From: Amal Sedky Winter, Ph.D.
hey said it couldn’t be done but CODEPINK did it! It helped to have Cindy and Craig Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer, and the novelist Alice Walker, and Democracy Now, in the delegation. It helped that we were almost 60 women with sleeping bags and tents.
It didn’t hurt to have been officially invited by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNRWA) on the occasion of the International Women’s Day. I think the Egyptian government just didn’t want the exposure. So, guess what? Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt’s first lady, herself decided to support our crossing into Gaza and opened the Rafah Crossing! Note: delegation upon delegation has camped out for weeks and still been refused entry into Gaza. As I write this, even George Galloway’s convoy is still parked at the gate.
Most of us are staying with host families–the arrangements having been made for us by UNRWA. My host family is composed of a husband (journalist/writer), his wife who is employed by the Palestinian Authority but has not worked for eight months, their four almost grown sons and a teen aged daughter. Three of the apartment buildings surrounding them turned to rubble by Israeli pilots dropping American supplied bombs from American F16 jets. The windows of my bedroom are shattered like all the rest and their is no glass to be had in Gaza. Actually, no building materials, period. The Israeli’s will not let them in.
Today, I went to an “Art and Culture” center in the Bedouin area near the Rafah border with Egypt to join the women celebrating International Women’s Day. I was struck by the delight these women had in being able to gift rather than to just receive. They proudly shared their food with us. They sang their Bedouin songs to match the Egyptian ones I’d learned as a child. They pulled us out to dance and taught us how to ululate. And they shared their stories. Om Eyman who’s in her sixties hasn’t slept through the night for years most often because she has to run out to the parched fields beyond the village when the jets and helicopters start bombing. I heard the bombs myself at one o’clock this morning. Don’t believe them when they tell you that there’s a ceasefire! The Israeli’s have been bombing Gaza for years. The younger women, mostly mothers, told me how terrified their children are. To a person, the told me how their children were wetting their beds at night and soiling themselves during the day. They said that the children will only sleep if they sleep with their parents in the same bed. Little ones will not go to anyone but their mothers although Arab children usually pass smoothly from one adult lap to another as is true in most communal societies. When a young mother handed her daughter to the women sitting beside her so she could give me a glass of tea, I heard the two year old shriek in terror with my own ears.
The mothers were concerned about their children’s education. Many children refuse to go to school since the bombing children at the United Nations school compound. Those who do go, cannot concentrate. They are failing their classes. They cannot concentrate at home, either. They are distratced and irritable. The parents feel guilty because they themselves are short tempered. They are concerned that their teenagers will get into drugs. A recent survey of children indicates that a high percentage of them do not want to live. (I will research the source when I have a better internet connection.)
Tomorrow we go to refugee camps. Sixty years as refugees, Palestinian have been stateless people for the longest time in modern history.
Other wise, all is well. Cindy Corrie is a fantastic woman. Folks are talking seriously about nominating her for a Nobel Prize!
Love to all from Gaza