Recording: Building People-to-People Foundations for Israeli-Palestinian Peace: A Conversation with ALLMEP’s Avi Meyerstein
Hadar Susskind 00:04
Hello, everybody, and welcome to today's APN webinar. For those of you who are veterans of this experience, you know that this is the part where I filibuster for a minute and wait for everybody to actually get logged into the Zoom. So I'm Hadar Susskind. I'm the president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, I am happy to see you all with us today and grateful to you for taking some time to join us. We will get started in just a moment and introduce our special guests for today, which I'm very excited about that. But we're still watching those participant numbers tick up. So I will give that another minute. And then we will get things going. Chen, when you are ready to come on back on camera, that would be great. And okay, so once again, hello, everyone. Welcome to today's Americans for peace now webinar. I'm Hadae Susskind, the President and CEO of APN. Thank you all for joining us, we are grateful that you are taking some time out of your day to be with us. Before we open our conversation, just a couple of technical reminders. As always, we are recording this webinar, we will share the video we will share the audio and the transcript as well. For those of you who want to ask questions, please use the q&a function at the bottom of the screen. You can type in your questions at any time. And we will do our best to get to as many of them as we can. I do remind you and urge you to please keep them focused on today's topic. I know folks always have lots of questions about a lot of things, but we want to try to stay on topic. So today, we are very pleased to be joined by a special guest Chen Arieli. Chen is the Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv and she is a longtime social activist. She's particularly been a leader on LGBTQ issues, women rights issues in Israel. And so also serves as a co chair of the Aguda which is Israel's LGBTQ outreach Task Force. She has been an incredible progressive leader on so many issues that so many of us care about, and particularly on this question of maps, and in her role as deputy mayor has really led the charge around this. So I think hopefully, you've all seen in our emails and in our social media, some of the news around this really exciting step that they've taken. I don't want to, I don't want to take too much time and tell you about it, because Chen is the one behind it. So I'm just gonna say we're really thrilled to have you join us today to tell us about this amazing work that's going on and what you're doing in the schools in Tel Aviv now. So with that said, I'm going to turn it over to you.
Chen Arieli 02:58
Thank you, I'm so happy to be here. I'm happy to be here to be with this project that it's one of my, my, my heart is invested in this project so much. It's actually started as a small story that I would be happy to share with you today and to answer the questions. Two and a half years ago, actually, it started a parent from the municipality, no notice that in his kids school books, there's strange maps of Israel, like with no borders, or with different shapes that not marking the nations around us. And he started asking questions, and he approached a council member named Maria, which is a friend of mine, and they both came to me and they said, Listen, we will notice that the maps are not accurate to the reality. Let's look into it. And we started looking into it. And we investigated and when we kind of noticed that there's no officially maps that are used in the education system in Israel. And more than that, not just the education system in Israel, at the youth movements as well or in any other informal education gatherings. And we started thinking about it and exploring the notion and the idea that the perception of space is something that we would like to affect as a municipality; that we can interfere in that and want to give the kids to grow up in the city. in Israel, but we're only in charge of the Tel Aviv. The option to kind of develop their identities that is based on the perception of space. That is accurately reality and not with the blind spot. I believe that a map is always a political document. But it is also the demographic paper that needs to show the reality as it is. And by growing up generations and generation with this severe blind spot record regarding the reality of Israel and the borders and the occupation is, is actually doing worse than solving the problem because the blind spot is making us wrap kids in a country that are not in the narrative of shared society and in the narrative of peace of building those life together. And the map is actually for me, I live in Jaffa, I live in shared society neighborhoods. So for me to explain in my in my life has this shared society values, it's if you know, reality, you know how to act with reality, and you know that we have no choice, we're all here and we need to live together. And, and I think most of the tension that we have in this society between Arabs and Jews are based on lack of information and that blind spot that we have just looking on the demographic on on the the map of the land, and to first give it acknowledgement. And second, talk about the complicity. And when you grow up in Israel, you didn't get to know this complexity just when you turn 18, when you get to the military, or when you're 21, when you're done before getting into university, or just when you're 35 and you're seeing the news. It's, it's not good for the country, we're growing up citizens without awareness. And I love this place I want, I want Israel to be a better place. And I think one of the ways to do it is to put that map on the walls; and, you know, the Israeli media. Put the green line that we put on the maps in the middle of the conflict. But it's not, it's not just that the project talks about the perception of space that we live in is crucial to the perception of reality; my home, my neighborhood, my city, my state, and also the graphical space, the wider geographical space, are actually the context inside of the identity building that each one of us is doing in the soft years, during schools. And for years, the map of the country was changed was shrinked, and the borders were here or there; and the finer borders not stated yet until this moment. So different governments chose from different reasons. To put the question of the space on answer. It's led to earn verbal reality, work to close classrooms can show two different maps, and in the pockets of the kids, they have the internet. So they have the international map around Israel, they chose the reality as seen from the outside. And it it really doesn't allow kids to to get where they're growing up. And every kid in Israel deserve to know where is the map and we believe that it's our job as a municipality, to give the students, the kids the perception of space that is reliable and accessible out of the Israeli perspective. And it's roughly a composition of three maps. I don't know if you saw the map, but you have on the map, you have a map of Tel Aviv, which is the city and you can put yourself where your street is where your school is where your community center is where you see your neighborhood, and the large one is the map of Israel of course. And the third map is actually population map of the area of the Middle East. And it is actually allows the perception of space in those three dimensions on those three stages. And I think when we're talking about the map, it's important for me to say that it's not just about those harsh realities; the green line or the burgundy line that we're going to talk about it. I think we put on the map, if you want to talk about the green line for a second. So we put on the map.
Hadar Susskind 10:39
yes, please do.
We noticed that, that there's a government decision from 1967, that decide to take out the green map out of the official maps of Israel. And when we look back at that decision, we thought that we need, we need to kind of undo that decision and to bring back that line, because it's a part of reality. And it's part of reality, especially when you compare it to the sovereignty line. And I want to explain what I what we call in Hebrew, and you have in the map,you have the green line, then, and there's the burgundy line, and I'll explain what does it mean. This is like the area that of the occupied territories, their territories that Israel annexed formally, and applied its law, applied it Servantes. So the Golan Heights, for example, in the East Jerusalem were annexed our the rest of the West Bank is under a military ruling. You think I am opening it I know, to explain in English that you can understand the difference between the green line we put in and the other line that I'm talking about. And if you see the fall off the map, I hope you have it, and you can see it on your computers. You can see the difference within those lines. And it's actually emphasize the complicity that's need to be talked about, or to see Israeli. Israeli cities are small, our small villages inside of this line, that are that the Israeli law is not put on them. And like some of the settlements that are inside the line, and this is really uncatchable. And kids need to understand that and they need to be able to ask question regarding that. And to see that in their own eyes. And to see the the differences between the A line and the B line and the A territories and the B territories. And they need to grow up with those terms, clear to them. And, you know, although I'm, you cannot blame me that that I'm not I'm a political figure. I'm a public official. And I'm from the left and it's clear, but we really too cautious of not putting a left perception on the map. And we want it to give reality as it is. Because we knew immediately that the media will take it to that area like it's, it's the left and the right. And it's not it's in, it's not against anyone. We're not against the education ministry. We're not against the right wing people in Israel, we're not against anyone we're against censoring the reality. We are in favor, the kids and in favor of growing up kids without this blind spot, and for our generations it may be lost. But for the next generation, this is what we need to give them;the ability to get rid of this horrifying blind spot that Israeli society is growing up on. The narrative, look, we had four election systems, and we're in the middle of the fifth one. And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not one of the topics that are even talked about, we need to see that is a red flag because it's not even...It's not even in Friday discussions around the table. And we need to bring those topics back because this is our reality. Of course we have other realities, such as poverty, such as the economical status, such as moving forward from COVID But all of that while we have having the occupation and the situation on those areas, we need to work here as a society with those understandings and to bring the ability to discuss them from a young age. And at the first one we just wanted, we actually approached, we tried to find official maps, but not, not this. Everyone told us that there is no formal unit. No formal unit to form a map? There's several. So you cant find one in the in history book that is like that. And the other in geographical book, it's the other and there's not like the official. Can you imagine that the United States does not have an official map? It's it's uncatchable. It's interesting. Yeah.
Hadar Susskind 15:55
You know, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and again, it may not be the official map of the of the State of Israel. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the embassies and consulates, certainly here in the US, and I assume in other places in the world, gives out maps all the time. It gives maps to, you know, to governments, to congressional office, things like that. It gives maps, we were talking before about Jewish youth movements and synagogues. If you walk into a Jewish Day School, like where my kids went to school, there were maps on the wall that they got from the Israeli government from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And they, of course, do not show the green line. So a quick question for you, you know, you talked about how, yes, maps are political, but that the idea behind this map is not political. It's actually just showing what's there. Showing the reality, which has been, you know, kept off of other maps. So you talked about, it's got the three different maps, certainly the green line conversation has been the biggest piece. I know, there's been back and forth between the municipality and the Ministry of Education there about about this project. Can you tell us more about that?
Chen Arieli 17:08
I think that as a municipality, we cannot interfere. The curriculum of that is learning schools. The system of the local governments in Israel is quite different than in the States or in Europe. And actually, we're not independent by our education system or welfare system, or, or or in so we get funding from the National level and welfare education and you also put fundings from the municipality, but we are banned under the National Law, we don't have any local bills in any way the system is, is kind of giving the most of the power to the national authorities and municipalities are obey to be under those those bills and administration's. And official governmental offices, such as the education ministry, ministries, but did Aviv Yafo is as the only metropolis in Israel. And we found ourself, many years we were talked about as a bubble of Tel Aviv who was referred to as a bubble. But I believe that we're not a bubble, I believe that we're a lighthouse that needs to understand its power, and with one of the most famous and known cities around the world, and we have the possibility to, to put light under topics that we believe are important and maybe to affect other places in Israel. So it's not just affecting local systems, it's also affecting and bringing the light outside of Tel Aviv because we're big municipality and we're strong municipality we can we can allow to do that. And it's a privilege. I know it's a privilege, but you know, you cannot be apologetic about. It's like I cannot be apologetic for being white or Jewish. But it's actually the question what I'm doing with my privileges, if I'm putting using them to try to help those who don't have those privileges, or using my privilege to be courageous and brave, and to put to put on the tables topics that I think needs to be discussed. You know, the occupation was not discussed in the Israeli media for a long time, and for the past few weeks around the maps it was a topic. So sometimes, it's also a thing. And it's also important, I didn't need it. Of course, we haven't done it for this PR. We worked on that project for two and a half years because it was hard, it was hard to convince the system to do it. Because it's a brave step, you need to be brave and courageous to take that declaration and statement. And I answered before, we're not against the education ministry. And we're not interfering the curriculum, we are just giving the option of seeing reality as it is, we had schools that asked us not to send them the maps from from the stream of religious religious state education. And we said okay won't send you the maps. But from the other hand, we got hundreds of letters from parents in the city saying, I'm so proud that my kid got home today and and told me that the map that we heard in the news is on the wall, and we get pictures with the maps on the walls. And it's really, I trust the system that we know how to bring those topics, where to supervise discussion with the kids. This is why it needs to be in classrooms, and not just, you know, if I wanted to provoke I could just take the map and hang it around the streets in Tel Aviv. But the provocation is not what the method that led us. And it took us that that much time because we had special professionals that are working on that and every every line and every short unit on that map, we thought about it, and we discussed it and we decided and what key in what, what what to put it in and what not to put in it. For example, in Gaza or in the Golan, we have a notion known to the small places that you cannot find all around Israel. Because, there's, we needed to work based on a key of size the population. But we wanted kids that are hearing when there's bombing on Gaza, that we'll see where is those places that are doing in the news. And in the north borders as well, and this is not telling us that. The right wing can say 'okay, this is for, in favor of the right wing and the right narrative'. We did it and it's a liberal action. So I'm I'm more than willing to be blamed for being liberal, democratic by doing that, and I'm, I'm proud that the mayor and the system believe that we can we need to do that and bravely walk through with me to this project. Hopefully, the maps will stay on the walls.
Hadar Susskind 23:18
So let me just note real quick a couple of people have asked about posting links to the map. The article, the Haaretz article that was posted here, has the map in it, but I don't have a link directly to the map otherwise so folks can look at it.
The map is not online yet. We have we have photo copies, because we have a lot of requests outside of Tel Aviv, everyone wants a map. It's a beautiful map I'm you know, I have maps in the car and in the past two weeks, every meeting that I am stepping into I'm taking one map with me because I know that they'll ask me if I brought with me me a map. So we were thinking about putting it online on the municipality website that everyone can download it and print it, but it's it will take a while. But I can send you the file in high resolution that you can send to whom is interested and you can really see the map and see the work that is was done; really long months and years until we printed it and send it to schools and it's education ministries. Their first response was it's amateur map and this is was, my heart was broken to hear it because it's not. We put really a lot of professional efforts in their maps. So you can be criticism about that, but it's not unprofessional.
Hadar Susskind 23:45
Yeah. So, we will again, you can see the link in that article the link afterward which is to an APN piece talks about the English language sort of similar versions that we are interested in doing here. We are working on getting a screenshot of this up, I hope we will be able to do so. So I asked you for your your indulgence and your patience. So, you know, one of the things you talked about how was how in 67, the decision was made not to show the green line on maps. Now, there was probably one set of reasons for that in 67. But basically every government since then, you know, 56 years, five years, five years now, you know, has has kept that decision. And like you said, there may not be one official government map, but if you see what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs puts out, if you see simply the fact that the Ministry of Education, you know, objected to what you were doing. You know, I'm asking you a very big question. But why do you think that's been. Why is that and why has that been the position of the Israeli government to not have the green line?
Chen Arieli 25:56
I think from going back to 67, it wasn in October 67, the Cabinet erased the green line. It happens right after the war. And it's clear to me that I wanted to present the world that is no more this line between the line is does not exist. And they will put it off the map. I can. I'm not agreeing with that. But I can understanding that the position that they that the governor wanted to impose to the world. By the way, Moshe Dayan, was which was then the security minister, he said that the map is not how the setting is to meet the needs. Yeah, it's of a political program. It's a topographical and geographical marking. And we actually took that, from that statement statement back in 67. And we said, it is a great geographical marking, and we're, we're putting it like this. And, you know, we're not, we're not in Kansas anymore. We're not in 67 anymore. We all woken up since then, we had Oslo, in Oslo, we had partial ruling to the authority. We're not we cannot exist today in education based on a committee that was 55 years ago. But I think that that, because it's complicated for ministries all all over those 55 years during those years, didn't want to deal with those hard questions. Because, you know, if you have a kid and , I don't know, within an age of 10, coming back to the teacher and asking, what is the green line, you need to explain much more than than just one sentence in the line? It's opened the huge pile of questions that are complicated, the Israel reality is complicated. But the fact that is complicated, doesn't mean that we does not need to talk about it. And I think it's the crucial thing is to talk about it since the beginning of our perception of space, that we know that where the countries are, who are the countries that around us, what is the population around us in the Middle East? And and what, what effect does it have on us. The map is not just a political tool, it's also a learning tool for any lesson in the class. for history lesson for literature, lesson four, for social lessons, lessons for any lesson can use by the map, for example, when you see it, you see that the small map on the on the right side down on the right side, this is the population centers of the Middle East. So you can see how Israel's small in the size of the population, when you look on all the countries around us. But you can also see where people are choosing to sit;on mountains near the near the ocean. So you can learn so much about humanity and history by you looking at a map, that is the map of reality. It's much more than the political layer or the political awareness that that we want to give. It's, it's learning about the human mind. It's learning about how people act and react to the land that they live on. And I think that everyone needs to be in the same interest of giving that to kids. Just good things, just good things can can arise out of it. I really don't know why, I think people are scared from the complicity. People are scared And from opening this one box of talking about the line, and what is the difference within the green line and the other lines? And then what is the difference between the Golan Heights and, and the east of Jerusalem? And and you learned in us that the settlements are are getting Israeli ruling inside of the Palestinian territories. So what is that this is something that is also complicated. It's quite remarkable that I've been what you're talking about as much as you and people around us, I've been accused of, you know, taking this as a political action.
Hadar Susskind 30:19
Again, as you just described it, what you're showing is not only the green line, but the geographic and human reality in and around Israel. And the fact that that has been lacking in the education that generations now of Israeli kids have gotten is, frankly, a terrifying political statement. I mean, that shows that people were were unwilling to show the reality because they didn't want to talk about those questions that you just raised. I'm curious, you talked about, you know, meeting with other people and some of the responses you've gotten, have, have there been, or can you talk about conversations with any other municipalities I know, Tel Aviv is obviously by far the biggest, but are there others that are looking at using these maps or something like it?
Chen Arieli 31:27
Of course, but I can be honest, and also said, we have some we have also gotten some criticism from Zionist religious cities that said that we haven't put enough that religious Zionist cities or places on the map. And we didn't, for example, we haven't written on the map Gush Etzion. We haven't marked it, but we then do those we have made made those decision because we're against that religion. Actually, to mark all Zionist regions, as the settlement is, like Gush Etzion. For Israelis living in Tel Aviv, and in given time, and in Haifa; we're not connected with this stream of belief and ways of living. But we had a really, Israel is really crowded, so we needed to find the key, how to relate to and to decide how we put our will decide which city or or, or Kibbutz or village to put on the map. So we use two keys combined, we investigated online and our, our professional team, actually, we're advising with other professional teams from abroad how to how to use the key, and we decided eventually to bring to use the key of the size of the population. And the crowd area. For example, in the area of, of Jerusalem, it's so crowded, so I cannot get into technically, I cannot write all all the small places that are around Jerusalem, I don't have placed in this little square in the map, I had to choose by the size of the population, we kind of step outside vision
Hadar Susskind 33:40
Chen Arieli 33:42
Yeah. And kind of we step outside this key, just as I mentioned before, in Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, because we wanted to put small population ;small villages or regions farms that are in the news where with political tension in the area. So kids can see it in the news at home and they can come to school the next morning and see on the map and see this red, you can you can see Gaza Strip there, and to see those those places that are talked about on the news. So we could actually stepped out of this key in favor of the wider narrative that that our both sides need to, to, to to think of, of ways to live here on piece and in shared society in a shared solution that will be agreed and, and also the criticism we got from from this area was about the border that we put outside of the green line, you can see. I don't know if you can see that in that resolution, but I also talked about it in the beginning of my beginning of our discussion. We, they were mad that we call the sovreignity line. And I explained what I know the thing in English, sovreignity line is a harsh word, but I especially mentioned why what it meant for us and why it's different than a regular line that we put on the map. Because we put it on the map. The map actually includes different kinds of borders, okay, official borders with other states, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, it's a straight, red line. But the other line is as not a straight line in the same color is actually the land that the Israeli law is banned on. And from the other side, it's whether it's the Gaza Strip, or the West Bank, does not exist in other countries. So it's not a border with another country. And we need, we wanted to mark that difference. And they were mad at that that were invented. And we did not invent a term, we just explained the reality. And they said that we needed to call it a border, such as the straight red lines that we we you have on Egypt and Syria and Lebanon in all of the other countries. And this was a huge issue around around the publicity of the maps. This special line and we are standing on our opinion, that is this is actually reality. It is not official line, because official line is when you have agreement between two countries is not. Yeah, so they're really mad at us by taking that and I think it's also common of, of this very position to to try to explain it. You know, it's it's hard to explain, it is hard to explain. It's occupied. It's complicated. We all know that.
Hadar Susskind 37:39
It's occupied or uncomplicated.
Chen Arieli 37:41
It's occupied and complicated.
Hadar Susskind 37:42
So you know, there was actually I don't know if you saw this, there was an article that Christian Gorenberg wrote about your maps in the Washington Post. And so I think that's probably the piece that most people here in Washington at least saw, we shared it with people, we've shared this with people in Congress in the State Department, because, you know, there are often complaints regularly from conservative voices primarily about, you know, somebody or another showing a map that says Palestine, right and doesn't and doesn't acknowledge Israel. And oftentimes, those are maps or, you know, literally the entire area from the river to the sea is marked as Palestine. And people understandably, object to that, or, depending on what the situation is. So actually, there was a lot of surprise from people who I spoke to here, who don't spend all their time on this, that Israeli maps, then don't show the green line and don't represent sort of the reality on the ground. In a lot of ways. I'm curious if you have gotten responses, have you heard, you know, sort of international responses American or actually otherwise, are there? You know, have you gotten responses from the Palestinian side from others in the Arab world Europeans?
I have to say, first of all, that I'm a part of a program called the Alliance and the Alliance is a Palestinian Israeli leadership partnership that I'm a part of, and the most emotional responses came out of that room for me and this is a this is a personal because they're my friends and colleagues. This is the leadership group and and I think the existence of that project, actually in my life actually drove me into getting in getting myself into that project to begin with, because they're my friends and we're arguing about everything that comes in daily news, and it's my most busy WhatsApp chat group on my phone and This is, for me building shared society, because I'm working with those leaders. And some of them are my colleagues from other municipalities, some of them are involved in Palestinian politics. And the most emotional response came from them. And the most emotional interview that I had was with the Palestinian radio. And it's, of course, that that that, in the Israeli media, I got criticized, and, and I had harsh interviews, and, you know, with the report and Palestinian side, it was interviews of hope. Like, they asked me hard questions, but I said, I think we had a mutual interest to put it the reality on the map. And I think, I think it's, it's, it's obvious why .I have to say that we, we were on working on the map we want we really wanted to do Hebrew-Arab map, but it's so crowded that the land is so crowded, so we could not put it inside. And we decided, because we have schools in Jaffa that are the main language that are talking is Arab. So we had a map exactly like that map, just only in Arabic. And we had a lot of discussions about that. Also, are we writing the original names of the places? And for example, in that, in that decision, we said no, because the map is not an historical project to map is the current reality project. And we're putting the names as, as the the names that are used today. So and I think it was the right decision because promoting a historical project is a different project. And it's maybe it's my next project but I'm proud to say that we also have on my in my office, I have two maps hang one of the Arab version and one of the Hebrew version because I think it's it was a good decision of printing also a map that kids in first grade and second grade when they're learning to read and write their their mother language, they can also see on the map and read on the map things that is easier than Hebrew for them and it's I think it was an amazing decision. And I also before we printed it up we advise with Arab school principals from the principality, about the political, the dangerous political terms on the map and Arab and Arabic so so we won't have you know, from good intention will will do something that can be offensive offensive or. So I think you're starting to understand why this project that took so so long because every step of the way you need to stop and ask, right? Is it official area? And if so, what is the other official area that is not on the map. So this is-- and writing and putting things on the map is taking a political stand. And this is why you should always not every map because it's not an official every each to put them out-- a map allowed to come out in English.
Hadar Susskind 43:55
I'm stuck on the name I don't know keep going I'll get to it.The Cave of the Patriarchs?
Chen Arieli 44:04
Yeah, so we asked the question if to put it on a map or not because this is definitely a place that kids are are hearing on the news. But we decided it's not an Israeli territory so we're not putting it on the map. So every small thing really it's really every small thing on the on the map was considered and talked about and debated about and we do get out for for advising and eventually well I know every map has mistakes I'm sure we under that map we also have mistakes so but I still am hopeful that it was the it will be a project that every two years we're gonna update the map and print in new ones. So hopefully,
Hadar Susskind 44:53
I think it's amazing to have them in Hebrew and in English. And again, we want to have them in or in Arabic. I mean, we want to have them in English. as well, I want to just point out something really quickly to everyone. That Washington Post article that we were talking about, we've put into the chat. So if you want to see that, there you can, you can see it.
Hadar Susskind 45:15
I know one of the questions that I wanted to ask which coming in again, as some of these others out of the q&a, you know, you already talked about the scale and the densities, you know, in the population size. So that may answer this question. But a question came up about whether you put any of the, whether you made an effort to put the the unregistered Palestinian communities inside of Israel onto the map. So I think I think your question is probably particularly about perhaps, you know, some of those Bedouin communities in the Negev. And whether that was part of this thinking process at all?
Well the question is of the size of the population. Um, and I think on, in the Negev, we wrote, the bigger version of the Bedouin cities and the small villages, none of the small villages are here, not none of Jewish or Arab, or we just put a small kibbutz in Hulda, which our mayor came from. And this is almost like a tribute to the mayor that we put his kibbutz on the map, because I thought it was a nice gesture. Yeah. But the key is for all communities, the only places we stepped outside of the key was was the place that I noticed that wanted to kind of connect the kids with what they hear on the news. Because for me this like, being in reality at home, hearing the news, talking to families, you know, many of the kids have families in the northern and the south. So and coming back to the map at the classroom and saying, Oh, well, where's the on the map? I want them to be enthusiastic about the map and finding things in the map. And I think questions, if you look closely, I don't think you can look closely in the font that you have, and I will when when we finish talking, I'll send you and you can send it to all the people registered
Hadar Susskind 47:19
Yeah, you can send it to everyone.
Chen Arieli 47:21
Yeah, when you zoom in to the to the map, you see that we also put the grid of the the big streets of in every city, because we wanted to show the kids how the cities how to look at the grid of the city and to see the density of population and we taught a lot of things that are not talked in the media. And by taking this, this map this ornament on the wall of the classroom to be like a door to whole word that can be discussed about so many things. I have many parents are asking about their homes. And I have I have teachers outside of Tel Aviv asking maps to decorate their classrooms.
Hadar Susskind 48:12
I know you're going to be able to, to distribute those to give them to other teachers or parents who want them.
Chen Arieli 48:17
Hopefully, we'll be able to do that soon.
Hadar Susskind 48:21
Good. I have a two part question for you. One, one came in the q&a, and then I'll add my own piece. So question off the q&a was, again, congratulating you on the municipality and the municipality on this effort, but also saying, you know, what do you think is next sort of is there another thing that can be added into the education process? And I want to, let's keep that sort of, to the map. Concept, not totally different. And I want to ask about a specific thing, because in the maps that we are talking about, for the US, one of the things that I think is important, and I know this is different than what you've already done, is trying to really show as much as possible, all of the small settlements, and whether you settlement in the general term, whether we're talking about, you know, Jewish, Israeli, or Palestinian villages or Bedouin in the south, because one of the things that we so often see here, and when especially when we talk to policymakers is if you look at a map of the West Bank, you know, you're gonna see the biblical cities on it. And you'll see maybe, maybe you'll get a rail, maybe you get, you know, one or two sort of, you know, a couple of big things, but you don't really get any understanding of what settlements both Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian look like, and that, that physical reality that you were talking about. And so you're talking about it for educating Israeli children. We want to talk about it for educating American members of Congress also. So what do you think about you know about doing that kind of project and is there something else around the maps that you are thinking about also,
Chen Arieli 49:55
I think putting a map with all the settlements and and all The small places are important, but it's not. I don't think it's for this stage. And I think that maybe it's an advanced discussion that we need to give in the system just to kids that are 18, turning 18 going to the army and and getting to get their first voting privilege. I think, you know, for, like being a left wing member or member , I want to, I want to see it myself. But I think that I think that the map, as it is now give the perception of this complexity. Without those all places, we could have put inside, inside the West Bank, the settlements. But it's also a political stand for in our eyes and wanted to stay neutral. And I think when you're talking about education, it's important to present a neutral position. And this is why also I can get be criticized by from the radical left side of the political map in Israel, that I haven't put all the settlements in ,left out of picture. And I think that, especially when you're talking about kids on that you need to put the complexity as it is. But it's also it's, you cannot put all, if we put all the spots on the map, we can see nothing Youll see a dark Spot This is like, it's like the blind spot, you'll see many, many dots and you cannot be served. This is why we chose to do this key. And any any map of Israel is not that I think organizations such as you and such as other organizations in Israel, are sure, sure have maps with all the settlements, I know them and I saw them and I'm visiting those territories on a regular basis. And I think it's too soon to put it in schools.
Hadar Susskind 52:28
I think for different projects, for sure.
Chen Arieli 52:31
Yeah, it's different projects, and also, to a higher level I think of growing up, because, but you know, if you have that, so you're allowing kids to ask the question where there are other more settlements, and then they can find they can, you know, we have Google, it's 2022. This is the the absurd that on the walls of the of the classrooms, they have no maps, or maps that are not describing reality. And in their pockets, they have all the maps that they want. They have the maps of the settlements, they have the maps of the Arab historical places, they have the map of the Jewish historical places, they have the map, and someone needs to make an order in all this confusing narratives that are online and in the media and and who is better to do that, then your teacher or your principal, or the one is, is is in charge, on your education in a supervised environment that can answer your questions in a responsible way. And I think I think, I think the next step is really to free that, that map to all the ones who want to use it. And I think the next step is maybe to put it on community centers and around the city and to wider the discussion outside of schools, in places that can be talked about. Hope hopefully, it will stay hanging on the walls. And kids you know, every every picture that I get a school of school classroom, with, with the map on the wall, it's it's a big success in my eyes, it's it's there, it's the reality, even if 10% of the students are looking at it, and the kid the teachers are not talking about it at all. We change reality even in that small percentages. I really hope it will be larger and wider and it will also raise the awareness in other educational systems such as systems that train teachers to be Teachers, colleges for education, teachers, and hopefully it's a product here to stay in the developing to, We specially actually chose to use and open code data on the map so we can it when the time is right, we can send it to everyone. And we don't have to worry about the rights of the data or I don't know if you know that. But when you're holding a map, it's not just putting the map like you need to buy the data out of the countries or out of the country. We have in Israel, I think you have it in the States as well. Called. Let me see, I think I wrote down is preparing. It's called the Center of history of Israel is Israel that's doing maps. If I need a map of Tel Aviv, I need to contact them and like they're working with me on the data. So we specifically use data that is free for use. So we can release it in the next time. Step to everyone.
Hadar Susskind 56:23
That's great. So when one more quick question for you, if we you've talked a little bit about the issue is the conflict, whatever you want to call it with the Ministry of Education, and that some of the people, some people haven't been happy, is there? Is there a legal challenge? Like you said, you hope the maps stay on the wall? Is there some is there some challenge to get them off?
Chen Arieli 56:48
Well, we're still checking that. I think that I must emphasize that we're not against the education ministry working and collaborating with the ministry in a great way. And Julia Mon, which is the head of the education system in Tel Aviv, is a great partner of the education ministry. And hopefully, we are we're sure we don't want it to interfere in the learning programs. And it's just an offer to the kids in the city. And we hope it will be finishing that perception that we're we mean, we mean, no harm meant to be to be in favor of the kids and not against any other. These are different communities around Israel. The kids in Israel needs to grow up with reality. And sometimes reality is complicated. And it's okay, I want to I want to grow up in a country that gives our kids the tools to grow up to be functional of citizens and they know how to choose and make their own decision. based on reality, not based on reality does not exist.
Hadar Susskind 58:14
I want to welcome Jim Klutznick, our board chair in for a last comment or question or some some closing remarks. Jim.
Jim Klutznick 58:24
Got on mute, and then you're on. Okay. Thank you Hadar, and Chen, great listening to you, I've jotted some notes that I'd like to express. First of all, we salute and, and thank you for your bravery. And I think what you're showing here is these maps not matching with with reality is a metaphor for the dissonance between political, social, and economic, economic realities of Israel and the occupation today. And that's whether you believe in one state, two states or a Confederation. The reality is the occupation denies the Palestinians the justice of sovereignty, and confuses blindsides and blindsides young, Israeli children from the start. And I think ultimately, the result is that the there's an ability to bring the Israeli Palestinian conflict to a just solution for both people are as you put it, a border with not a country. And so thank you, I thank you for your clarity. And we look forward to seeing you in Israel next spring when APN makes its trip there. So thank you very much.
I'll be happy to meet you all. Good.
Hadar Susskind 59:59
We'll come see the maps! All right Jim thank you very much credit again thank you for joining us for today and taking the time and more importantly thank you for leading on this project and really for all the great work you're doing in Tel Aviv alright thanks to everybody we will see you all soon bye bye
Webinar Transcript- Between Bombs and Blockade- Mental Health in Gaza (with Dr. Suad Lubbad and Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei)
Ori Nir 00:00
Hello, everyone. Welcome to this APN webinar on the mental public health in the Gaza Strip. I'm Ori Nir and with me as my colleague Maxxe Albert-Deitch. Hi Maxxe! And, as we always do, before we start are a quick reminder of our housekeeping notes. We are recording this webinar, it will be posted. The video will be posted on our YouTube channel, the audio on our podcast, we'd like to encourage you to ask questions. So please do that using the q&a tool. It's at the bottom of your screen. And please make sure that your questions are short. We are, you know, reviewing them as we go along. And we want to make sure that there's not too much text for us to review as we do it. So children in the Gaza Strip went back to school this week, about half the population of Gaza is school age. The median age of the population is 18, and about 43% of the population is 14 years or younger. One of the Palestinian news sites which I watched yesterday, showed a video of the fifth grade classroom, in a girls school in Khan Yunis, in the southern part of Gaza. And in the first row was at a desk for two there was a girl. She was a student sitting next to a very large poster of Layan al-Shaer, the 10 year old girl who was killed earlier this month when Israel's Air Force bombed Gaza. And I examined the face of the girl who was sitting next to this large poster of her absent friend. And she was silent but but her expression really spoke volumes. About a million out of the Gaza strip's, 2 million residents are children, and recent reports by the organization Save the Children found that out of five children in Gaza four say that they live in depression, grief, fear and the burden of this distress is ever growing. Compared to the similar study in 2018, the number of children then who reported an emotional distress was 55%. So it increased from 55% to 80%. To discuss the emotional distress among Gazans, particularly children but not only were very grateful and fortunate to have with us two practitioners who are on the ground in Gaza. Dr. Suad Lubbad and Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei. Dr. Suad is a project officer at the American Near East refugee aid (ANERA) in the Gaza Strip. The projects that she leads there mainly handle early childhood development, child health, nutrition, education, protection and hygiene. And she holds a PhD in human development and the asset of Bucha. Yassar Abu Jamei s the Director General of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, a leading mental health service provider and the co founder of the Palestine global mail, global Mental Health Network. And his recent focus is an approach that integrates public health and human rights into mental health in the Gaza context. Suad, Yasser, thank you very much for joining us. So I would like to start by asking you what are the chief causes for the stress in the Gaza Strip, obviously, you know, war conditions are a major source of distress. But Gaza has now also been under siege for 15 years. Under blockade. How does that play? Day to day? Maybe, maybe Suad? Do you want to start?
Dr. Suad Lubbad 04:39
No, no, I will ask Doctor Yasser to start. Yes.
Ori Nir 04:41
Yeah. Please go ahead, Doctor Yasser.
Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei 04:45
Thank you. So Adam, thank you orient, Max, the organizers and the audience. I just have noticed, one dear friend who seems to be there. Donald Millman so good. To see your name, Don, and I hope to see you in the near future, and many others. But that name just struck me immediately. Look, when we look at a place like Gaza strip, of course, it comes to the news every now and then. And unfortunately, in the last few years, it's coming more frequently into the news, and usually news for the hot stories, you know, and a hot story nowadays, unfortunately, it's about, you know, a flood or a storm or war, or let me say, something like that natural or human made disasters. You know, there are plenty of them at the moment. In Gaza, when we spoke, we speak about how things are, well, as you said, already, but I could just put it or divided into two kinds of factors, you know, something that are related to the chronic conditions of the population and Gaza Strip. And the chronicity of the conditions is not only does not only go back to let me say 15 years of blockade, no, it goes back more than that, for example, it goes back two decades of occupation. It goes back to the era that about 70% of the people who are living currently in Gaza are refugees. You know, our Israeli colleagues have proved many decades ago that there is a term that is called transgenerational trauma. And we as Palestinians also have brought so far, in some research studies, that also that happened to Palestinians. So imagine that you are born and you will carry with you the stories, even the stories that your parents talk about your grandparents talk about. So you speak about community, that's two thirds of it a little bit more than that are refugees. They grow up to know the stories, and at the same time, they are under blockade, you know, the kids. So these are a couple of chronic conditions that were exacerbated, again, by the long 15 years, blockade on Gaza Strip and with that blockade, we have more problems with electricity, we have more problems with a fuel crisis at large more problems with water supply, and all of these things that come with the fuel crisis. And it was also,let me say, complicated by the division within the Palestinian society, the de facto government that is all in Gaza at the moment, and the division between it and PA. We have two holding, let me say, but it's the government of the Palestinian people, because of chronic conditions. And they are interesting because as it might happen, and everywhere, a lot of poverty and high unemployment rate. Now, this is something that we need all the time to keep in the background when we talk about Gaza Strip. That's the background of the picture we usually talk about. However, if you have to get to the news, again, the acute conditions that happen. Well, you know, we can speak clearly about for example, the fifth largest scale operation, if we could call it that happened in early August on the 22. It's the fifth in a series since 2008. When we speak about 17 or 18 year old boy or girl, they have certainly witnessed a lot of of things that happened during those attacks. And we say that these are large scale operations. Because you know, the Gaza Strip is a tiny place, I'm sure that you will know the geography of the area. And when we hear, for example, that just under three days attack in early August, about 150 strikes occurred by the Israeli army, you can imagine that these strikes were hard. Perhaps not perhaps not all of them, but definitely all the inhabitants of Gaza Strip have heard the bombardment. Some of them saw some bombing happened to their, let me say, neighborhoods, some of them lost their loved ones. Among the 50 people or so were killed, 17 were children. Children were killed. And most of the 50 are civilians. And this is not only the accurateness. But of course this acuteness, and within those, if I could say 12 or 13 years of attacks, we had also our own chances of COVID-19. The pandemic that exacerbated the poorness of the population made it more difficult for the social networking and social, let me say, support to help people overcome the difficulties. Those acute conditions, I think, the striking feeling that happened to adults and parents or caregivers, and then I leave the floor to Suad, I don't want to take a lot of time. But the very striking thing that happened is that certainly during the days of the attacks, you know, sometimes we count that it's 55 attacks, but sometimes we say how many days in general. The population were exposed to this extrem fear, extreme worry. Children are really terrified. They might have problems with sleep difficulties with sleeping. For parents, the feeling of being helpless, because you cannot, you know, you cannot offer your child any sense of safety during those attacks. And you have nothing in hand that you can offer that could help your family. We don't have the shelters. What what what is meant by shelter, you know, some international agencies try to prepare shelters for the Palestinian people doing those attacks. And guess what is meant by those shelters, It's just a place where you can stay far from the bombing, but it's still not a safe place. It's still a place that those people who are displaced from their areas, they will certainly just find a place that they could go to. So this chronicity and on top of it acuteness every now and then, as a summary of how people are going through. And again, the why is the wide title could be exposure, everyone during those attacks, hears the bombing, everyone exposed to the feeling of lack of safety, lack of security, in that you are helpless, you can't help your children, you cant help the people around you, you can't offer safety. And this perhaps explains the figures that came by the Save the Children report that was titled 'Trapped: 15 years of entrapment' and that is certainly a very short description of what we're going for. I want speak longer the moment so maybe Dr. Suad could explore what I am seeing.
Dr. Suad Lubbad 12:10
Thanks, Dr. Yasser. So just an addition, I want to just mention that living in Gaza is very difficult. You cannot imagine the life in Gaza unless you were there in Gaza. This is one point, people in Gaza used to face different types of problems. The occupation, I can tell you that they get used to it in the last period. But the other effect sof occupation are getting worse, like the unemployment is getting more and more and more. Poverty is getting more and more; people cannot get the basic needs for themselves. And stressors are always increasing and increasing every day. People cannot escape from their life stressor, and they cannot think of how the world can can help them. People in Gaza feel that they are ignored, even if the word is telling them that we're caring, but on the ground, nothing is done to help these people live their life. And this is the life of Gaza. In addition to what Dr. Yasser's speech about the causes.
Maxxe Albert-Deitch 13:21
So you've both sort of spoken to this a little bit already. But when you're dealing especially with children, what kinds of symptoms do you see among Gazan people in terms of stress and anxiety? Would you mind giving a few examples?
Dr. Suad Lubbad 13:37
Yeah, some children do, and escape, but they cannot deal with, they cannot do this social life. They cannot speak. Some of them has psychosocial psycho psychosomatic symptoms. Some of them have headaches, some of them had pains in their legs. Some that children are afraid to get out of their houses. Some of them don't speak at all. Some of them have very bad nightmares. Some of them only want to stay with their mothers or parents. They just want to get their hands in the hands of their parents. They do not want to see anybody outside. They are scared to go to the pre school or the school. They are scared to go to a nearby shop. They are facing also insomnia and bedwetting, and fear- fear and fear and fear of the slight noise around people or slight noise around them. When anybody just closes the door. This fear is consistent with the children adults. Yeah, Dr. Yasser, do you want to add?
Ori Nir 14:58
it seems like we We lost him. I know that there's always problems in the Gaza strip with electricity outages. So, he may be experiencing one of those. We'll hopefully have him join us soon. Maybe we'll continue talking with you Suad and talk a little bit about how you address these things. So when you when you talk to parents, what do you what do you advise them to do? How, what kind of tools do families have to address the stress and anxiety that the children experience? And what tools do they have at their disposal? I see the Dr. Yasser joined us again, and, you know, maybe maybe we'll wait with that and just see if... yes, Yasser wants to talk a little more about the symptoms, because that's what we just, we just had Suad talk about? You want to go ahead?
Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei 15:58
Yeah, well, we can divide them into like, you know, during the attacks, after the attacks, and in the long run. For example, during the attacks, the thing is that 3am feeling of fear, being terrified, you know, this applies to children and for adults as well. Another thing that we start to see really frequently is somatic pains, you know, pains in the knees for the children and the ankles, and for the purposes more low back pain and some pain in the big joints, mainly knees, knees, actually. And then you have the problems of sleeping, actually, it's very difficult to see because of the hearing of the bombardment. But, what happens, which is that after the, let me see if we could say, ceasefire takes place and the bombardment is not anymore there. We start to see children who are having problems like bedwetting, and sleep paralysis, if they are very young, or have nightmares. If they are like adolescents or older adults, immediately, they are usually preoccupied with what happened and are shaking. If I mean, if they are among the people who were, you know, affected closely, they will be really busy with gathering themselves, you know, what happened, looking after their kids, you know, trying to find the place of living, but with time, then some symptoms appear. Now, we used see, these are symptoms of either acute stress disorder, or maybe PTSD, because it's on the long, the longer term. Children start to show some, you know, poor concentration, some difficulties with, you know, studying, academic achievement. Sometimes they become disobedient, they become violent. And these are all symptoms that children show in order to attract attention. You know, even the psychological explanation, the psychoanalytic explanation for Bedwetting, sometimes when it's after trauma, is that children are weeping through their bladder as we could say, which means that they are seeking the attention of their parents when they just are looking for someone to pay attention to their needs in the morning and down, the only way that they could attract the parents perhaps is when they are, I could say punished in the morning because the they have left the bed wet. For the adults in 2014, for example, after the huge and massive 51 day attacks, we should have just made up a fact sheet and we said that we are not going to deal only with the trauma itself, you know, disorder like post traumatic stress disorder. But however, we are going to deal also the losses of the people, the loss of the safe place that was of the beloved ones, the loss of property, the loss of of jobs, you know, these are all losses that cause usually depression that are the seeds for depression among people. As Suad d said during the last few years, things exacerbated. More unemployment, more poverty, poverty is about 53% 3% of the population are under severe or the poverty which means more than 700,000 people, which means more than 350,000 children under the poverty. So, for example, when it comes to our community centers, we speak about people who will come and they have a diagnosis. I'm not talking about the general population. For example, 55 to 40% of the people who visit us are diagnosed with depression. And then 25 to 30 people are with various anxiety disorders, not necessarily PTSD. In fact, PTSD is lesser and lesser, but you have more, even something like obsessive compulsive disorder. And then the remaining is different disorders. For Kids, It's mainly things that are related to trauma could be bedwetting could be sleeping disorders, and then it could be PTSD, if there are a little bit older. One more thing, the research studies that looked into the population at large, you know, as you said, the 'Save The Children' reports, it puts it really clearly when we're talking about the children in one hand, and the parents in other hand. We looked into the society. Last November, we looked into the symptoms of the most affected people. And the percentage of depression and anxiety among adults was really high. The third thing was anger, anger, more than 75% of the population, reported anger, but we, at that time, we looked into the most affected people, we can understand their anger, of course. But when it comes to children, again, depression and anxiety, and then problems with consulted concentration and sleep, however, the Save the Children report, first of all, the fieldwork or data collection happened in March, April, which is like four months ago, five months ago. And then,they took a sample from the whole community, the whole society. And these are really, again, very staggering. I mean, eight out of nine children have some emotional,as they put, stress. And then, and then when we talk about parents, you know, 96%, feeling unhappy, and anxious constantly. And if I really try to look into what could be the possibility of this 96%, almost every father or mother will find that two thirds of the parents caregivers feel they are not useful. What does it mean, they are not useful? Of course, if you cannot afford to give your child when he or she goes to school, one or two shekels that they can at least afford the transportation, if you can't buy them new clothes, you know, we speak about one half of the population. We speak about families of more than 500,000 children. So so how would the parents feel and then days of attacks, when the bombardment continue to happen, and you hit the loud explosives, and you know, that when you say that it will go away the children will not believe yoy, and that you will feel that you are, again, helpless, that you are really useless. But unfortunately, that feeling remains. And this is something that I'm I mean, I am really concerned about that, between May, and March, that's more than nine months. And still people feel that they are useless. Parents feel that they are not useful to their children or their life at large. It's quite a mixture, quite a combination. There are there were many academic research studies on various things. And I think anyone can look into public, for example, and they can find some, plenty of research studies that can look more into the figures, but again, the figures with time are really getting staggering. The that could be attributed to the chronicity of the conditions, that high exposure to the traumatic events, the huge impact on the psychological aspects. And then the deteriorating coping and mediating factors, you know, like, we are getting poorer, families are getting more and more scattered. Resources are less and less, we are weaker and weaker. And that's why the impact is more and more.
Ori Nir 23:58
Before we before we talk about treatment, which which we'd like to do soon. Just a quick question since you you mentioned adults, you know, two things that we see among adults who are depressed and suffering from anxiety is substance abuse and, and suicide. So I wanted to ask you if you've experienced that among adults in the Gaza strip
Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei 24:26
Look, first suicide. The figures that are reported for suicide rate in Gaza are not that many. I mean, they are below the, if I could say, the international prevalence rates when it comes to suicide. But the whole idea of suicide in a place like Gaza Strip, it's a big taboo first of all, and then we have not heard about suicide for example. But before the years 2003 or 2004. So the issue is...
Ori Nir 25:04
Thats because of religious reasons, right?
Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei 25:07
Well, it could be because of religious reasons, but then we have never had so much lack of hope, you know? This is, I think, a very important, you know, we are mostly Muslim inhabitants in Gaza Strip. But I wouldn't contribute the that among 2 million people. Only 30 of 35 have committed suicide only for religious reasons. No, religion could be an important factor. But it's not the main, it's not only that, it's many other things, you know, why you give hope in life? And what's going to hit you in the afterlife? I mean, why you need to end your life one way or the other. So, but again, the prevalence is not high. But it's happening more frequently than ever, which is a big question why. Suicide attempts are like 20 to 25 times the number of success, the succeeded events, which is like the international community. So if we have 30 to 35, people who committed suicide, succeeded in ending their lives, we have 600 to 800 people who have tried. Which is in line with the international community, which is fine, you know, I understand that. But half of the people who attempt suicide are women don't have women. Globally, it's like one to four. One woman, to four men. So why we have so many women who are trying to commit suicide? You know, it's a big question. And that highlights the, perhaps the severe impact that is caused by the economic and living conditions and occupation and the division, on the family, and on the mothers and on the girls. And one other thing, you know, many of the cases, the Ministry of Health did some look into the reasons I think about six years ago, in 2016, or 17, about 75% of those who commit internationally or globally, about 80% of people who commit suicide are people with mental disorders. In Gaza, that was only 50% were people with the disorders. So it's more like out of anger, out of frustration, out of a family dispute, for example, a problem within the family, you don't find the solution you are like on the edge, so why not to commit suicide at any moment. The other thing is with substance abuse, we had a big problem with substance abuse about 15 years ago, but the main cause was not the economic conditions then, or bad coping mechanism, then. The main reason was, because of the tunnels with Egypt, they allowed a lot of Tramadol to come. And the tunnels were mainly digged by the young people, and they were given Tramadol to be able to feel the energy and continue doing it. And fortunately, then, I think it was 2000 miles, something like that tunnels were the only thing even to bring shoes for your children. The only way that you can bring clothes to yourself, you know, I remember very anecdotal things, you know, when you visit houses, and you go to drink tea or or juice and they bring you they usually bring five different cups, you know, you cannot find the house with the same five cups collection. Why? Because of the extensive blockade at that time, you know, it's a lot with goods, it's a lot better. So that brought a lot of problem. The problem of addiction is limited because of the financial issues, I think. And then the other thing because of the way the society deals with people who are in substance abuse are facing response, a big taboo, again, it's like a suicide. But if I if you allow me to add a third part, which is, we spoke about or we speak or what we hear a lot of community engagement. Organizations talk about more violence, more domestic violence, violence against women, gender based violence. And we thought that, you know, it's so much frustration in the families that they try to how to say, get rid of that ventilation, and they do it in the wrong manner, you know, to be to be more aggressive. Perhaps the study that we conducted in November explains it better. When we find that 75% of being adults, if you're really angry. The question is always how can you overcome your anger? You know, how can you get around that?
Dr. Suad Lubbad 30:02
Just a little, little thing to add about the Tramadol, it was the oly marketed will among people. People didn't know at that time that they are going to be addicted to just taking it as a happiness pills. And after that they discovered that they were addicted and, it was put in there, and everybody was taking it at the ceremonies or gatherings or weddings parties. So it was scattered among people, even women, They are not the people who get addicted quickly. But because it was the easily handled between people, it was the substance abuse that gets higher. Okay, are you going to ask the other question, or should I add about my own experience with my kid? As a parent?
Ori Nir 31:01
Yes. I mean, what we wanted to ask you is to talk about that. And specifically, you know, Dr. Yasser referred to the stresses, women specifically. So if you could talk about that, that'd be great. Please. Yeah.
Dr. Suad Lubbad 31:16
You know, in Gaza, when we talk about parents as caregivers for their children, we mainly mean women. They are the in charge of everything. In the past, when there was good employment and good work chances. Men used to go to their work. And women the wife, the wife, the keeper, they are the caregivers for the children. And that's it. Now, both are at home. But parents, men ,are like depressed. Like the feeling that are they are unqualified parents or unqualified fathers, they cannot give any, they don't have anything to give for their children, because they are young, trying to find ways to get money to feed their children, okay. And this, this will put more on the mother, she has to take care of their children, she has to find places or ways to get food for her families. Maybe she will go to her neighbors or ask her that will people give their money or food. And she's supposed to be a person of honor to get support and good for her family. If you imagine yourself in this position, you will feel that you are overwhelmed and stressed. And you cannot ask a person who is in need of care to provide care, am I right? In addition, these women are facing a lot of violence from their husbands, because the feeling of helplessness I mean the fathers or husbands, they turn it into violence against women who do whatever she can. Like aggression or progression of their inability to do other things for them to do. So everything is put on the burden of the woman, when we want to tell her please take care of your child, I think we are putting more pressure on her. But we have to do it because she's the adult and the child will pay the price for all his life. So what we do, do we try to give her awareness about how to take care of for herself before, so that she can care for others. In addition, we hold for social support, we give them chances to talk to get this pressure out, we tell we give them a chance to let them feel that we did hear you. Please get your feelings out. We can hear you and we want to help. And we try to help them as much as we can. Now, for what to do for the children also we give them awareness about their normal growth and development for children. We give them also awareness about the signs and symptoms of PTSD. We give them assurance, how to give, how to protect their children as much as they can. For example, their daily routine is a very good example for protection for children. We don't have it and Gaza, the adults and the children. We work every day just, we don't know what we'll do tomorrow,there are no plans, anything can happen. Bad things are expected more than the good ones. So the feeling of insecurity is there in the household for the mother for the Father for the children. So we try to teach the women some skills to do any daily routines for her children to give him the feeling of security. We will also teach her some art, art exercises or art and play materials that she can play with their children. We asked her if she can get her children with her to, to go out walk around your home. I want to add something else about Gaza in the past when I was a child, I have plenty of places to play around my home. Now, people are living in apartments, no front yards, no backyards, they have to be just get in this small prison, that represents the prison of Gaza. You know, growth and development for children, they need to move and play and just lack their their motor skills to improve their motor skills. This is inhibited in this such and such life of Gaza. So this is, I want to give you an example about me, I consider myself strong woman. And the last war on Gaza on May 21. We heard that a building near to us will be bombed soon. So I, me and my children, and I just moved to live safest place at our apartments. Now my daughter was so stressed, she was crying, she was seeking the feeling of security in my eyes. I try to give her as much as I can. But you know, then my adrenaline was high. So she couldn't get the security that she she wants, because she feels the stress in me. However, my voice was coming. My touches were calming. But they just felt this is it from you?
Maxxe Albert-Deitch 37:00
Thank you for sharing that, first of all. Suad, you've talked a little bit about this. So I'm going to direct the next one to Yasser. When you're speaking with parents and working with families, I mean, what do you advise them to do? What are the tools that they have on hand to address the stress anxiety, the sort of constant mode of dealing with all of this, what are the tools that you and they have at your disposal?
Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei 37:29
Well, it's not that many tools, and unfortunately, this is because of the harsh economic conditions, you know, most of the patients who come to our community centers and our clients, you know, they can't even afford to, not only buy medication, but even the transportation, you know, sometimes is a problem for them to come to community centers. Sometimes we just visit them, sometimes we go and work in their community and their neighborhoods, you know, the most affected areas. So, but, you know, we try to find hope in people's lives one way or the other, sometimes hope is because the child is healthy, that no one was really hurt. You know, sometimes you see people who have lost their homes, wellness, everything, and the only thing that they are happy about and you can talk about is that everyone is alive, that their house was like, you know,we are going to have to call, we can call it by mistake was ok or whatever we can call it. But anyway, that everyone is alive, that everyone is safe, that children can go back to schools and our children in a very different way, they give us a lot of strength. You know, as you said, a few days ago, it was actually Monday, just three, four days ago when when the new academic year began. And almost you can see all the children just walking in the streets going back to their schools, you know, and 2014 after the 51 day, lengthy attacks, that ended something like in late August, I was wondering how children are going to go back to schools. And I think almost everyone went back to schools, you know, so we you try to identify areas. And then you need to really work on the social network around that family. You need to strengthen the ties. You need to make them understand and you know family education is a big important tool. That what happens is really not your mistake. You know what happened is not your mistake, that you need to stick together. The mother when she just ran away from the room, because she heard the loud bombardment she left her baby in the room. That is something that is human. She's not a bad mother. The father when he jumped from the stairs and ran away. He is not a bad father. It's just very nature. very primitive response to a life threatening event. And then you tell the parents that the way they react to the things is felt with their children, they really can feel you immediately. And then you give very small tools about how to encourage, how to find feeling of safety within the place you live in. And finally, you try to restore the routine, the normal life routine. The one of the major issues that we struggled during COVID-19 was not only that tasks that happened during our them was not only the Blockade, but was the problem that children are not going back to school. It's you know, so that issue was making out problems for the parents. What can we do in hand, you know, you need to at least allow the children to go out, to go to school, the only place that children can have fun, or can change the mood that they live in, like in a small house with on average six people in their house, is just to go to the school, you know, to go out to see the friends, spend four or five hours and then go back to sleep, sorry, go back to home. So restoring normal life process is very important. Again, educating the population is very important making sometimes parents understand that their children misbehavior doesn't mean that the child is bad, doesn't mean that the parents are bad. It means perhaps that the child is looking for something else. So clarifying these things does a lot of magic. And they can give you another very strange example, you know, you know, in that was after May 2021. In the last few weeks, we have teams who that will visit homes, a man and a woman, both psychologists, they go in teams and visit the most affected areas. And the interesting thing is that they were talking about. Imeet them and ask them, how was your day, et cetera, et cetera. So they said that, you know, we visit that place. The family of five or six, including a boy and the girl, you know, the girl was 12. And she was referred to our community centers, I mean, the parents asked to bring her to our community centers. So after what what's the problem? They said she had bed wetting. So that cause of referral was bed wetting. So I asked about the living condition. They said, You know, they live in a small home not far from the fence separation fence. So the, during the attacks, the Israeli army fire, I think, a tank or something like that, that destroyed the one of the walls on the upper floor. It's not even on the floor, but in the same building, you know. So the children jump below the beds, and then they escaped the home. And since then, the girl is having bedwetting the daughter is having. So as to what about I mean, do they have some other children? This is a severe traumatic condition, I mean, exposure. Do they have another children, they said, Yes, they have more children. But it was two or three, including a boy who was seven, and the both, they said that we asked them to also refer the seven year old boy, to our community center, because their initial assessment is that the child this child needs also care. He looked scary, terrified, he was not that much communicating, you know, etc, etc. And the father refused. And when they asked him why you are not happy with bringing the child said, Look, my daughter having bed wetting , it's a big problem. She is 12 cannot allow that to continue. We all agree that she needs therapy, and thank you for your help. But about my son, you know, all the children in the neighborhood, they show the same thing that my child, my child, show, they all look scary, they all went through the attack. So this was something really crazy to hear that, you know, parents think that despite all the children are having some problems. So this is again, something everyone has, you know, why to take them to treatment.
Ori Nir 44:46
Thank you. I'm looking at the clock here. And you know, we don't have much time left. So maybe I'll bench two questions, and you can address them as you wish, one that we have from the an attendee here, from the audience has to do with the impact of time, the impact of the, you know, the duration of stress. So the idea is do the symptoms that show themselves among children get worse, when those children become adolescents, when they become teens? Maybe I'll just say a couple of words from my own experience from a conversation that I had recently with a Gazan. Not teen, he's in his 20s. Now, but I asked him that question, and one of the things he said was, even when you try, as a teenager to get over the stress to use, you know, maybe the Internet to go to the beach to do activities that could help you overcome the stress, you're always reminded of it because there's always the hum, of the, you know, unmanned planes that fly above. There's always the drones, there's always the balloon that you can see up there, you know, the, the Israeli intelligence balloon. You know, that your phone calls are being, you know, listened to by the Israeli authorities. And you see the impact of wars that have punctuated your life, in terms of, you know, disabled people who've suffered injuries, Rubble, as in things of that sort. So that's one what questions that I thought you may want to to address;the cumulative impact. And then the other thing has to do with a question that has been asked here, and that is the the resources, or in other words, government resources versus nonprofit. I think both of you work for nonprofits. The question is whether the government has the means to invest in in mental public health.
Dr. Suad Lubbad 47:00
Okay, I want to talk about the first question, and the impact of these accumulated stress on the adolescents. The early childhood development, we know that the first 1000 days of children life is the most important period for their good growth and development. I mean, this starts from the conception side, until the year three, and we normally say the five years of age are the most important years in the human beings life. Now imagine that the mother when she's pregnant with a child, she's facing accumulated stress, in essence, there is what we call, we call that toxic stress, and the fetus will be facing distress, and we when he comes out, he will continue facing the same stress, in addition to the mother fearing of security, the mother nutrition is not good. And so the child will have these things over time. And when he gets out, he will start facing the life the bombing the problems, the family problems, the mother, the mother, which she is exposed to violence from her husband, or so on. So these children will never reach their full potential when they are adults, or when they are even adolescents. Now something else for the adolescents in the Gaza Strip, when they start the academic life in the university. You can hear it anywhere in the streets of Gaza, they just go to the university just to spend time, they don't believe that a certificate that they will take it one day will give them a chance to work and to be a productive people. So the despair is there. And the impact is very clear that they won't be living a good life in the future and will affect their resilience that affect their skills for problem solving. They will affect their living in a family like a husband and the wife, they would affect their social relations. It will affect also the mental health and I'm sorry to say most of it will be deteriorated.
Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei 49:32
For the second question, if I could say, you know we live in an area generally speaking that does not prioritize mental health. Okay. So, this is such a pity that place that is exposed to so many socio economic problems and traumas still, to find Methodists prioritize is not there that's one thing they Other thing is that the Ministry of Health itself is having big problems that are reported, by the way for WHO reports. So reports, for example, show on average, 45% of the drug stocks are not there on the Ministry of Health, do not speak about drugs that are likely psychotropic drugs like for mental health clinics, but also for non communicable diseases like diabetes, you know, like hypertension, even medications for this kind of, of diseases is sometimes out of stock. So, unfortunately, on the when it comes to mental health, and what we call the MHP assessment that we can psychosocial interventions, the non governmental sector of the civil society sector is doing a huge work on that.
Ori Nir 51:04
Yeah, Maxxe do you want to go?
Maxxe Albert-Deitch 51:07
Yes, thanks. So I think a lot of the stories and reports that we see coming out of Gaza, there's this very strong central theme across all of them about resilience and about hope in the face of just so much. From your experiences and your work on the ground. I mean, what is your experience with that?
Dr. Suad Lubbad 51:37
Yeah, we are, we are living in Gaza, we are still living, because we have still hope. But it's decreasing. It's decreasing by time. Yeah. And we need we need the people of Gaza. They want to tell the whole world that we are good people. We want to live in peace like any other ones. We want to live in dignity. Dignity means that we don't want this bunch of donations, we want to work and get money in return and provide our basic needs. And maybe the complementary needs. We want to live a good life, because we are human beings. We don't want to be built like, you know, evil people in a movie. Our life is not a movie. We are human beings. So we want to be young, we want our issue to be solved out. And we want to live like others. We want to get out of this big prison. Maybe they will not want to travel from from to and from Gaza, but the feeling that our you are kept there in a prison is very bad. It's very bad.
Ori Nir 52:48
Yeah, look, Dr. Yasser. So do you want to add to it? I mean, one would expect the population that lives under such stress to show maybe even more symptoms of you know, stress and anxiety and depression and so on. And yet it seems like the Gazan population is pretty, you know, rough and tough, I would say and resilient. Do you agree?
Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei 53:14
Thank you for saying the word rough and tough. Look, In one hand, we had an example of how the stress or when they were a kid, you know, when we had the right of return campaigns, and demonstrations, many people are thinking, well, those people who are just demonstrating, you know, in peace, and they were shot at. But despite that being shot at that they were coming back to the Friday demonstrations, some people will even shot when they were in a wheelchair. A person with twoamputated legs was shot and killed, you know, an ambulance health worker was was killed, you know. So I mean, despite those, let me say disastrous results, people continue to go there because they want to change. They wanted a change. And they felt for a certain moment that now they can say something and that the world is listening to them because they were they're demonstrating. So this is one aspect of it. People are perhaps resilient, but they have all the time emotions, they have the right to speak up for their rights and to ask the international community to stand up for humanity, you know, for justice. So this is one aspect. The other very unfortunate aspect is that sometimes it's present as both people are really tough. You know, the next time you can hit harder because they were tough. We couldn't do anything. They are still a threat. Palestinians we are a threat, you know, to a state like Israel, which is one of the biggest armies in the world. We are considered a threat so they can hit the heart on and on. third issue, I think the word resilience make people somehow make their emotions. I mean, you might sleep well, if you hear that Palestinians are resilient, you know? Well, please, we are resilient. Yes, but we are human beings. Yes. And we have the right to have the same rights as everyone else. If we are more resilient, yes, we are happy for that. And we are doing our best, we will continue to be resilient. But this does not, let me say, excuse the international community from helping the ones who are under occupation from helping people get their justice and achieve their freedom.
Dr. Suad Lubbad 55:43
Maybe I want to add something that please, it's not my words, the people's words. Please don't compare us with the Israelis who face psycho somatic problems or fear or anxiety. There is no way to compare, their life is better, their situation is better, their country is well developed, their mental health agencies are working well, their medical agencies are very advanced. So they have everything. But in Gaza, the situation is very much far. And the boom is big;its over our heads. We don't have something on the ground to be hidden under. So there is no comparison. Please don't compare us with Israel.
Ori Nir 56:36
Fair enough. We have reached the end of this of this conversation. I always say that, you know, these webinars that we have show you how fast an hour can pass. I think at this this time around, it was particularly poignant. It was a really interesting and good conversation which I think should be should serve as a as a trigger, or as an invitation, perhaps as a word better word here for people to read more about this. And I would like to encourage all of the people who are listening to us or viewing us now to share the link to our podcast and to our YouTube video once it's posted with other people so that they can also listen to this and learn about the situation in Gaza. I want to thank you, Dr. Suad Lubbad and Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei very much too, for joining us on this on this podcast. And well, I hope that we'll have a chance to invite you, you know, again in the future to share some more of your of your experience. So thank you.
Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei 57:56
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you,
Ori Nir 57:58
and this brings our webinar to an end. Thank you everyone.
Dr. Suad Lubbad 58:03
Thank you- Bye.
Recording- Between Bombs and Blockade: Mental Health in Gaza (with Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei and Dr. Suad Lubbad)
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