He came without anything. Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei received word shortly before Erez Crossing closed at 3pm last Sunday that his “Leaving Permit” was granted. There was no time to pick-up his luggage, no time to say goodbye to his wife and the little ones. It was not until after he crossed the border to Jordan at the Allenby Bridge at 10:30 pm, that I booked Dr. Yasser’s flight. He took a taxi directly to the Amman airport and flew to Seattle that night and arrived in Seattle on Monday morning.
We were right to start our speaking tour, #OpenGaza: Trauma and Hope, First Hand, here in Seattle. Our hosts, Gerri and Bob Haynes with Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, have brought 9 medical service delegations to Gaza since their first trip there in 1993. They’ve watched Psychiatrist Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei grow into his role as the Executive Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.
Founded by Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, the Palestinian psychiatrist and human rights defender who died in 2013 after a long battle with cancer, the Gaza Mental Health Programme is the leading Palestinian non-governmental organization providing mental health services to people living in the Gaza Strip. GCMHP is committed to aiding women, children, and victims of violence, torture, and human rights violations. With over 70 employees, GCMHP is involved with 18 international, regional and local coalitions and networks, and has treated over 20,000 clients.
Our bi-coastal #OpenGaza: Trauma and Hope, First Hand Speaking Tour will culminate on Thursday October 29 with a briefing in Congress at the Cannon House Office Building, Room 121 at 1:30pm. Here’s the speaking tour schedule overall:
- Oct. 13-16: Seattle / Olympia, WA (Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei only)
- Oct. 17: Portland, OR (Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei only)
- Oct. 18- 21: San Francisco, CA
In San Francisco, Ran Goldstein joins Dr. Abu Jamei for the tour. Ran is Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and Dr. Yasser is Executive Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme
- Oct. 22-26: Boston, MA
- Oct. 26-27: New York City, NY / Clifton, NJ
- Oct. 28-Nov. 1: Washington, DC / Virginia / Maryland
Cosponsored by the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Psychologists for Social Responsibility, some 40 events are planned before Dr. Yasser Abu Jamei and Ran Goldstein return home on November 1st. The full tour schedule can be found at www.RebuildingAlliance.Org/opengazatour (and if you would like to host an event in the NY or DC area, please email me at [email protected]).
Seattle’s warm and open welcome is wonderful! On Tuesday, Dr. Chuck Cowan took us to the Autism Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital to see their new early intervention therapy program and meet with the nurse practitioners that work with clients and families once an assessment has been made. Dr. Abu Jamei said:
“I am amazed by the services the Autism Center provides and the professionalism of the teams. I hope that one day we can bring this knowledge and skills to children with autism in Gaza.”
From there, Professor Ellis Goldberg took us to meet with Debra Kaysen, Adjunct Professor, Global Health and Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences in Center for the Study of Health & Risk Behaviors at the UW’s Department of Global Health. Professor Kaysen told us about a study that measures the psychological benefit and risks of micro lending in Kenya. Why not ask the US Agency for International Development to fund a study of the psychological benefit of rebuilding homes in Gaza, and the harm done when reconstruction is delayed.
Dr. Abu Jamei gave his first talk that afternoon at UW’s Odegard Undergraduate Library, and then in the evening at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Skinner Hall to a full-house audience sponsored by their Mideast Focus Ministry. My role was to describe how important it is for people here and throughout the U.S. to call their elected officials and press them to make calls to the U.S. State Department and the Israeli Embassy on their behalf as constituents.
We’ll write more about this speaking tour as we move through the U.S. Meanwhile, please take a moment to call your Representative and Senators to ask them to attend our #OpenGaza briefing at 1:30 on October 29th on your behalf as their concerned constituent.