(Gerri Haynes, a former president of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, is once again sending back reports from inside blockaded Gaza. As she did four times before, Gerri has organized a team of doctors and other health care providers to work in hospitals and clinics in Gaza in an effort to directly help the people there and to bring attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis that the Israeli blockade has created. Eleventh in the series.)
Leaving the hills of Nablus this morning, our group exclaimed over the grace and generosity of the people we met in Nablus – a mayor who has his own fortune and works for the community as a volunteer, a scientist who found Steve Gilbert on the internet and set up a wonderful educational and cultural day for our group, Germans who have taken on the work of water treatment; the list is long and rich.
We entered Jerusalem (Al Quds) and enjoyed exploring the Old City while we waited to check into our rooms at the Notre Dame Center. The Old City, even on a quiet Friday, is full of aromas, music, colors, people. It is a fascinating place to wander through – stopping often to talk with shop people in the souk. It is possible to be lost and found again and again as the narrow covered streets wind from the Arab Quarter to the Jewish Quarter to the Armenian Quarter and to the Christian Quarter.
This afternoon, part of our group returned to Bethlehem to thank Zoughbi Zoughbi and Wi’am for their great help in making trip arrangements for us – and to attend an outdoor mass in supportof Palestinians retaining their land. In the area where the mass was held – close to the Crimesan Winery – the Wall is being constructed. This segment of the Wall will bisect Palestinian access to fertile hills and valleys and cut Crimesan from Bethlehem and Beit Jala. In the near distance, an Israeli settlement that only a few years ago was home to 4,000 settlers is now home to about 40,000 settlers. Everywhere, we have seen new and expanding settlements in the West Bank.
Leaving Bethlehem this afternoon, we decided we would walk though the checkpoint – a long and confusing pathway to the Jerusalem side. No taxis were available so a kind young Palestinianhelped us to find and determine the financing for a bus ride. We discovered that he, too, was headed for the Notre Dame where he is learning to become a cook!
As we traveled today, we spoke of next steps. We have requests to return for more work in Gaza and here on the West Bank, we’ve heard about possibilities of video conferencing. Medical specialists are needed in many areas. The quality of care is very good – the need for more specialty education is the next step. The possibility of healing gardens for Gaza is real. We will work on returning!