Many of you have asked why I have not been writing as frequently as I had been. The reasons are many, not the least being that one starts to feel—after weeks and months and years of making the same case—that the message has become a broken record. So I wanted to give you all a rest from the daily pressures that we are facing. However, my not sending messages is no indication whatsoever that the conditions here have relaxed, even though for the last 14 days we have had the day curfews lifted. The killing continues, the tanks still are rampaging, soldiers are still firing, checkpoints still are in place, and every so often we still have to rush to close our windows as the Israeli tear gas poisons our air.
Iï¿½ll give you a daily glimpse of a “normal day”, such as today. I was awakened by a tank and jeep, and a soldier screaming that today was a closed/curfew day. One hour later, the city ignored the call and we went to work. It seems they were only joking.
Upon arriving at work I learned that one of my best friends was detained by Israel (more below, as this is the reason for todayï¿½s letter to all of you). I also learned that a 60-year-old Palestinian woman in Nablus, Shadin Abu Hijleh, was killed last night by an Israeli solider who stopped his jeep in front of her villa and open fired at the veranda on which she, her son and husband were having coffee. She died instantly, and her husband and son were rushed to the hospital with shrapnel wounds. Her daughter Lana lives in Ramallah and is a good friend of ours.
Later in the morning, a close friend called to tell us that he has had enough and is in the process of relocating to Amman or Dubai. Another friend called later in the day to ask me what I thought about him moving to Dubai. He asked why I was not considering moving, too.
During work, I interviewed a 57-year-old man who was an executive in Kuwait before the first Gulf War. He ended up here after being forced to leave Kuwait with only the clothes on his back. He is now working for the Palestinian Authority and is no longer getting paid, because the IDF destroyed the governorï¿½s office where he worked. He said he would work for anything that would give him enough stability to send his kids to school. This manï¿½s entire honor has been reduced to searching for his kidï¿½s tuition.
Another unplanned interview today was with a 63-year-old mechanical engineer. A father of six, he’s been out of a job for over a year and is desperate for work. I sadly had to turn him away. He swore that he would show up and work tomorrow even without pay.
With every new human story like this, our feelings become numb. While all of this is happening, people are trying to brace themselves for the US war on Iraq and the ramifications it will have here, for us at home. People are scared. Iï¿½ll stop here rather than boring you with the daily tank encounters or explosions that still happen day and night.
With this glimpse, though, I think you will start to feel just how hard it has become to get through everyday life here. Sharonï¿½s Israel has succeeded in making desperation a way of life. They have perfected a silent and insidious violence like no other.
Now for my reason for writing today: I have not been writing as frequently as before because I have been working with the local YMCA, which is planning to open a facility for the first time in Ramallah. The YMCA has operated a facility for over 80 years in East Jerusalem, and they also have facilities in Beit Sahour (Bethlehem) and Gaza.
About a week ago, I met with the Associate Director from the International Group based in Chicago. Thursday (10/10), I met with the International Director, who also was visiting from Chicago. Three Palestinian friends of mine were hosting our YMCA guest — all three of them are long-time YMCA staff members. One of them is one of my best friends, Haytham Hammouri.
We were strategizing on how to raise the remaining $700K required for the project. USAID has already granted the project one million dollars. I offered to write you (my lists) an appeal, as well as personally contacting potential Palestinian friends here in Palestine and in the US whom I thought might help by making a donation.
This morning, I called Haytham to get a copy of the project’s feasibility study so I could finish my letter to you. The YMCA secretary advised me that Haytham was arrested yesterday and taken away from his office in the YMCA in East Jerusalem by the Israelis! Speaking to Haythamï¿½s wife, Malak, she confirmed that he was taken by the Israelis from his desk at work. She was emotionally distraught and spoke about their three girls, Majed (14), Dina (8), and Rawda (4 1/2), who were taking the news of their fatherï¿½s absence badly.
During the first Intifada (1988-1993) Haytham spent over one year in Israeli detention without being charged. He was held under what Israel calls “Administrative Detention”. International Law calls this ILLEGAL!
Haytham Hammouri is not a politician and will not have an international campaign calling for his release. Haytham has dedicated his life to bettering other people’s lives and helping the community at large through his work with the YMCA. He is the Program Manager for the YMCAï¿½s Community Development Program, and has been with the Y for over 10 years. Anyone who knows Haytham equates him with the Y.
At the end of the day, Haytham is just one of 5,000 Palestinians Israel has detained after rounding up more than 12,000 Palestinians over the last few months. Nevertheless, I refuse to just keep adding up numbers. We must stop and put faces and families to the names of those illegally detained and tortured.
I kindly request that we all take immediate action. The first 48-72 hours of detention is critical. This is when torture is the worst and Palestinians are usually interrogated. Haytham is being held in the Mascobiyya Prison in Jerusalem.
Name: Haytham Salah Husni Hammouri
Jerusalem ID: 080053762
Date of Birth: March 28, 1963
Position: Program Manager, Community Development Program
Please take action today:
1. Send a fax/email to any/all of the Israeli officials below and your local Israeli representative calling for the immediate release of Haytham and all Palestinian political prisoners.
2. Contact your local YMCA and advise them that one of their own has been arrested and hurt and remind them that an injury to one is an injury to all. Ask your local YMCA to send a fax/email to the numbers below and to your local Israeli representative.
3. Stand by for my upcoming email that will be an appeal to support the Ramallah YMCA. We REFUSE to allow Israel to stop our lives and development!
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Office of the Prime Minister
Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister
Benjamin Ben Eliezer
Israeli Minister of Defense
Minister of Justice