Rebuilding War-Torn Communities in Gaza, Making Them Safe
Sunday, October 25
1:30- 3:30 pm
Smith College Conference Center
(49 College Lane, Northampton)
With violence escalating in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, Executive Director of Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and Ran Goldstein, Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights, Israel, will be touring the United States to press for positive peacemaking and call for the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. They will discuss the mental and physical health crisis facing children in Gaza and the impact of the blockade.
Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, Executive Director of Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and Ran Goldstein, Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights, Israel, touring from October 13-31 at the invitation of Rebuilding Alliance, the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, and dozens of medical institutions, universities, faith groups, and advocates including the Seattle Physicians for Social Responsibility, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Harvard School of Public Health, the Palestine Children's Relief Fund and Jewish Voice for Peace. The tour will close in Washington DC with a briefing in Cannon House Office Building, Room 121 on Thursday October 29 at 1:30pm.
"The Israeli government's policy of crackdown and retaliation is escalating the crisis and causing more suffering and danger for everyone," said Ran Goldstein, Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights—Israel. "What we need are tangible ways to offer hope. Freedom of movement, easier access for goods to restore livelihoods—that means ending the blockade of Gaza and assuring human rights."
"Gaza's children and their families are struggling to recover from the very real shock of last summer's bombing while living near their demolished houses, with no water supply, and daily power outages," said psychiatrist Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei, the Executive Director of Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Dr. Abu Jamei himself lost 28 members of his extended family last summer when the Israeli Army bombed their home during dinner as they broke their Ramadan fast. "I ask for Americans to help us extend our mental health specialized services to children in the most impacted neighborhoods, and to press your members of Congress for the policy change that will open Gaza once again and allow us to take steps toward justice, freedom and peace."
The impact of repeated episodes of violence in Gaza on psychological health is exacerbated by the ongoing blockade, the destruction and defunding of schools, and stalled reconstruction efforts. Gaza's hospitals are in crisis mode, and at the end of August, Gaza's Ministry of Health stated that the health care system was on the verge of collapse. In September, the UN released a report stating that the Gaza Strip could become uninhabitable by 2020. The report found that during Israel's assault on Gaza in 2014, 17 hospitals and 56 primary health care centers were either destroyed or partially damaged, and that the destruction of vital health infrastructure will have devastating effects not only today, but on future generations of Palestinians in Gaza.
Rebuilding Alliance, the sponsoring organization for the tour, is a coalition of people and groups around the world dedicated to helping war-torn neighborhoods rebuild and promoting policy change to make them safe. We start by partnering with Israeli and Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to help Palestinian communities rebuild. (See the Rebuilding Alliance website for more information.)
"The best way to bring stability and calm to the region is to give the people in Gaza a chance to rebuild their lives," said Donna Baranski-Walker, Executive Director of Rebuilding Alliance. "All members of Congress promise to intervene for constituents who face an urgent matter with a federal agency. This is urgent. Ask your Senators' and Representative's staff to make two calls on your behalf. Ask them to call the U.S. State Department and the Israeli Embassy to press for reconstruction and support much needed development in Gaza—and ask them to call you back to tell you what they learn. Your calls will give families hope and a chance for a brighter future."
The tour will be raising funds for GCMHP's child and family mental health programs and PHR-I's mobile clinics.
The national tour is sponsored by Rebuilding Alliance. Locally the sponsors include Smith School of Social Work, American Friends Service Committee, Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, Piece for Peace Israeli-Arab student group at Hampshire, Northampton Committee to Stop the Wars, Pioneer Valley Progressive Muslims and Jewish Voice for Peace Western Mass.
The full tour schedule can be found at www.RebuildingAlliance.Org/opengazatour.