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Netanyahu at the UN: Frozen bodies, blatant lies, and imaginary children

Netanyahu didn’t need the Mufti or a bomb diagram at this year’s UN General Assembly. Just a few kind words about a Palestinian victim of Jewish terror, branding Israel as an economic powerhouse, and kissing up to the Americans. 

Netanyahu UN wide

1. Stealing the president’s lines

“Ahmed was the victim of a horrible terrorist act perpetrated by Jews… No words can bring comfort to this boy or to his family. Still, as I stood by his bedside I told his uncle, ‘This is not our people. This is not our way’.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu, during his speech Thursday at the United Nations General Assembly, decided to talk about the murderous attack on the Dawabshe family. But as luck would have it, I, too, was there during Netanyahu’s highly-publicized visit to the hospital — Ahmed’s uncle wasn’t even present. He happened to be at a different hospital when Netanyahu arrived, next to Ahmed’s father who succumbed to his wounds a few days later.

The person who was with Ahmed — the only member of the Dawabshe family who survived — was the doctor from Duma who got on a helicopter so he could be at the child’s side. The doctor refused to stand alongside Netanyahu during his visit to urgent care, and asked that Netanyahu not be photographed with Ahmed, who suffered burns over his entire body.

The conversation between us and Netanyahu took place in the adjacent room, and since I was there I can say that the words “This is not our people. This is not our way” were never uttered. So what did Netanyahu say? We will catch the perpetrators, we will punish them, we will compensate you. And he promised: we will rebuild the house and take care of the family. I remember that the doctor wanted to ensure that Netanyahu knew how important it was to catch those who burned the family, and more importantly: that those who did it aren’t labeled “insane” in court.

By the way, the person who actually did refer to “our people” was President Reuven Rivlin, who arrived a few minutes later. But why split hairs? The truth is less important when...

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Israel's '50 most influential women' — not a single Arab

Israel’s leading economic paper couldn’t find a single Arab to put on their list of Israel’s most influential women.

Last week the Israeli magazine Lady Globes (put out by business daily Globes) published its list of Israel’s 50 most influential women for 2016. Although it remains unclear what it takes for a woman to make the list — not to mention who came up with the criteria — I decided to use the list to analyze Israeli society from the eyes of a Palestinian. I wanted to learn who these women are, and why they are so influential.

The list includes truly impressive women, who at first glance seem to come from the world of business, economics, finance, banking, etc. For a moment I thought Globes was looking for women with money, but the list also includes Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), and a few spots after her is Culture Minister Miri Regev.

I continued thumbing through the pages and found President of Israel’s Supreme Court Miriam Naor, as well as a number of high-ranking members of various government ministries. The vast majority of the women on the list, however, were completely unknown to me. For a moment I felt as if I had failed a general knowledge test when I understood that I did not recognize at least 50 percent of the names. But thanks to some friends I realized I was not alone, and that there is good reason for my ignorance — I am an Arab woman, and this list isn’t intended for me. After all, what are the chances an Arab woman, enlightened though she may be, will read Lady Globes?

Good Jewish women

So, dear editors of Lady Globes, next time before you include MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union) in your list of Israel’s most influential women — despite the fact that most of the struggles she has spearheaded have not really succeeded — perhaps you should pick up the phone and call MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), the first Arab woman to head the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, and who has a positive influence on many aspects of women’s lives here, be they Arab or Jewish.

I suggest you also meet Attorney Mariam Kabha, the highest-ranking Arab woman in public service, who was appointed national commissioner for equal employment opportunities within the Economy Ministry. Perhaps you should weigh looking through the list...

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No, there is nothing 'Israeli' about Jordan's gold medal olympian

A number of Israeli websites preferred to forget the fact that Palestinian-Jordanian olympian Ahmad Abu Ghosh’s family comes from a village conquered by Zionist forces in 1948.

How much nonsense can go into a single news item? The answer is, unfortunately, a lot. Nothing has angered me recently quite like an article published by the news site Virtual Jerusalem with the following headline: “Palestinian with Israeli Roots Wins Jordan’s First-Ever Olympic Medal.”

That Palestinian olympian is Ahmad Abu Ghosh, 20, who was born in the Al-Nasser refugee camp to a Palestinian family from the village of Abu Ghosh (which according to the article is “known for its hummus restaurants and convenient location on the main road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv”). According to the article, Abu Ghosh has Israeli roots because his family comes from a village conquered by Israel in the 1948 War.

Furthermore the article claims that the village is located in an area that launched “attacks that killed hundreds of Jews” during the war, and thus the villagers were threatened with expulsion. But following public pressure and protest by leftist and rightist Israelis, the residents were allowed to return to their homes (thank you very much!) This is how the village, which collaborated with the Zionist forcers, turned into a culinary powerhouse and an island of coexistence between Jews and Arabs (how many Jews actually live there?)

What this and a number of other articles fail to mention is that a large number of families from Abu Ghosh became refugees in 1948, lost all their property, and lived in refugee camps in Jordan. Ahmad Abu Ghosh’s family left the village by choice and followed their family members to a Palestinian camp. Not exactly “immigration” in the traditional sense of the word, and not something that represents a strong connection to Israeli identity.

If Israel wants a gold medal so badly, take it and give back Ahmad his Jordanian identity. Better to continue being a Palestinian refugee with Jordanian citizenship than an Israeli who is unaware of his roots and denies his Israeli identity, no?

Now with the end of the Olympics, and in the wake of Israel’s tepid successes there, the Jewish state should start considering a new route if it wants to get the gold. Here are two options:

The first is to force olympic champions to make aliyah from the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Britain,...

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The Tunisian star who filled Palestinians with hope — for one night

For one night, Tunisian megastar Saber Rebaï brought Palestinians in the West Bank just a modicum of normalcy.

Rawabi, Arabic for “hills,” is a sleek name for a Palestinian city that was recently built between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Surrounded by settlements on all sides, the place looks like a standard Israeli bedroom community and has been dubbed “the future of Palestine.”

Yes, this is what they call virtually the sole real estate project promoted by the Palestinian Authority, with the support of moneyed investors like the Palestinian-American businessman Bashar Masri. According to the project’s publications, it is meant to bolster the Palestinian middle class and encourage young families to leave the densely populated cities and villages, buy a modern apartment and live and work in an environment where they can benefit from health services, public transportation, culture and leisure. Some 40,000 Palestinians are expected to move to the city in the near future.

As always, this rather pretentious enterprise has received a fair share of criticism, including over Israel’s involvement in it. Israel actually controls the land on which Rawabi was built, and was the main supplier of the city’s building blocks. As we have come to learn, businessmen are less prone to let a national conflict get in their way, especially when their profits are at stake.

 To boycott or not to boycott?

Why am I telling you all this? Because I went to Rawabi on Friday with my partner and son to attend a concert by Tunisian superstar Saber Rebaï, who has occupied the top of the Arab pops for more than two decades. He is a judge on the Arab version of the talent show “The Voice,” and his music has been the soundtrack for lovebirds across the Arab world. And now that he’s in Palestine, is skipping his concert even an option?

Very few Arab artists set foot in the West Bank or do the impossible and perform for a Palestinian audience inside Israel. Every year, there are a couple of exceptionally brave signers, bands or poets who come here, and every year they are welcomed by a heated debate in the press: is going through Israeli immigration tantamount to normalization and putting up with the occupation? Will the singer’s entourage make it through the checkpoints in the first place?

This ubiquitous moral dilemma is not inconsequential when so many artists prefer to avoid it and vote with their feet. On the other...

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Meet Palestine's animal rights activists

An invitation to visit the site slated for Palestine’s first vegan cafeteria led me to discover the buzzing, if incipient, world of animal rights activism in the West Bank.

I have a confession to make: I, how shall I put this, don’t like animals. Whether it’s the annoying dog wagging his tail next to me on the street or the cute spoiled cat seeking an embrace, they just don’t do it for me.

I tried to learn the code of acceptable conduct among pets’ adoptive families, though I always managed to fail by offending someone. Most of the time I extracted myself from the embarrassment through joking, “C’mon I’m an Arab, you know, for us a dog is a dog, and family is family.” I’m also neither a vegetarian nor a vegan, but don’t really like meat and can get along very well without it for several days.

I was approached by a group of young Palestinian women attempting to open the first vegan cafeteria in Palestine at Al Quds University in Abu Dis, Jerusalem. They’re seeking public aid to realize their dream of helping animals survive in Palestine, educating youth about animal rights, and supporting disadvantaged students at the university. The goal is to employ single mothers from Abu Dis to cook with Palestinian ingredients from Palestinian farmers, without any Israeli products.

Parting Waze

This is too good to be true, I said to myself. Why would anyone care about Palestinian animal rights when Palestinian people see their rights violated on a daily basis?

I decided to see for myself, and took Waze along with me to the Al Quds campus. After an hour on hilly roads the app declared confidently: “You’ve reached your destination.” I got out of the car and found myself facing a particularly tall fence. That’s no university!

I approached a teenage passerby and asked: “Where is the university?”

“The Hebrew University?” He asked.

“No, not the Hebrew University. Al Quds. Waze says it’s here.”

He laughed out loud. “Yes, it’s here, just behind this fence. Do you have a helicopter? If you go down this road you’ll reach a settlement, but the road is blocked. You’ll have to go back up through Abu Tor, then go down the Maaleh Adumim-Jericho road to Eizariya, and then back to the university. What, you’re not from here?”

I pretended to understand his directions and set off...

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A year since the Duma murders: Navigating justice and pain

A year after losing his parents and baby brother, six-year-old Ahmad Dawabshe returns to Duma for the first time. At court hearings for the accused murderers, settler youths taunt the remaining family members. A journey through an unimaginably painful year.

“I know you spent a lot of time with the Dawabshe family in the hospital,” said the activist who called me last week. “I need your help.” It’s been a long time since I visited them, I told her.

Sunday marks one year since the tragic arson attack, and the images started flashing through my head: how I found myself heading to the ICU that cursed Friday alongside what remained of the Dawabshe family.

There was the military helicopter that landed at the hospital carrying Riham, the mother who was fighting for her life, little Ahmad, and Muhammad, the terrified young doctor who accompanied them.

There were the widely covered visits by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin, members of Knesset and UN representatives.

There was the death of Sa’d, the father, after nine days in the hospital, and the soul-crushing period leading to the Riham’s final breaths, when she joined her husband and baby Ali.

There was the cemetery with the three fresh graves, one next to the other.

The images of Ahmad’s first smile in a room full of people and their tears flashed before my eyes. I remembered the endless surgeries and the amazing medical staff that treated him. And so many more images from that nightmarish mental album.

I suddenly remembered that I did not make it to Ahmad’s sixth birthday party. In an apologetic tone that didn’t even convince myself, I started to explain to the activist, a young woman from Ramle, how these days I was following Ahmad’s progress from afar.

She tried to ease the torments of my conscience: “Ahmad will be okay, inshallah, but we have a different problem — the settlers.”

“What about them?”

“They show up every time there’s a court hearing [in the murder trial] and the [Dawabshe] family is forced to face them all by themselves,” she explained. “The grandfather, Abu Hassan, and the uncle up against the settlers who shout at and ridicule the family, agitate them, make gestures toward them.”

She asked me to help organize some sort of solidarity rally to support the family outside the courthouse. If enough people show up, she hoped, those...

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A Jew, an Arab and a smartphone meet on a train in Jerusalem

A disturbing story of violence and racism on the light rail in Jerusalem, and how the cellphone in your pocket can deliver justice. 

On the surface of things you could write it off as just another case of anti-Arab racism, wrapped neatly in Jewish Israelis’ all-too-common racist fears of Palestinians. Just another incident among many on public transportation in Israel, just one of many that have taken place on the light rail in Jerusalem. But this was something else.

I’ve heard no small number of stories of Palestinians being harassed and attacked in public in recent weeks. There was the young Jewish woman who documented the security check Arabs are forced to undergo in Be’er Sheva. There was the photo of Jews looking entertained as they watched security forces humiliate a Palestinian construction worker.

Then there was the case of Hanan Zaid Kilany, an art student at Bezalel Academy on her way from Mount Scopus to the city’s Central Bus Station, where she planned on catching a bus to visit her sister in Lydd. In a conversation we had last week, Hanan told me how she was in a light rail car, speaking with a friend on the phone in Arabic, when a woman with an overdeveloped sense of security decided there was a terrorist on the train. The woman got the attention of a border policewoman who happened to be among the passengers, and the two decided to save everyone from Hanan, who had the gall to continue speaking in Arabic.

The policewoman asked Hanan to step off the train and to get off the phone. “I didn’t do anything,” Hanan told her in Hebrew, “there is nothing on me.” She continued to chat with her friend on the phone. At that point the border policewoman became angry, and tried to save whatever was left of her dignity. “Get off now and don’t make a fool of yourself,” she ordered Hanan, who says she was unfazed and refused. “I will get off at the stop where I need to get off. If you insist, you can inspect my bag at the next stop. I’m rushing to catch a bus,” she said, and returned to her phone call.

At this point a crowd began to gather. A Jewish woman began filming, while a few others tried to defend the young Arab woman who was refusing to follow the script. “Bleeding hearts! What if she had a bomb? What...

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The Ramadan guide for the curious Israeli

Most Israeli Jews know next to nothing about their Palestinian neighbors. Here are a few pro-tips for the holy month of Ramadan.

And so it begins. Ramadan, the month of fasting in Islam, in which Muslims are made to fast from sunrise until sunset for 29-30 straight days, after which they celebrate three days of the Al-Fitr holiday.

For those who are fasting, including myself, I wish you an easy fast and hope that it passes quickly and without unnecessary heat waves. This month is difficult enough, so I hope the weather doesn’t become Islamophobic.

And now for all of my Jewish neighbors who get excited over one Yom Kippur fast a year, it is important for me as a Muslim to share our experiences with you and clarify a few things. By the way, I have no complaints for those who do not know the ins and outs of Ramadan, since Israelis ignore Muslims as a result of the policy of making Palestinian invisible, especially in the public sphere.

Let’s start off by dispelling the notion that this is a month of vacation. Arabs continue to work — because they must — especially the workers who cannot allow themselves to take a month off. Expenditures are usually double the average month, since the food we make is upgraded, and there is not a single house that does not enjoy cooking and eating extravagant quantities of food.

Our sugar and meat consumption grows exponentially. The entire process of charging our batteries lasts all night in preparation for the following day’s fast. We can see the results in our waists for many months after.

‘You can’t even drink water?’

If you’re working around those who are fasting, please be aware of our soft spot for coffee, espresso or even morning tea. Do not enter the office with your mug and spread the smell before leaving the room in embarrassment. This is torture for the worker who went to sleep at 2 a.m. and woke up without coffee. So please, do us a favor and keep your discussions of food to a minimum.

Psychologically speaking, a person who fasts must pretend that she or he are totally fine (ie. not dying of hunger or thirst) in order to strengthen their willpower. In fact, however, the first few days are very difficult, and include headaches, nausea, weakness, and a lack of concentration (we...

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I lost my Palestinian flag on the March of Return

I went down to the Negev to participate in this year’s Nakba Day events. The fact that it’s the 68th year and little has changed depressed me; the sense of unity and the bubbly optimism of some of the activists encouraged me.

“I will not come with you to the march!” my adolescent son exclaimed. “I’ll sit at home and watch it. Wasn’t our home taken away from us during the Nakba? So here. You go, and take your little boy who doesn’t understand anything, and leave me alone.”

“Don’t you support the right of return?” I ran after him to his room. “I want to know the truth. Answer me!” The Jewish mother in me got the better of me.

By the time I got to his room, he was tucked in his bed. “I support it, of course I do. I just don’t think that spending the whole day travelling just to stand in the sun waving a broomstick and a plastic flag will give you back your village, that’s all. And enough with all the emotional blackmail, please.”

My parental authority died that minute, and left me speechless and mournful. I dragged myself out of his room, completely resigned, as if I had just been expelled from my village. He may have a point, that adolescent brat. Another march and another protest – for 68 years, and what for? Why is it important? And in the current climate in Israel, is there hope at all?

Adam, my younger son, got out of the shower and tried his luck at rebelling, albeit to no avail. I told him he could take whatever he wanted from the sweets cabinet as well as a ball, so that he could be social and play with the other kids while important men delivered their speeches.

I took the biggest Palestinian flag I could find – it came in a special delivery from Bil’in – loaded my car with Palestinian lace and dressed in red and white complete with a checkered scarf. Only a hat was missing to be a walking Palestinian flag.

In solidarity with the Palestinians of the Negev, the Association for the Protection of the Rights of Refugees organized this year’s march in the south, to link the protest of both past and present house demolition and land expropriation. The organizers...

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At Peace Holiday, normalcy is the best act of resistance

A new holiday was established by the binational, bilingual school kids at Neve Shalom Wahat al-Salam. We painted, cooked, built puppets and celebrated. Only the roar of aircraft on their way to Gaza brought a small reminder of reality.

Please mark down May 7, 2016 as the first “Peace Holiday” – a new addition to the already crowded calendar of the binational, bilingual school of Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom. It is in the proximity of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Nakba Day, Independence Day, Land Day, Passover, Easter, Mimouna, Asraia and al-Miarg’. With grief and bereavement rituals, religious celebrations and festivals all around, we struggled to find a single date that was free of the baggage of ethnic and religious divisions that fuel the long-standing national conflict.

The “Peace Holiday” is an initiative launched by small children – Jews and Palestinians – following a democratic vote in their student council. The holiday is intended for parents and families of the school in the village of Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom as well as for the general public. Actually, it is for every human being who is simply tired of war.

Preparations for the event lasted several months. We had to make fateful decisions that would determine the future relations between the Arab and Jewish peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, that would affect the situation in the Middle East and, of course, influence world peace. For example: should we invite US President Obama? The Pope? What about the Dalai Lama? Should we send an invitation to President Rivlin? And should we write a letter to world leaders asking them to make peace? No less important, we had to decide what we would sing and what kind of food each class would bring.

My third-grader Adam and I decided to bake a chocolate cake with a colorful rainbow made of sweets, though such an item was not included among the suggestions we were given, and it wasn’t particularly healthy. But naturally, on a holiday, we can permit ourselves to indulge in sweets more than on ordinary days – so we strayed a little from the suggestion list.

Each class was assigned a different rainbow color, in which it was supposed to make banners, flags and a “Man of Peace” mascot character. The third grade’s orange seemed very nice but, in the process of preparing our character, we couldn’t decide whether it would be a...

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Mimouna, a Jewish-Muslim festival everywhere except Israel

Moroccan Jews have always celebrated Mimouna with their Muslim neighbors – and still do in Belgium, Italy and France. But in Israel, this charming custom fell prey to Zionism’s primeval instinct to divide and rule. 

Mimouna, the Jewish-Moroccan post-Passover festival, always offers an interesting glimpse into Ashkenazi-Mizrahi relations in Israel, by virtue of being the only Mizrahi custom that successfully acceded into the Israeli mainstream.

Fewer and fewer Ashkenazis come out of it unscathed: Those who look down on Moroccan customs as primitive and uncivilized get their share of abuse, as well as those who pay lip service to multiculturalism by taking part in this gluttonous fiesta, especially politicians who likewise hope to pander to an otherwise skeptical electorate.

But now, a new group of Mizrahi activists calling themselves The Golden Age have “named and shamed” Zehava Galon, the leader of the left-wing (and predominantly Ashkenazi) Meretz Party, for never having celebrated Mimouna. They invited her to their party so that the next day they could call her out on her hypocrisy.

What is the fuss all about, I asked myself, and as part-Moroccan, I decided to delve into the origins of Mimouna. I tried to figure out how a custom that developed in a faraway Muslim land made aliya as part of the Law of Return and immediately started simmering in Ben-Gurion’s melting pot.

I browsed Arabic websites in search of information about how Mimouna, similar to our Muslim Ramadan, is celebrated in Morocco today. And it turns out that the Muslim neighbors play a central role in it: They keep the leavened bread during Passover, and as soon as the sun sets they show up at the Jews’ doors with basketfuls of sweets and pastries, and celebrate together until the wee hours. Moroccan Jews and Muslims in Belgium, Italy and France still celebrate it together, like they did in the old country.

In one video that I found, the Rabbi of Brussels addressed the mixed crowd and talked about the persecution of minorities in Europe, and asked who could better understand how Muslims feel in Europe today than the Jews. The Imam of Brussels, for his part, said in his speech that Muslims are bound by the Quran to maintain good relations with Ahal al Kitab, the People of the Book (i.e. Jews and Christians). It sounded too sweet to be true, and not...

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Netanyahu has nothing to teach Europe about terror

Netanyahu is trying to paint Israel as a terror-stricken victim, while at the same time painting his country as one that has successfully defeated terrorism. No matter how he spins it, he cannot hide the fact that Israel is also an occupying power.

What does Netanyahu want from Europe? That the continent take a lesson from Israel on… what exactly? Last week we saw, once again, the desperate attempt to promote Israel to the “enlightened” international community through the back door of the war against terror. The prime minister uses sentences like “we are all part of one, big fight,” “once again the enlightened are pitted against the dark forces,” “black versus white.”

Netanyahu insists that there are good guys and bad guys. Not only does this mock the intelligence of the global community — and does very little to raise support for the country he represents — it also incites against the religion, nationality, and culture to which the terrorists belonged, people who likely grew in the extremist, murderous margins that no country wants.

Whenever millions of people are smeared for the religious affiliation, such as Islam, their nationality, like Palestinians, or culture — such as the Kurds — this is the first step in the guide to racism and hatred.

Like a juggler, the prime minister runs to every bloody corner of the world to proclaim “we have also been there, we got through it, and we can help you.” But who do these kinds of declarations actually serve?

First of all, Israel is not like Europe. Perhaps like colonial Europe from a hundred years ago. But it is definitely not Turkey or the United States. The notion that Israel is a peace-seeking country, an innocent victim that is not occupying an entire people and settling on its land — is anyone actually buying it?

The occupation of the Palestinian people, home demolitions, checkpoints, murder, settlements — and this is without even talking about Gaza — this government’s overall policy is nothing more than an occupation regime based on racism and power. This control is justified to the Jewish public with religious explanations that this land was promised to them thousands of years ago. Meanwhile, we tell the rest of the world that we must hold onto the West Bank because of the war on terror, which leaves us no choice but to use the power of the...

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Fleeing the world's largest prison: A journey from Gaza to Israel

When Shefaa was granted permission to leave Gaza for a four-day visit to Israel to meet with a group of Jewish and Palestinian women, it was nothing short of a miracle. There she could tell her story and dispel the myths about life in Gaza.

All at once the activities marking International Women’s Day came to an end. Conferences, lectures, and ceremonies alongside commercials for spas, malls, and Botox — which were supposed to cause women joy for one day, while making the credit card companies extremely happy.

But before I allow capitalism to take over this article the way it took over International Women’s Day, I want to talk about the weekend I spent with a group of young women — Arabs and Jews from Israel and Palestine — to talk about women and war.

I tried to take advantage of this project to encourage one young woman, Shefaa from Gaza, to join the group. Maybe, just maybe, there will be a miracle and she will be able to get a permit. After three years of knowing each other from afar, two wars, the death of her aunt in a Jerusalem hospital, and her father’s surgery in Israel, her family was able to leave the prison that is Gaza for serious medical procedures. Shefaa, however, was not able to leave. Her dream was to visit Nazareth, Tiberias, Jerusalem, and Haifa. Shefaa (not her real name) is 30 years old, works with women in Gaza, a fashion designer with embroidery, and a member of a Gaza youth community initiative.

We speak on the phone and send messages back and forth. I get updates from her — like from other women — about the situation in Gaza. I did not believe her when she both Hamas and Israel allowed her entry permits.

Souvenirs from Gaza

Shefaa called to ask if I wanted her to bring me anything from Gaza. I’ll bring whatever you’d like, she told me over the phone. I laughed at this Arab custom, even among those with little means. The response is always, “No thank you, thank God we have everything, only you are missing.” So I responded with a smile: “Yes, bring yourself in one piece, you are the biggest gift I could ask for from Gaza on Women’s Day. See you soon.”

Our first meeting was very emotional for me. A long hug, tears, kisses, and another...

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