Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"A Report from Gaza" (via Massachusetts resident)

Waltham [Massachusetts] resident Ridgely Fuller is spending several weeks in Gaza to document the effect of the Israeli blockade on children. This is his second trip. A social worker, Fuller is especially interested and trained in using specially designed play routines to help heal and build resiliency in children who have experienced trauma. He is in Gaza at the invitation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is responsible for critical service delivery to much of the population.

Dear Folks,
News to many of you who understandably think I am spending August on the deck in Maine: I arrived in Gaza barely 36 hours ago with intent to stay two weeks. This trip is again at the invitation of the UN with the purpose of addressing needs of children who, as we know amount to 65% of the population in Gaza. I have brought resources to work at children centers with the goal of introducing staff and children to the therapeutic play routine I used in the West Bank. We will see if it is useful enough to consider an expanded program during summer camps next year when 22,000 children attend the UN camps alone.I had barely begun unpacking when I got a call from the Gaza Mental Health Center to join a staff meeting to be held in two hours.It will hopefully be a busy time even though we are here during Ramadan, a month focused on fasting,prayer and family.

This trip of four was organized rather quickly when we heard that Egypt's response to the Israeli attack on the Free Gaza flotilla was to provide easier access, especially to those with foreign passports, through their Rafah crossing into Gaza. So again entrance into Gaza took me through chaotic Cairo, across the Suez Canal, over the Sinai desert, through funky seaside el Arish to the Egyptian border where we waited only about 4 hours. The most amazing sight at the border was a group of 40 Malaysians, including doctors,lawyers,3 Members of Parliament and activists among whom were two who had been on the attacked Mave Marmara flotilla ship, being escorted by their government's black limousine complete with mounted flags through the border. Likewise, yesterday I joined a group of Scottish doctors at the Islamic University who were also accompanied by their Member of Parliament. To me, this very visible level of open international governmental support for Palestinian rights boldly reflects the ever increasing and dangerous isolation of the United States.

Even though it is very hot,no airconditioning as generating fuel is very limited due to the Israeli blockade...I am thrilled to be back on Palestinian soil where the kindness and generousity even to US citizens whose taxes make the 3 year blockade and recent invasion possible, is simply unbelievable to those who have not visited either Gaza or the West Bank. For example, my first chore was to get a cellphone ( the cellphone I bought in Egypt wouldn't work hear despite assurances which I naively accepted)..the store owner walked me to the bank to withdraw money when his machine wouldn't work..due to wear from repeated electrical blackouts,gave me a gift of a cell phone holder with a heart marked love,and called the next day to see if there was anything he could do for me..I wager I will get an invitation to break the Ramadan fast with his family sometime during the two weeks I will be here.

So, my main goal I outlined above, but I am equally interested in how things have changed in Gaza during the 14 months since I have been here. I am eager to re visit the Samuni family who had at least 20 family members killed during the Israeli invasion. You may remember I asked the head of the family about the one planted field among all the incredible destruction; he responded " I want to make the field green because then the children will feel safe" . So I look forward to describing conditions and changes in further always if you get way too many emails and want me to remove you from this list, please let me know; if you have any special interest or questions please let me know..

take care,

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