by David E. Drake, D.O., DFAPA, FACN, Des Moines Family Psychiatrist in Private Practice and Clinical Professor at Des Moines University. Contact: drake email@example.com
Side bar quote from Gaza Community Health Center Foundation: "The 51 day July-August 2014 war in the area inflicted a new and unprecedented humanitarian calamity that has taken the lives of over 2,200 people in Gaza, 70 percent of them civilians, including more than 500 children, further destroying the critical infrastructure, and denying hundreds of thousands of people access to sufficient water, food, sanitation, and shelter."
In mid-January of this year, 13 health care professionals, including two physicians from Des Moines, myself and Maria Filippone, joined a medical delegation to Gaza, organized by Gerri Haynes, palliative care and hospice consultant with Washington State Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR). This was the eleventh medical delegation sponsored by WPSR since 2009.
Some ten years ago I joined a group of mostly American Jews, along with Des Moines retired psychologist, Charlie Day, on a delegation to meet with peace activists in Israel and the West Bank. Like all first timers to the humongous cement separation wall between Israel and Palestinian communities, I was overwhelmed and grief stricken. We learned firsthand from people who lived in these areas that families were separated from each other and farmers from their lands. Hardship ran deep and yet we met with locals who still believed in peace and more than just co-existence.
This year I went to Gaza. It may sound simple enough but the application process takes weeks by an experienced organizer. It seemed strange from the getgo to have to receive permission from one country - Israel - to enter the land of another - Palestinians in Gaza. And this year was different for the medical delegation: our State Department had put out a recent warning for all Americans to not only not go to Gaza but to leave and some individuals who had identified with ISIS had taken credit for rockets fired into southern Israel. I wondered if the momentum of planning for the trip and opening up my practice schedule was perhaps blinding me to dangers we might face. In the end I decided to go and am glad I did.