From Gaza, with Love

Friday, April 25, 2008

My InterviewWith The Guardian Weekly -UK-Love and Resistance In Gaza Strip

Love and resistance in Gaza Strip
-Tuesday April22nd2008

In an apparent softening of its position, Hamas has said it will accept a partial truce covering the Gaza Strip. But the lack of water, fuel and medicine has taken its toll and Palestinians continue to die of malnutrition and lack of medical resources. Mona el-Farra is a doctor and human rights activist working with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. She is also the author of From Gaza With Love, a blog through which she keeps the world abreast of conditions under the Israeli occupation
Tuesday April 22nd 2008

Doctor Mona el-Farra, top left, poses with a group of children in the Gaza StripI started writing in 2000 when my parents’ home was demolished by the Israeli occupation army at the beginning of this intifada. I felt strongly that I should tell people abroad about my personal experience and about what’s happening in Gaza under occupation. As a doctor working in the field and living in Gaza I witnessed so many human rights violations and I wanted people to know about it. About two years ago some friends and supporters of the Palestinian cause in Britain encouraged me to start a blog because they thought that my message was strong, but I didn’t expect the reaction – the response was overwhelming. So I continued.Gaza at the moment is a big prison, a very dire situation. Like all the community, most of the time I feel isolated, but by writing I feel that I am not alone. Other people in the world react to my writing, and I can see I am not alone – it is a sort of therapy for me.Let me describe this morning for you. For more than four weeks now we haven’t had fuel in Gaza. I have completely run out and I walk to work. I walk about 6km – or more than that because I don’t only walk to work, I have other meetings and activities that I get to by walking. I have to wake up much earlier to get there on time. While walking to work today I saw many children, women and students. Everyone was walking and there were few cars on the street. It reminded me of the curfew. The Israelis are not inside Gaza now, they are outside, but they are still controlling us. The streets are quiet, just people walking silently with grim faces. My walk is not safe or pleasant because the drones and fighters are in the sky and I can hear bombing and shelling. I don’t enjoy the walk – I feel danger. I feel for the patients who cannot reach the hospital. Many doctors, nurses and health workers come from areas outside the city – to them 6km is nothing. They cannot get to work and it is paralysing our life.Gaza is a traumatised community. Of course there is hope for peace, but people cannot see any horizon. Most people are not working. In such situations, peace becomes more valuable to people. We hope that we can live with dignity and have normal lives like other people in the world, but we are exhausted and frustrated, and spend one day to the next not knowing what will happen. But we know very realistically that our life is difficult, that we are leading a very difficult life in Gaza.Power is regular at the moment and Israel has announced it will allow fuel into the area, to the power station. But it is not enough. We are always under the threat that the power will cut off, and the generator is not enough to meet the needs of our regular routine work. Power cuts affect the patients, like those on renal dialysis, as well as our daily routine in the operating room. Much of our high-tech equipment is out of order before its time, the CT machine has been ruined and the laboratory equipment’s results are not reliable. This is the case for all the health systems in Gaza. You cannot depend on them because of lack of resources and power cuts. Because we don’t have a functioning health system we have to refer patients to other hospitals outside Gaza – children who need surgery, for example, or cancer patients who need chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The process of their referral is terribly difficult. Most of them don’t get permission to leave. Even if the hospital accepts my patient the army says: "No, this patient is allowed, that one is not allowed."It makes me angry and frustrated, but it doesn't stop my enthusiasm to keep working. I’m not allowed to collapse: I’m an activist and I should continue supporting my people, my community, my patients, so it puts an extra burden on me. I feel the burden and sometimes I am tired – but not collapsed. I believe it is my duty to do it. What keeps me going is that I feel all the time that people need me, or need my efforts. For example, I am trying to arrange for a new paediatric general surgeon to come to Gaza to carry out operations on children who cannot leave but are in urgent need of surgical intervention. If I succeed, many patients’ lives will be saved. It is the cause, the health cause, the humanitarian cause, that keeps me going. I also coordinate work in cultural centres for children in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. I believe very strongly that these centres are important because they support children’s psychology through entertainment. Playing, dancing, painting, reading – these are important needs. OK, people are hungry in Gaza, but their psychology has collapsed; we need to help the minds of children through these activities. At least 65% of Palestinian children suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome from living in war conditions.Support from other parts of the world is very important – some people give, but it is not enough. However, if it comes directly to the children of Gaza, to the patients of Gaza, it is going to do a lot. On another level, it would help if people wrote to their members of parliament because nothing will change dramatically unless the politics are changed.• Mona el-Farra is still looking for a paediatric surgeon. She can be contacted through her blog, She was interviewed by Charlotte Baxter.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Riad Hamad 1952-2008

Riad Hamad

Under very suspicious and tragic circumstances, Riad passed away, leaving all of us who have known him shocked and traumatized. For those of us who worked closely with him to support the Palestinian children and keep the right of return alive in the world conscience,
Riad will be always remembered. His memory will stay inside us providing a great source of inspiration to continue working for Palestine and the Palestinian children.

I want share with YOU what I wrote as soon as I heard the tragic news of Riad's death.

I also would like to let you all know that the New Horizon Center For Children in Nussierat Refugee Camp has decided to name the English and Computer Room that was funded via Riad and Palestinian Children's Welfare Fund efforts in loving memory of RIAD HAMAD .

I am speechless, shocked and do not know what to write. How can I pass this piece of sad news to thousands of Palestinian children in Gaza that he supported and opened a window of hope and love to them and their families?

Riad, you are not allowed to die. Please rest in peace. Sure, you need to rest, but you will stay alive inside all of us who have known you and share the same vision, working hard to change the world and give the less privileged a chance for a dignified life. Your kindness, your big
heart, your strong will and your determination will stay alive in us. We will never surrender to oppression, injustice and occupation. We will never give up our right of return. And one day peace and justice will prevail.

Riad Elsolh Hamad wrote:
27 Aug 2007

Dear Mona,
I wish that you could have the luxury of taking a month vacation where you do not have to worry about the innocent children, women and families who depend on you and your talents to connect them with the outside world...It would be great for you to leave for few months if that did not mean that hundreds and thousands of children in Gaza would go hungry, go to sleep
cold or be deprived of medicine or school supplies..It would be great if you can go to the Greek Isles..provided no fires are there to consume one of the most dedicated and compassionate people on earth..Mona, I hate to break it to you..but you do not belong to Basma or do not belong to your belong to the people of Gaza and Rafah who
look up to you as a sister..a mother, a organizer and a friend....yes, you may say I am tired all you want..and you can say that you are exhausted a million times a day and I will save you the trouble and record it with your voice so you do not even have to say CANNOT give CANNOT give in...YOU MAY NOT stop what you have started...a fire of compassion and love for the children of Gaza from all us who know you and know your sincerity and dedication for the children in Gaza...please do take a couple of pills , and I will pay for them...BUT Dr. Hamad says..listen young woman... get a good nap...drink a strong cup of Arabic coffee in the morning and look into the sea of Gaza..when the sun comes up...and look carefully..because you will see another sun...the sun of freedom for Sundos and Basma to travel from Gaza to anywhere they want..the sun of freedom which will allow ALL the children of Gaza to enjoy their lives without fear, hunger or bombings that would take their innocents lives away....I wish I can be there in Gaza to tell you a joke or two to get you to smile...or to remind you that yes, it could be worse....The Israelis could have won the war last summer and Lebanon could have been suffering from more settlements and more settlers...we are with you..we are next to strong..just be yourself..BE MONA....
Riad Hamad

mona El-farra wrote:
marhaba Riad
do i have the right to say that i am tired exhausted , drained and very sad?
no i do not have this right , while watching my people dying of hunger,stress , lack of clear future , cruel closure and sanctions ,my people suffer ,of this longlasting occupation , ongoing atrocities ,diffrent sorts and kinds of agressions and deprivitions, this population is hold hostage, in small place called Gaza ,how can i say that i am so tired , while i need to stay strong and meet thedaily needs of people , specialy children .
Dear friend
Do you have any special suggestions
Mona ElFarra

That is how Riad Hamad showed his solidarity, supported me when things were so unbearable and I needed a friend to listen and support while living in Gaza under the cruel siege, sanctions and occupation.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

from Nazareth to Gaza with love and hope

from Nasareth came her voice , passinate strong and with special messege of solidarity , and real act asgainst the seige , hundreds of us in the YMCA hall , in Gaza sang with Reem beatiful songs against the seige as well as many beatiful Palestinian foloklor esongs , i felt so refreshed empowered and most important not alone , while everybody was singing with the beatifull palestinian woman from Naareth , i thought how the seige and living in such small closed area of land , has affected all of us , when the normal pattern of life and talk became the suffering , the shooting, the petrol shortages , number of killed and injured , patients referala, food shortage , psychological proplems etc.........
now i felt iam in direct contact with the real world , and i strongly sensed how my world became real prison , suffocating prison , i could see it in the eyes of the teenagers who were in the hall the children who were happy singing ,
thanks Reem for your voice that chalenged the seige , crossed the false borders and made all of us ,who attended the cultural night , that was organised by Ramatan , realy empowered and refreshed and feel that we are still alive and we can enjoy normal pleasures of life as music , feel that we are humans .