July 24, 2006
Role of Al-Rowwad During the Crisis
During the four invasions of Bethlehem area (August 29-31, October 18-29 2001 and March 8-18, March 30-May 11th 2002), Al-Rowwad has been transformed in an emergency clinic. In the beginning, I was carrying my bag, with first aid emergency materials and try to help whenever needed. No doctors were available in the camp. No clinic as well is found.
In October 2001 invasion, Al-Rowwad and the popular committee of the camp collected some drugs and first aid staff, fire extinguishers and distributed them in 2 locations as emergency response points, we also gathered all those who had first aid experience, nurses, firemen etc, and had them ready. It was difficult, mostly impossible for ambulances to make their way to the camp because of the curfew by the tanks surrounding the camp. Al-Rowwad center was the main emergency clinic and its staff were the organizers and executers of all the emergency response plan. We made 3 first aid points in the different parts of the camp, and supplied them with medicines that we gathered or were donated to us.
In March the same thing renewed, but we had already more experience in dealing with the crisis.
During these difficult times, Al-Rowwad Center has been transformed into an emergency center. It became an emergency clinic for first aid since ambulances couldn't easily enter the camp. It also became a center for storage and distribution of food for families in need, and specially milk for children, as well as bread. In collaboration with the popular committee in the camp, intensive work was done to meet the urgent needs in the camp, since the camp was completely surrounded by Israeli tanks and snipers. We tried in collaboration with different unions medical and agricultural to provide medicine for the chronic sick people, old and young, especially those with diabetes, tension and heart diseases. Through contacts with medical relief, and Beit-Sahour clinic and others we could provide some drugs for children and old people, as well as chronic cases in the camp, like diabetes, heart, hypertension and others. Al-Rowwad center collaborated with the Popular Committee in the camp to find another place, to provide two locations for emergency clinics in the camp.
And during the 43 days siege of Bethlehem, Al-Rowwad was one of the most active centers in Bethlehem area. Internationals from different countries participated as human shields to protect the palestinian civilians, to help accompany the ambulances whenever possible, help transport food and drugs where needed. UNRWA has employed a doctor for the emergency situation, and Al-Rowwad opened its location for the emergency clinic, and for the internationals who were in the camp and the region. The center worked 24 hours a day. Media reports, contacts and communications with most of the media and news agencies in the world… receipt by phone of messages from internationals in the Mokata'a (Arafat compound) were typed, translated from french to english or vice versa if needed, and sent all over the world, press releases and contacts with the besieged in the church as well, and the entrance of internationals and provisions of food and drugs was in part done by Al-Rowwad, in coordination with ISM activists and rapprochment center.
What was exceptional in the forth invasion, is that the camp was not really attacked though it was under curfew, and snipers were posted on high buildings and they were shooting on the camp from time to time. UNRWA has employed a doctor to stay during the crisis in Al-Rowwad, were we have given our two main rooms for the clinic (field hospital). So the media team, we gathered in my small office, and used my personal laptop since the center's desktop, Pentium 4 has decided to be out of service.
The other exceptional thing is that we have groups of internationals who came to the camp and who were human shield protecting the population from Israeli assault (which explains the first exceptional thing) and also because of their activity and help. We arranged ourselves in 24 hours shifts to keep the world and journalists informed by all the contacts we had, by telephone, mobiles, fax, and internet. All those who received our messages have transmitted them as well to others and so on. Though our main internet server was in Ramallah, and was destroyed, the company has managed to make an emergency server in Jerusalem, and so we remained connected. Part of the camp was out of electricity and telephone, we were out of electricity for about 36 hours, but we had a line from the neighbors, to keep the center going on.
Given the circumstances, Al-Rowwad with the volunteers from ISM and other internationals(jews and non jews) have done an exceptional work, and by these words they find our deepest admiration.
I think, during this crisis we regret really one thing. Since all the place was occupied by the clinic, which receive between 70 to 100 people daily, who came not only from Aida camp, but from the neighboring areas as well because they could not reach the main hospitals, we could not provide a place for our children. The computers room, was the waiting room, so they couldn't use them. And the library was the doctor's clinic. We managed however to give them some books to read, and also have 3 chess games, they could play with, in the yard.
Al-Rowwad Theatre is this. It surpasses its role, to cover the whole community. It hopes to build it's own building. To buy a piece of land or a house in the camp, and build on it a 4 floors building, were in the first make a modern kindergarten, and a clinic, in the second a computer center and a library, in the third a multipurpose hall, that could be used for theatre performances as well, and in the forth floor a sleeping place for guests…. It is a dream and everybody can help us to realize it.
And finally, on May 28th, of the year 2002, vandalism and barbaric achievements of the soldiers of the Army of Occupation of the Democratic State of Israel have hit Al-Rowwad center. Around 14:15, 12 soldiers of the Occupation Army Al-Rowwad center. The house keeper, Mazen, a temporary employee on the emergency program of the UNRWA was arrested and beaten. Then, The respectable soldiers of the respectable army of the respectable state of Israel began a full operation of vandalism. They emptied all the drawers and shelves, threw all the files and books on the floor, broke in pieces the JVC video cameras we used for animation (rented cameras), and the cameras children used to take photos. They emptied the oil, acrylic and gouache paint tubes on the computers' screens, keyboards, and all over the place, even the glasses and cubs and spoons. Some furniture also was destroyed. One video camera, 2 computers, a HiFi Chain, and some other things are missing.
Most importantly, it initiated a theatre activity, which would bring boys and girls together and through well-designed theatrical activities, help them to discharge their tension and reduce their anger. The activity has attracted more than 150 children from Aida, and Al'Azza refugee camps, and is receiving growing appreciation by the local community as well. The center has produced 2 plays. The first play "We are the Children of the Camp" has been performed in Sweden and Denmark over 3 weeks in August 2000, then in Palestine. The second play, the "Judgment" have been performed in September 2001 in Bethlehem, on the occasion of Sabra and Chatilla massacres. Currently working on a third play adapted from the folktales. The group has participated in most cultural and solidarity manifestations in the region.
2. Library Project
3. Art Workshops Project
4. Computer Center Project
Total for all 4 projects:
Theatre and one year activity : 71,900 US$
Art: 21,100 US$
Library: 23,150 US$
Computer Center: 17,650 US$
Total US$ 133,800