank it was time to head to the most special and
unique place in this world? no place like Gaza. This time I got the permit through WHO
in Gaza.

Arrived to Erez crossing at least an hour before its scheduled closure at 3:00 pm on
Friday. There were a lot of people coming in too but there was no line up in front of the
foreign passports booth ? soon I found out why; they don?t process foreign passports
after 1:00 on Friday!! Of course I didn?t see the logic of it when there were personnel
processing the Palestinian passports so I insisted on talking to the senior officer. I
explained that am a doctor and coming to work at Al-Ranteesi Children?s hospital. He
spent more than 20min on the phone with WHO to verify my story, to come back and say that

he couldn?t help me .. all personnel from ministry of interior went home.. Palestinian
passports were processed by the army! I begged? I yelled? but all in vain.

By that time, every one was gone. I took my bag and went back to the gate thinking how am going to find a taxi now to take me back to Ramallah. I found a driver who over heard my yelling and decided to wait -? As we were leaving, a car suddenly pulled over in front of
us. A man in civil clothes but clearly armed walked towards us. He said that he was head
of security and knew someone in the ministry of interior who could sort this out; ?don?t
go? he said. He took a picture of my passport on his phone with my permit number and
sent it to someone via WhatsApp then he talked on the phone for few minutes (I really
have to learn Hebrew) to say that they were going to send someone who lived close by to
let me in and I should go back to the terminal and wait there. Here I am again alone in
this creepy place.. watched by cameras in every corner.. I felt that they could count my
breaths! A women came.. obviously she was not very happy so she started questioning me
about me parents and where do they live and when did they leave Palestine?..etc? etc.
When I thanked the security man he said ? I am not doing this for you.. its for them..
there are some good people in there?!! I was about to say so why do you bomb them then
and kill their children but I decided to swallow my words for a change so I could enter
Gaza.

The Surprise

I started the long (about 2km) lonely walk to Gaza through the fenced path looking at
Gaza through the iron bars. Half way through, I was not alone any more.. stones where
coming in my direction and hitting the fence! Crowd of boys on the other side of the
fence were throwing stones at the soldiers in the watchtower behind me. They were part of
a wedding party! The groom was carried on the shoulders of his friends and they were
singing traditional Palestinian wedding songs!! The boys told me that he was a regular
stone thrower who decided to celebrate his wedding with his friends here to irritate the
soldiers! I got to the end of the fenced path? now am in Gaza.. there is another long
walk on a rough road to get to Hamas check point! The only car there was the groom?s
decorated car. The next thing I know, a young man put my bag in the trunk saying that
they would take me to Hamas checkpoint? I was just too exhausted to argue. I arrived to
Hamas checkpoint fashionably late! Where else could this happen other than Gaza!

Tomorrow I have a long day with the medical students at The Islamic University.

Till my next email, warmest regards from Falasteen

Rand

GAZA 7-2015

Dear friends,

You all remember Al-Wafa hospital ..the main rehabilitation hospital in Gaza that Israel leveled to the ground last summer despite pleas from its doctors and the international medical NGOs that were there at the time. I always wondered what happened to its disabled and elderly patients that had to be evacuated minutes before the Israeli war machine started bombing the hospital. Today I got the answer. I went to see the new location of Al-Wafa hospital.

They moved to a building used as residence for the elderly. The hospital personnel found themselves in a place that didn’t even have beds for their patients who needed constant care. They didn’t have food to offer them specially those who could only be fed through a tube that goes to their stomachs. The place was certainly not equipped to be a hospital! They had to act .. and act very fast to keep their patients alive. Despite all the devastations that they were going through, the Gazans started coming to the building with clothes, blankets, mattresses and food. The hospital personnel worked around the clock to keep the patients as comfortable as possible.. some didn’t see their families for days to be able to do that.

After the aggression ended, the doctors and administrators contacted every NGO they knew. They managed to get new rehabilitation equipment so their 18 physiotherapist and 8 occupational therapists started working again. With minimal resources, they turned their new place to what they hope to be a temporarily hospital. Rebuilding AL-Wafa hospital is on the top of the list for the next round of funding they were told…

I would like to introduce Ahmad, he is a 10-year old boy who lost his father, a brother and 2 cousins when the Israelis bombed his home. He sustained a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He can only move his facial muscles. He greeted me with a beautiful smile and showed me the apparatus that engineering students designed for him to operate the remote control using his jaw muscles! He told me he can also work on a laptop the same way and asked me for one so he can go back to school. How can anyone say no to Ahmad!

Haja Um Mahmoud, 86 years old, lost all her family when the Israelis bombed their home. She was found in the rebel unable to walk because of fractured hip. She recited some of her poetry to me, thanked me for coming to see her and asked me to stay….

My dear friends, Al-Wafa hospital and the Right to Live Society need our help. I promised them on your behalf that they will get it. Stay tuned for an update on the dialysis machines that you all bought for Al-Ranteesi pediatric hospital; I have great news!

Tomorrow I leave Gaza to the West Bank for 5 days of clinics and lectures in Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron and Jerusalem.. Gaza will remain in my heart and mind; to me it is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Regards from Falasteen

rand

GAZA 6-2015

Gaza 6- The Aftermath

Dear Friends, Yes, I am back in Gaza. It is one of these places that you may leave physically but it remains in your heart and mind so you keep coming back. Went through Erez crossing .. this time I was not completely alone some people were going through it but in the opposite direction than mine…mostly old people who seemed sick and fragile. Walked through the same long wired tunnel looking at Gaza behind the bars.. Gaza is at the end of the tunnel.

I went directly to the Right to Live Society. It is a center for children with special needs that was not spared from the Israeli aggression last summer. The 500 children with mostly Downs syndrome and autism; many have epilepsy, lost some of their class rooms, the covered space in their playground where they used to celebrate birthdays and their theater where they used to perform plays and dances. Nevertheless, the center opened its doors in September.. few weeks after the end of the aggression…just on time for school and the kids came! Some lost their homes, their parents, their siblings.. but they still came to find their loving teachers and therapist who also have their own devastation and loss ready to receive them! If that is not resilience and determination to live, I don’t know what is!

One of my friends told me before coming ”Rand! It is worse than when you were here during the aggression…much worse!”. I could not understand what he meant! how it can be worse than daily Israeli bombing with tons of explosive for almost two months! I could not understand until I saw Al-shage3eieh again today. In the summer, Al-shaga3eieh was completely destroyed.. thousands of homes turned to piles of ruble but it was empty.. it looked like a ghost town. Today, it is still completely destroyed but with families living in the ruins of their homes! Kids running around dangerously between iron rods and mountains of rocks! They replaced the fallen walls with blankets and plastic bags.. they lived in these “homes” through the most brutal winter that Gaza ever saw! I could not hold my tears.

I sat and had coffee with one of the families in what used to be their backyard. One of the men told me that he is going to take his family back to the shelter..when I asked which shelter he said “to the UNRWA school… they have to turn them back to shelters.. we can not live here like animals!”. As we were leaving, a young man stopped us to ask how he can get a bag of flour for his family.

I have no words to say to the world except that we Palestinians will continue to “teach the rest of the world life..”.

Till my next email from Falasteen , warmest regards

Rand