By Susan Schwartz, TMO
The cruelty of occupation and siege perpetrated by one state upon another should trigger shame and disgust among humanitarians. This is especially true when children form a disproportionate number of victims. Yet, the actions of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza continue, and the expressed outrage falls far short of what it should be.
One organization, KinderUSA (Kids in Need of Development, Education and Relief) has steadfastly dedicated itself to the improvement of the health and lives of children in the West Bank and Gaza. Despite the harassment suffered by Muslim organizations – particularly Muslim charities - after 9/11, KinderUSA has persevered in its work to give the residents of Palestine, particularly the children, a future.
KinderUSA held a highly successful banquet/fundraiser this past Saturday evening at the Long Beach Hilton in Long Beach, Ca. It was titled â€œA Decade of Givingâ€ and celebrated the organizationâ€™s ten years of essential health giving and life saving work.
The dining hall was filled to capacity after attendees enjoyed a social hour in the lobby and dined on Middle Eastern themed appetizers. Also available in the lobby to be purchased were artistic items crafted by womenâ€™s cooperatives in the West Bank and Gaza.
The featured speaker was Dr. Norman G. Finkelstein. Dr. Finkelstein is a highly informed and sought after speaker particularly when the subject matter is the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. He has written eight books that deal with that issue. After the event he was available in the lobby to sign his two most recent books: What Ghandi Says and Knowing Too Much.
Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Professor of Medicine at the University of North Norway, was also a featured speaker. His specialty is anesthesiology and Emergency Medicine. During the weeks of Israelâ€™s Operation Cast Lead Dr. Gilbert was in Gaza working, despite the attendant risks, in Al Shiffa Hospital. There he was also the voice of Al Jazeera broadcasts.
Dr. Gilbert showed video clips of his experiences, usually naming each child that he showed and detailing his or her injuries. It seemed that Dr. Gilbertâ€™s voice broke on occasion, and his passion for the smallest of victims and his disgust and contempt for their oppressors held the audience in a steel grip.
â€œGaza is a child prison controlled by Israelâ€.
Other speakers included the attorney for KinderUSA, John P. Kilroy who expressed his profound admiration for KinderUSA and its Board. When first approached ten years ago by KinderUSA head, Dr. Laila Al- Marayati, Mr. Kilroy, who described himself as the grandson of Irish refugees, said he could not say â€˜noâ€™. His laudatory speech made it clear that he has not regretted his decision.
Jihad Turk, active in interfaith work as well as being the Religious Director for the Islamic Center of Southern California and the Dean of Bayan University, spoke of the religious directive to give to those less fortunate.
Dr. Jess Ghannam, a Clinical Professor and the Chief of Medical Psychology at the University of California in San Francisco, gave the introductory remarks and was Master of Ceremonies.
Ahmad Eissa, an elementary school student at the New Horizon School in Pasadena, gave perhaps the most touching address as the child recited the prayer and read from the Koran.
With the fund raising came the announcement of the soon to be birthday of Dr. Laila Al Marayati. A video presentation of those whose lives she touched and who used the opportunity to praise her was shown. After, the audience stood and sang â€œHappy Birthdayâ€ to her.
Dr. Al Marayati thanked the audience and singled out KinderUSA Board member Dalell Mohmed for recognition.
â€œWhat a wonderful group. I am so glad I discovered itâ€ said one woman as she applauded.
KinderUSA is a 501(C)(3) organization. This coming Ramadan (2012-2013) KinderUSA will supply food baskets valued at $120 to feed families of 10.
KinderUSA spokespersons emphasize the key role played by womenâ€™s cooperatives in the West Bank and Gaza in developing the food baskets. These women - the heads of households – have been trained in all aspects of the program, thus sustaining themselves.
The other aspect of KinderUSAâ€™s program is the feeding of indigent farmers in Gaza and the Jenin area of the West Bank. KinderUSA buys fresh vegetables from small scale farmers, many of whom are unable to sell their goods at market. The farm products include, but are not limited to: eggplant, squash, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, and honey.
To find out more about this essential charity, please access the web site at: www.kinderusa.org.