With the sunrise this morning, it was time to leave Gaza. I really struggled with this decision… Struggled with overwhelming feeling of guilt, as I was going through the looong wired corridor to get out of the largest open-air prison in the world leaving behind more than 1.5 million fellow Palestinians, some are dear friends, living in circumstances that no human should be subjected to.
I had to leave for my two boys Omar (14) and Hamzah (11). I promised Hamzah to be back for his birthday. I had to leave so that we can start working on what Gaza’s hospitals need to function adequately again and survive the next round of Israeli aggression. According to the Ministry of Health Operation room report, as of Aug 21st, 10 hospitals and 7 Primary Health Care clinics were damaged, 5 hospitals and 44 primary health clinics were closed, 16 ambulances were damaged, and 83 health personnel injured, 23 health personnel died. Add to that patients who were killed by the Israeli strikes while in their hospital beds!! For example the attack on Al-Aqsa Hospital led to the death of 5 patients, a hospital administrator, the injury of 70 people including 1 doctor and 2 paramedics and the destruction of the surgical department and the intensive care unit. In addition to civilians, Israel targeted the infrastructure, including the health care system, in this inhumane aggression on Gaza. Health care centers there were inadequately equipped to serve the population even before this round of aggression started. Now the situation is more critical. I visited most of the affected hospitals and have a clear idea of some of the things that we can all work on to improve the situation and support the Palestinians in Gaza.
The Palestinians in Gaza are fighting this war on behalf of every Palestinian and every human being who believes in freedom, dignity and equality for all. It is crucial that they know we are here, with them in this fight. We are the voice that tells their narrative to the world. Thank you for my dear friends Merwad and Nadine who realized that am not a social media wiz so they took the lead and created my blog and for Fida who was behind my interview with Electronic Intifada (http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/isolate-israel-every-level-urges-palestinian-canadian-physician-gaza). Many thanks for those who published my emails on Facebook. The message from the Palestinians in Gaza is clear; they are dying to defend their humanity and their right for a life with freedom, dignity and equality, if not for us, then for our children and many generations to come.
Finally, thank you Tarek for connecting me with Physicians for Human Rights to get my entry permit; thank you all for reading my emails and for your daily messages of support and encouragement. They certainly kept me going to accomplish what I came to Gaza for.
Let the work begin!
email sent Thu, Aug 21, 2014
Six tons of explosives were dropped on Dalo family residence… a 4-story building on Tuesday night announcing the end of the cease fire. My room was shaking with every bomb. Gaza looks very different since then. Streets are relatively empty, shops are mostly closed except for groceries and some restaurants. Everyone tries to be home before it gets dark. Everyone is talking about a long war ahead of them.
I was in Khan Yunis today. The doctors there were actually surprised that I showed up and I was advised to return to Gaza immediately at the end of my clinic.
As we were driving through the empty streets of Khan Yunis,, I noticed huge holes in the ground in between houses. Holes that I did not see in Gaza… the driver explained: “They bomb these sites thinking that there are tunnels underneath them.. they send first the shaking missile, to shake the earth, and then they fire the explosive missile.” Everyone you talk to here is a military expert; they can talk about different types of missiles and whether they are coming from a tank, plane or ship!
On my way back, I stopped at the Dair al-balah UNRWA (UN) school. A site for one of Israeli’s countless crimes against humanity. As I went through the gate, the kids surrounded me .. Soon I met the site’s director and UN representative. 270 families (around 1500 people) live in the classrooms of this school. Each classroom is 40m squared hosting 40 women and children… the men live in the school yard! Just imagine how crowded this place is!! The two doctors and nurses that provide care 24/7 can hardly cope with lice, skin diseases, gastroenteritis and unexplained fever.
On July 23rd, two families sought shelter in this school but it wasn’t enough for the Israeli might to force them out of their homes, they struck again as families were getting whatever belongings they have from the donkey cart, killing two children. Guess what the great UN is going to do… Investigate?? Don’t get excited thinking that they are doing that because it is a crime against humanity! the people were 150m away from the school .. their agreement with Israel is not to fire within 200m of UNRWA buildings… so they will investigate!!!
Palestinians are not entitled to shelters. Palestinians are not entitled to be safe. Palestinians are not entitled to have justice. So its Ok for them to be slaughtered while the world is watching… but what the world doesn’t know is that the Palestinians will fight and die for what is living for.
Till my next email, warmest regards from Falasteen
email sent Tue, Aug 19, 2014
Walking the narrow streets of Bait Hanoon, one of the eradicated neighborhoods of Gaza.. looking at whatever left of the people’s furniture or personal belongings under the ruins of their homes… maybe I can know something about what happened to them.. this is where I met Haja Rawiheiah. (around 70 yrs old). She greeted me with a smile and invited me to sit with her on what is left from a couch on the wreckage of her home and apologized for not being able to offer me coffee! She lived in this home with 13 of her children and grandchildren. They fled and made it to UNRWA school minutes before the Israelis destroy her home .. her husband and two of her grandchildren did not make it!. She comes every day to stay in her then goes back to the shelter at the end of the day to eat and spend the night. Haja Aida and Um Tarek joined us… they showed me what used to be their homes too! Um Tarek had 7 kids, now 6. Haja Aida was not married but lived with 17 members of her family. They all now in the same room in the shelter!
Today I went with the Palestinian Medical Relief team to round on the injured people in their homes. Many people were discharged from the hospital prematurely to accommodate the thousands of injured people..their care was continued by the relief teams. I saw the patients who ended up with a neurological problem as a result of their injury. Fahed (25) was where the Israeli army killed 5 children playing on the beach. “They sent the first missile .. we all ran to help the kids… they shot the second missile !” He has 5 shells in his body .. one in the spine but luckily didn’t reach the cord. Maysarah (21), a taxi driver; he was transporting the elderly and kids from their homes to the shelters ..finally it was time for him to go home. Just as he was pulling into the garage, the Israelis fired on his car. We didn’t have local anesthetic to use while cleaning the wound and change dressing… patients were screaming from pain, but not Maysarah, he was cracking jokes! Three wounded young men from Al-Shajaeieh massacre.. all told me the same story: the Israelis fired a missile on Silik family home to kill 9 people (3 children).. people rushed to help the family.. the Israelis showered their missiles to kill 17 more and injure 250!! A Journalist died but his camera continued filming in the hands of a teenage boy!
Don’t know.. Should I go on? and … on ? maybe I will just leave you with the pictures to tell the stories. Haja Rawiheiah does not want the resistance to stop “we want to live with dignity”. The Israeli army can certainly kill children and innocent civilians, capable of destroying homes, factories, hospitals, mosques and power plants but can not break the spirit of the Palestinian and their love for life.
Till my next email.
Warmest regards from Falasteen
email sent Sun, Aug 17, 2014
Yesterday was a very difficult day. I went to Shujaiya (Alshuja3eieh?) a neighborhood in the east of Gaza that witnessed one of the ugliest and most barbaric Israeli crimes. There are no words I can use to describe what I saw or express what I felt. It was an emotional roller costar of extreme anger and deepest sadness. Endless piles of concrete as far as the eye can see… at the top of each pile was a sign stating the name of the owner, number of people lived there and some contact numbers. As if each pile came to life to tell me the story of the family that used to live inside these walls… the family that is either pulled from underneath the pile or fled to one of the UNRWA schools that turned into shelters. I will say no more and let the pictures attached speak for themselves although no camera can capture what one’s eyes can see.
Let me tell one story: the story of Al-Wafa hospital as I heard it from the security guard of the hospital who walked with me on the site and later confirmed by WHO officials. It was a rehabilitation hospital that hosted patients with disabilities of all ages. It also had a section for disabled elderly patients. The Israeli army called the hospital administration and made the usual accusation of rockets being fired from the hospital and asked them to evacuate the hospital. An accusation that was rejected by the hospital administration, the International Red Cross and members of the International Solidarity Movement who were all in the hospital at the time. What do you think the Israeli army did? send their famous “warning” bombs to the top two floors!! International NGOs try to stop the attack that defies all moralities and international laws while patients being moved to lower floors. More “warning” bombs.. The hospital turned into what you see in the pictures hours after evacuating the patients to a facility that is not capable of providing them with the health care they need. Guess what? it turned out that the Israeli miscalculated (if not fabricated) the site where the rockets where coming from!!!
I really don’t get it! I don’t get the argument that justifies killing thousands of civilians to destroy military sites. Let’s say just for the sake of argument that the resistance used civilians as human shields. Shouldn’t the lives and safety of these civilians be the priority and not getting the military target? I guess it would be if it wasn’t a Palestinian life.
The lesson that we learned after this latest holocaust against us is that there is no one out there cares about a Palestinian life except Palestinians. Yes we are very thankful for all the supporting demonstrations that took place around the world but at the end none of these demonstrations saved a single Palestinian life or stopped the bloodshed. What stopped the Palestinian bloodshed is the resistance that surprised the whole world. That is the only path to freedom; resistance in every shape and form.
Till my next email, warmest regards from Falsteen
email sent Fri, Aug 15, 2014
These are my first lines to you from GAZA! I arrived 10:00 am (3 am Toronto time)
After spending a night in Jerusalem, I took a taxi to Erez crossing in the morning.. it basically looks from the out side like a huge prison with high concrete walls all around and iron bars and wires with every step of the way. It was just me and the soldiers there… so could not sneak a picture.
They checked my papers.. the permit that I got through Physician for Human Rights then I kept moving from one iron door to another till I got finally to a very looooong corridor surrounded by iron wires.. the end of that corridor took me out side the prison.
A small taxi ride to Hamas check point. I was soooo glad to see them. Very friendly men.. a mix of police men and taxi drivers, they were even more friendly when they found out that I am from Nablus and offered me coffee while checking my papers.
It was very interesting to hear them discuss the negotiations in Egypt and what do they expect from the resistance … they discussed the latest interview with Al-Jehad Al-Eslami leader on Al-Mayadeen.. some of them criticized the continuous renewal of the ceasefire. They were worried that Israel may get what they want i.e. ceasefire and back to status quo without lifting the siege. Others thought that the political leaders where doing good job in the negotiation using the resistance as their powerful card and telling Netanyahu .. this time is different.. its not your decision to stop the war. They all certainly do not want the resistance to stop till their demands are met.
After all done, took a taxi to Marna House, a little hotel next to Al-Shefa hospital. Shops were closed (Friday).. streets relatively empty. A lot of destroyed buildings.. the biggest pile of rubble was the Ministry of Finance and a factory for soap and cleaning products. The driver told me this is not where most of the destruction is.. he offered to take to Al-shjja3eiah and Khoza3a on another day.
Yes, the smell of sewage was in the air all the time but one thing caught my attention.. there was no garbage in the streets! I remembered Beirut during the 1982 invasion or after a week or two of fighting between different fractions when piles of garbage would be everywhere and one could hardly walk… not Gaza! I did not see a single pile! when I asked the driver about that, he said that garbage is collected all the time on carts pulled by donkeys and taken to disposal facility!! can you believe that! it was not long before I actually saw one of these carts in action.
Why am I here? Obviously as a doctor and can be very busy helping in the hospitals as they need me. But the main reason is to do need assessment.. Identify ON the Ground micro-projects that the people in Gaza urgently need and will have a quick and Long Term impact on their lives and then with your help make it efficiently happen. Billions of dollars were promised to Gaza.. some will reach the people and most wont.. these little projects will either be overlooked or take a long time to happen because of red tape and bureaucracy. So STAY Tuned we have a lot of work to do.
Last but not least .. it is very important for the people of Gaza to know that their fellow Palestinians in the diaspora did not and will not forget about them.. This is how we show the world that we are ALL Palestinians no matter where we are and we will not cease to exist.
Till my next email, warmest regards from Falasteen