11 November 2004

News letter No 5

News letter No 5 November 2004

After some correspondence with the British consul in Jerusalem, we flew overnight via Milano to arrive in Tel Aviv at 2 am on the 3rd of October. The three bags of knitted dubs (teddy bears), jumpers and little bags of toys and toiletries came smartly off the carousel but our own suitcase was absent. Eventually we registered its absence. Absent too was the taxi arranged from East Jerusalem; there was no sign of the Palestinian driver with our names aloft. Anyway, a young Israeli driver took us at sub-sonic speeds to Jerusalem with an amiable switch in its centre to a ‘Palestinian’ taxi. We were staying in the calm of St George’s Hostel which I knew from September ’03. Our suitcase arrived 2 days later with forced locks.

We joined a group which we found was going to visit the holy sites, as well as meeting a cross section of leaders who were speaking for a just peace in the ‘Holey’ Land. This week proved very instructive. There were many inspiring folk who had maintained their reason and hope in spite of having been part of unimaginable suffering. We visited Salim Shawamreh, his wife and his five children in Anata for instance. He had failed over some years to get permission to build a family house in this part of the West Bank. Eventually he proceeded without permission. A demolition order was made. Some time later and at night, some dozens of armed soldiers were said to have surrounded the house, with the family inside. Once they were removed, the house was demolished with explosives. One can imagine the terror suffered by his wife and children especially. The house has been rebuilt and demolished three times since then. The fourth replacement was built by Salim and his neighbours, by International Solidarity Movement volunteers and by the International Committee Against House Demolitions led by Prof. Jeff Halper. This family and their ‘Phoenix’ house has become a cause celebre; it is unlikely to be demolished again but neighbours have received demolition orders instead.

This is one fraction of the suffering that was related to us. It is recorded here because it is central when we consider the second and third aims of our charity:-
‘2. To relieve poverty distress and hardship among the Palestinian people and to promote the welfare of Palestinian children and
3. To preserve and protect the health of Palestinian children and their families through the provision of financial assistance, support, education and practical advice.’
It would be patently dishonest for the Dove and the Dolphin Charity to solicit funds for these purposes if actions are being taken which negate every charitable effort. We will keep you in touch with what happens to Salim’s and other families in Anata.

Sue returned home after this week of listening and observing. She had found the checkpoints threatening; a soldier usually walked the length of the coach with his rifle whilst passports were displayed.

I spent six days at St George’s in a very enjoyable way. I was waiting for permission from the Israeli military authorities to enter Gaza. This happened quickly. Meanwhile I enjoyed the old city, conversation and contemplation. Mordechai Vanunu – now John Crossman – was staying there so we talked. He celebrated his fiftieth birthday so I joined in by cooking a dish first shown me by a fellow surgeon in training who was Turkish.

My entry into Gaza and what I saw are described in an article entitled ‘Withdrawal from Gaza?’ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ARTICLE7200.htm I spent most of the six days there on charity business. Abu-Ali has managed everything for us and he took me all over Gaza City in his Volkswagen.

At the office of the students’ charity which he serves as secretary, I agreed the rental of an office within for $500 per year. Dr Mona El Farrah, a medical colleague who works very energetically for her fellow Palestinians, is helping us find a young man or woman who is good in spoken and written English and who is also computer competent. That person will use a new digital camera – donated by Simon Jones of Devon Camera Centre – so that we can put a face to the young folk we are helping. I saw the excellent school bags with the D and D logo (a sample is here) and the first class exercise books etc within. I saw many cheerful scholars in the streets with these bags on their backs.

We visited Mohammed and his poor but very courteous family. He is doing very well at school, as are the rest of his family. The 100 shekels (about £13) that Louise Bould is giving this family each month has been a great help to them. We now want to open this up to many more and across the age range. We are hoping that groups in the UK will come forward to help one youngster and his family. There is no limit to ingenuity in British fund raising and finding £20 per month should be easy. We will match everyone up and ensure good follow up. People have been very generous in making and giving clothes to send in the containers. The costs and difficulties in doing that have been described and they are greater now. The population is getting poorer and malnutrition increasing. We will continue paying for the making of satchels and uniforms each summer but getting money straight to families is a priority.

The silver tracheostomy tubes from Torbay hospital were received with gratitude by Dr Khamis Elessi at Al Wafah hospital. I visited three others – an injured girl in the Shifa hospital is described in the article . I saw the warehouse available to us. I was introduced to Mustapha and Nihad at the ANERA office and warehouse where the contents of the second container (gathered up and packed by the Exeter Friends of Palestine) were received.

I visited people in Jabalya who had been trapped in their homes during a four day long bombardment when dozens of homes had been destroyed. I could not go south into Khan Younis and Rafah because the roads were closed completely.

The folk are in a worse state than ever. Put your shoulder to the wheel with us.

Shalom and Salaam. David Halpin