The first person I called and asked to join the Board of The Middle East Children's Alliance in 1988 was Pete Seeger. Not only did he join but one year later Pete, Marcel Halife, Holly Near,and Ronnie Gilbert came to Berkeley and performed at the Berkeley Community Theatre. The theatre was packed and all 3200 seats were filled this was the beginning of a 25 year friendship that I will always treasure. I miss you Pete.
I just came back from another inspiring visit to the Masara Cafeteria! I sat with Um Hassan over tea this morning and heard all about the last few months in their kitchen. Here are a few of the highlights:
The women are now able to make and serve warm felafel sandwiches for children! This new nutritious snack made from garbanzo beans is only possible thanks to your support.
Nisreen's right arm was amputated after a septic wound lead to gangrene when she was 3 years old. This was due to a medical error, as the family says.
However, there is a wider context affecting Nisreen and all Palestinians in Gaza. Inadequate health facilities, due first to the illegal Israeli-imposed siege and lack of proper medications, then the lack of proper training for physicians and chances to exchange experiences with their colleagues.
It's 5:30 am. This is around the time I usually wake up. I live near the beach, on the 10th floor. The only exercise women can do outdoors in Gaza is walking. Many women are denied even this, for different reasons. I like to walk. It's one of the best ways to heal the spirit, aside from music, reading and writing.
I was a young mother, draft counselor and anti-war activist when the US was dropping napalm and Agent Orange on the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia more than forty years ago. Today, as a result of this massive toxic exposure, large numbers of children are still being born with severe physical and intellectual disabilities, and people of all ages suffer from a host of cancers.
Chemical weapons are horrible.
And the US uses them. Most recently (as far as we know) in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
I hate borders. My family, like most Palestinian refugees, is torn apart and divided by Israeli borders and restrictions. The simple act of sitting around one table became an impossibility for me and my siblings. Because of this dispersion, any political conflict in the Middle East affects my family, and all Palestinian refugees. Right now in Syria, many of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees are being forced across borders again, forced to start all over from scratch, forced to return to life in tents, and forced to live without the support and comfort of their families.
Although I have been living far from Palestine for a few years and I am now in my forties, I still have nightmares about the Israeli army invading my house when I was a child and about the first time I was tortured. This is the reality most Palestinian former prisoners live with for the rest of our lives.
The number of Palestinian children under house arrest has increased in the past few years, especially in East Jerusalem and the neighborhood of Silwan, where MECA has been working in partnership with the Madaa Creative Center for several years.
When the news spread through Washington this weekend that the unwavering, pioneering journalist Helen Thomas had died, there must have been a collective sigh of relief throughout the halls of Washington.
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