In September 2017, Joining Hands, a group of Bay Area women who support projects for women and children in Palestine, held an event to raise funds to sponsor a classroom at the Atfaluna School for the Deaf in Gaza. The classroom will be dedicated to the memory of David Halaby. Below is an excerpt of the talk David’s widow, MECA supporter, and Joining Hands member Mona Halaby gave to the more than 60 friends and family who came to honor David and support education for deaf children. The benefit raised more than $26,000, which will cover expenses for a fourth-grade classroom at Altfaluna for two years.
You know how there are some places that really speak to you? Places that feel like home, that ring true? Well, that’s what Gaza meant to David. Even though he was a native of Jerusalem, he loved the Gazan people, espoused their struggle, and appreciated the landscape along the shore.
In 2002 and again in 2004 we traveled to Gaza with our two sons, Lex and Greg (our oldest, son Jason who was in graduate school, couldn’t join us) while on a MECA fact-finding delegation. I remember one day standing with David on a beach watching a young boy, Ahmed, give his horse, Zouzou and donkey, Mishmish a bath. David immediately struck up a conversation with Ahmed, asking him questions about his life in Gaza. This beautiful scene was juxtaposed to the destruction we saw everywhere. It felt as though we had stepped into a Louis Bunuel movie. It felt unreal and surrealistic. David was forever changed after our two visits to Gaza. We all were.
Gaza has suffered numerous wars with Israel, and has never received adequate reconstruction funding and supplies in order to rebuild their lives and economy.
The power shortage has led to a water and sewage crisis, which in turn is having serious effects on the health of its inhabitants. Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza for the past decade, while Egypt has also closed off its border in recent years, both citing security concerns. The already dire humanitarian circumstances have been exacerbated in recent months by Abbas’ Palestinian Authority seeking to squeeze Hamas, by reducing the electricity to be piped into Gaza among other measures.
To return to David and his connection to Gaza, David developed Meniere’s, a debilitating disease that affects the vestibular system, and damages the auditory nerve. In 2008, after 18 years of severe vertigo and declining hearing, he finally became completely deaf, and underwent cochlear implant surgery, by which an electronic medical device replaced the function of his damaged inner ear in order to provide sound signals directly to the brain.
Atfaluna is a compelling cause. It touches our family personally, because it combines education, which is my passion, the Gazan people, whom David loved, and the fact that our family knows first-hand how trying it is to face the silence of deafness.
We want to give the hearing-impaired children at Atfaluna a chance at education and a trade.