Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Global Exchange Trip to Palestine

On December 9th 2008, my peace and justice delegation to Israel-Palestine was cut short due to a personal injury.
I was on a home demolition tour with ICAHD (http://www.icahd.org/) when the accident occurred. While trying to reach a displaced Palestinian widow, I took it upon myself to climb through the demolition debris and razor wire that had been placed all around her home (now a UN provided tent for which she must pay rent). I fell and broke my ankle and could not continue with the group. I didn't feel this way at the time, but I feel blessed now for this experience and know that my hopes to see a real glimpse of Palestinian life were answered.
I was taken to Al-Makassed Islamic Charity Hospital for surgery. I had many options for care and could have sought help at a more modern Israeli hospital and in fact that was encouraged by the trip leader and others around me. However, as I was on this trip to understand the plight of the Palestinian people, I inquired about and chose the only option that would be available to my Palestinian guides in a similar situation; Al-Makassed.
There was anesthesia for the surgery but no pain medication to follow. I was feeling sorry for myself until I met my two roommates. One, a young woman from Hebron, had been in an auto accident. She had been forced off the road by Jewish settlers. She is now permanently paralyzed. She'd been there a week before I arrived and her parents were only then getting to see her. It had taken almost a full week for them to receive permission from Israel to travel from Hebron to East Jerusalem to visit their critically ill daughter. The permit was good for only 10 hours that single day. After 7:00 PM that evening they would be in violation of the order and subject to imprisonment. They chose to stay. We all slept side by side and they treated me as a guest in their own home, sharing blankets and food with me, including me in their Eid celebration and in their prayers.
My other roommate arrived the day I was discharged. He was a 9 year old boy who had severely mangled his hand in a piece of farming equipment. He was such a brave boy and only sobbed softly to himself. Again, there was no pain medication for a child obviously in agony. I had nothing to offer him except some chocolate one of the nurses had given me earlier in the day. He grasped it tightly and took it into surgery with him. I never saw him again.
It's sad to think an American with no ties to Israel or Palestine had so many more options for medical treatment than those whose families have lived there for decades. I highly encourage donations to medical centers in the Occupied Territories. Please offer what you can. Also, if you ever have the opportunity to visit one, please do so. It is a life altering experience. One of the most powerful impressions I left with was that of the Palestinians themselves. So resilient, so happy, so hospitable. I am so amazed and inspired by their passion and their absolute joy for life even among dire and often humiliating conditions. The Occupation does not define them.
I cannot wait to return and continue this journey. There is a way for peace and we must all work together to find it. We are one.
In Solidarity,
Billi Jo Larmore

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