Physicians for Social Responsibility Enter Gaza

Our tuk tuk piled high with luggage. Photo by Bob Haynes, November 2014
Our tuk tuk piled high with luggage. Photo by Bob Haynes, November 2014

You can follow the Physicians for Social Responsibility group at the link below. They entered Gaza yesterday and will remain for nine or ten days.

Travel to Gaza

Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility has traveled to Gaza since 1993. Since 2009, following the Cast Lead invasion by Israel, WPSR has sponsored eight medical delegations to serve the besieged, imprisoned and war-torn people of Gaza. Saturday evening as we prepared for the bus trip to Gaza, Amos Givertz of “Don’t Say We Didn’t Know” joined us for dinner at Neve Shalom to speak about the work of Israeli peace activists.

Today, we journeyed once more to Gaza. Nine medical professionals entered through the Erez Checkpoint – hosted again by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP). We miss those who have traveled with us in the past and welcome new members of our team. Our thoughts are with Dr. Rich Grady and his wife, Dr. Laura Hart as Rich recovers from major surgery. Many in Gaza will miss them during this visit.

Erez CHeckpoint

Entry through the Erez Checkpoint is complex – requiring a time-intensive (weeks) application process and patience from all sides to gain entry permission. The physical entry is arduous, comprised of numerous entry and passport checks and a long walk (or ride on a tuk tuk - see photo) through a metal cage – overseen by the armed Israeli guard towers along the separation wall.

We were greeted on the Gaza side by staff of GCMHP and after clearing the Palestinian checkpoints; we began the stunning drive through Beit Hanoun – site of numerous summer bombings. We heard from our hosts stories of loved ones who were killed or tragically injured during the 51 days of warring in July/August. Driving through Gaza, destroyed buildings appear in shocking frequency. Sites such as the Ministry of Finance were targeted – see before and after photos.

Ministry of Finance, before being targeted by Israel. Photo by Grant O’Keefe, April, 2014
Ministry of Finance, before being targeted by Israel. Photo by Grant O’Keefe, April, 2014
Ministry of Finance after being targeted by Israel. Photo by Bob Haynes, November 2014
Ministry of Finance after being targeted by Israel. Photo by Bob Haynes, November 2014

Gaza Community Mental Health

A quick check-in at the Marna House was followed by a loving greeting at the GCMHP Center. Friends and colleagues welcomed us and told of their summer of sorrow. Gaza Community Mental Health staff work constantly to help the traumatized people of this seacoast enclave. Densely populated (1. 7 – 1.8 million people in 340 sq. Km), the people of Gaza live with the continuous knowledge that air, land and sea attacks can begin again at any moment. The echoes of death, injury, destruction of homes, businesses and schools haunt them.

Some families in Gaza are forced to find shelter amid metal scraps. Photo by Bob Haynes
Some families in Gaza are forced to find shelter amid metal scraps. Photo by Bob Haynes, November 2014

Work begins

The three surgeons, one cardiologist and one emergency/family practice physician met with colleagues to plan the days ahead. The nurse practitioner and stress management provider will be busy. The psychologist in this group has served before in Gaza and will work with the GCMHP staff. My work will be varied and I look forward to time with women empowerment groups, the cochlear implant staff, orphans, schools, a new arts/culture/library center director and other interactions that will involve many members of our team.

Generous donations from people in Iowa and Oregon and Washington have provided the critically needed medicines and medical supplies, books and toys that filled our luggage. We look forward to giving these gifts from so many who care about Gaza.


Sheila Fox, IRest Practitioner/Acutonics/ Musician
www.facebook.com/notablehealing
www.sheilajofox.com
shejofox@gmail.com
505-717-2402 206-898-5090