Here is an excerpt from my recent interview in The Progressive:
Q: What are your thoughts on Trump’s unilateral designation of a city beloved by Jews, Christians, and Muslims as Israel’s new capital city?
Mona El-Farra: Trump has threatened this for a long time but we didn’t expect he would do it because it’s a big step with a lot of political implications. It means the end of the peace process, and he is putting his boot in front of the [United Nations] and ignoring all the resolutions. This is big blow for the international community.
I have visited Jerusalem many times, but since 1997 I have not been allowed to go to Jerusalem. I am not religious, I’m a socialist, but it has its symbolic meaning. In feeling it is similar to the demolition of my family’s house and the surrounding twenty-six neighboring houses, to ensure safe passage for a few illegal settlers. But this is national. This is deeper.
Q: How do you expect it will affect your work?
El-Farra: It will shift our attention to how we deal with the children, maybe in a positive way. On the ground we’ve been through many difficult things and we continue. Even through the 2014 siege, MECA distributed food and hygiene packs with towels, toothpaste and brushes, feminine pads, soap. There was a lot of overcrowding in the schools and homes as people sought safety—a friend of mine had thirty-five people staying in his house. Of course, no place was safe.
Q: MECA’s mission focuses on humanitarian aid for children but you seem to have a special concern for women too?
El-Farra: In any unsettled situation, a situation with violence, the most vulnerable are the women and children. Despite that, Palestinian women have showed resilience and steadfastness, to make life possible for the children.
There are social costs to the stress of occupation. The men put their aggression against the women; the numbers for battered women and divorce have increased, child sexual abuse too, though we don’t have good figures on that.