Last full day in Gaza filled with love

Gurri napping during our visit
Gurri napping during our visit
(Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility has traveled to Gaza since 1993. Since 2009, following the Cast Lead invasion by Israel, WPSR has sponsored 12 medical delegations to serve the people of Gaza.)

Today, our last whole day in Gaza, was full of people we love and people who came to our hotel for consultation in their care.

The leader of the cochlear implant center came to the hotel to tell us of the progress being made to help hearing-impaired children in Gaza. Gaza has a growing group of children with hearing difficulties, and this young woman has dedicated her life to getting assistance for these children.

Just over one year ago, our beloved nurse friend, Naima, named her baby Gurri (they call her Gerri). Today, we traveled to Gurri’s home to visit and hear of life in their neighborhood.

Gurri has one older sister and two older brothers – all bright and beautiful children. It was delightful to watch them eagerly open and study the books we brought to them. Again and again, we hear of growing concerns about the possibility that doors will close to Muslims wanting to visit the US when Mr. Trump becomes president.

This afternoon, Bob and I met with a series of patients who were seeking consultation – children with complex medical problems and adults whose care will need to be addressed outside Gaza.

Beloved child
Beloved child
One little girl, who has a partially repaired cleft lip and palate, shone with love as her father spoke to her and told us about her. He related that she is the top of her school class. After seeing us today, they were going to the beauty shop where a new hairdo was planned.

The lack of medical coverage for the extensive care she needs is a problem. We will consult with practitioners in the US regarding possible next steps for this beautiful child.

Tomorrow, after Meghan Fitzgerald (PhD student traveling with us) gives a lecture, we will say farewell to Gaza– a time too short – taking with us so many stories and hopes for freedom.

Please see the UNRWA report: http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/gaza-2020-liveable-place

WPSR returns to Gaza, by Gerri Haynes

The green fields of Israel (Photo by Bob Haynes)
The green fields of Israel (Photo by Bob Haynes)
After a brief stay in Jerusalem and short visit to the Palestinian Center for Reconciliation in Bethlehem, the January, 2016 delegation of medical professionals sponsored by Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility returned today to Gaza.

In Bethlehem, we met and were inspired by the dedication to learning and service of a visiting group of students from Manchester University (United States) – young people witnessing the situation on the ground in this part of the world. We spoke with them about our experiences in Gaza and our hopes for this visit.

Harvesting from a not-so-green field (Photo by Bob Haynes)
Harvesting from a not-so-green field (Photo by Bob Haynes)
The thirteen members of our group traveled by bus down from Jerusalem to the coastal plain of Israel/Palestine – passing remnants of old war, new wooded areas and productive areas of farming.

The crossing from Israel to Gaza took less time (about two hours instead of four) than previous trips, but the stark contrast between the sides of the border remains. From lush green to brown, from high productivity to barren areas, the reality of the effects of continued conflict remains.

As we walked the long caged corridor into Gaza, multiple bursts of gunfire were audible in the “no go” zone adjacent to the Crossing. Approximately one-third of Gaza’s arable land is in this zone – also known also as the “security zone”. Entrance by Gaza’s farmers (and all Gazans) to this potentially productive area is forbidden and incursions are often greeted by gunfire from Israel.

The medical delegation on the long walk into Gaza (Photo by Bob Haynes)
The medical delegation on the long walk into Gaza (Photo by Bob Haynes)
We learned that more than 50% of the tens of thousands of homes partially destroyed in the 2014 war on Gaza have been repaired. Of the 1800 homes completely destroyed in that time, only five have been rebuilt. Tens of thousands of Gazans remain without homes and continue to live with extended family members, in rubble dwellings or in UN schools.

Winter is particularly hard here. Electricity is available erratically and the cold that enters through fragmented walls is chilling.

After an orientation meeting with program planners from Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (the critically important organization that hosts our delegations) and an informative and gracious greeting from the medical director of the Programme, we greeted old friends, explored a bit of Gaza and prepared for the work that begins tomorrow.

Some members of our group are new to Gaza – we welcome them and are thankful for the work they will do here. For those who have returned again and again, we are grateful to be back and look forward to the days ahead.

(Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility has traveled to Gaza since 1993. Since 2009, following the Cast Lead invasion by Israel, WPSR has sponsored ten medical delegations to serve the people of Gaza.)