Update on Humanitarian Assistance for Palestinians

March 5 2003

by Michal Zak

It has been a month since our last report. Everyone is so busy, and it's constantly raining. The political situation is depressing. There is a war in the region pending. The Israeli army is killing and demolishing in the West Bank and Gaza, and there is no one to stop them. Sometimes it seems overwhelming, but when a phone call comes from Media or from Nablus, it helps us all stay in focus: There is always something that can be done.

Medical treatment day

On Saturday, February 15, a group of volunteers left Neve Shalom~Wahat al Salam early on a rainy morning to the village of Media. The head of the local council there had called a week before and asked us: “Where are you? Can you come again? We haven’t seen you since the last holiday...” Such straight-forward relations, in such an asymmetric situation are so rare, we immediately got organized for the mission.

Three doctors, a nurse, a pharmacist and a social worker treated 120 people on the morning of the 15th. As usual we brought medicines as well. This was the first time that a Jewish doctor joined our team. He treats Malak at the hospital and he had asked about our initiative, since a Palestinian from the West Bank with Israeli escorts does look strange. When we told him about our project he immediately said he wanted to volunteer and gave his phone number.

On the way home from Media the group stopped and visited the Taysir family to see Malak, who had been at home while recovering from a skin transplant. The doctors found her well.

We are planning to conduct a medical treatment day at the girls school in Beit Sira village, but consent is needed from the Palestinian Board of Education in order for us to enter the school, and this consent has not yet arrived. Bureaucracy is a malady our doctors cannot treat, but maybe there is also suspicion - we are Israelis after all.

Baby's milk for besieged Nablus

This week we received a plea from the Youth Foundation in the city of Nablus.  The Foundation works in partnership with the School for Peace, and also organized our two medical days in Nablus last spring (see reports). They said that the townspeople are in desperate need for food, and especially milk for babies and young children.

We decided to respond by shipping a van full of powdered milk. Since organizing a shipment directly to the city was not an option, due to the near impossibility of obtaining an army permit and the unlikelihood of finding a truck owner willing to go there, we thought it would make better sense to meet representatives of the Youth Centre at the checkpoint, so they could transfer the goods to their own vehicle.  We learned to our surprise that even this option was complicated, since Palestinians are not allowed to  approach the army checkpoint without obtaining prior permission.  Nonetheless, we hope to deliver the milk in the near future.

 Later:  the milk arriving at the checkpoint (click to enlarge)

It is always nice to record the generosity of people who help with this project.  This time an Arab merchant from Lod/Lid with children at our school volunteered to sell us the milk at cost price, foregoing his profit.

Malak Taisir

Yesterday, March 4, Malak underwent major surgery. The hospital's finest doctors conducted an 8 hour + operation, transplanting muscle tissue and blood vessels from her shoulder to her knee in an attempt to try to save her leg. The leg has been stuck at a 90 degree angle due to scarring. Now, following the surgery, it has been corrected to a 45 degree angle and placed in a special device which will slowly straighten the leg at the rate of about a millimeter a day. We will ask a doctor to prepare a more professional report on this procedure, for those who are able to follow the medical details.  Palestinian radio ran an item about the project on the day of her operation, interviewing Malak’s father.  Adnan Manah of the HAP committee will also be interviewed in the coming days.

Our financial situation

Many friends around the world helped with our holiday campaign, so we now have € 15,000 in the bank.  This is after transferring about € 9,000 as a second payment to Tel Hashomer hospital.  We were able to do this after receiving a very generous donation from the Bruno-Hussar-Stiftung - a foundation established by the German friends of NSH/WAS, including €14,000  for Malak.  The latter came directly from a TV-benefit gala campaign named "Ein Herz für Kinder”, which took place in December 2002.

When we took it upon ourselves to try and help this little girl, our intention was to raise specially earmarked funding for this purpose, so as not to detract from our other projects. But since time was a critical factor for Malak, we borrowed money from the HAP account to pay the hospital.  Now we are trying to return money to the general HAP fund so that we can continue with our projects.

Besides continuing with our treatment days, and making the mentioned purchase for Nablus, we are looking into starting another special campaign. We will soon share some of our ideas with you.

We want to thank the many people here and abroad who are part of this project. It is unbelievable how many hands are needed to make it happen. The tasks are many and varied: making dangerous trips to the West Bank army base for travel permits for Malak's mother; transporting Malak from her home to the hospital, spending time there to translate doctors and relieve loneliness – especially on weekends; taking the girl and her mother back home through the checkpoints (which is both illegal and risky); ordering merchandise and medicines for the treatment days or other appeals; seeking a truck driver willing to ply the dangerous route to Nablus; conducting the treatment days, which requires both medical staff and assistants; and finally orchestrating all these activities daily in our spare time, in order to keep the project alive and ticking.