Dear friends,

I wanted to write this last night but was
exhausted from playing umpteen hands of the
card game UNO with my 6 year old daughter,
Nadine. Why this card frenzy, especially given
I hate playing cards? Well, we were in the
center of Ramallah yesterday afternoon,
at 3:40pm when the almighty Israeli military
decided, again,that it was time to wreak havoc
on our city. I should not really complain
since whathappened in Ramallah yesterday
happens acrossthe West Bank and Gaza regularly.
Nevertheless, I will make an issue about it and urge every
Palestinian, in every city, to make an issue about every
Israeli infraction on our lives.

Yesterday I was extremely busy all day and had a dinner appointment
with a serious venture capitalist in Jerusalem in the evening,
so I agreed with my wife and girls that since I would not be home
all day and night, that I'd pick them up at 3:30 sharp and we
would go for a late lunch. We haven't been out much given all
of the infighting lately somy girls were thrilled. I rushed
home at 3:30 to pick them up and found my daughters dressed to
kill. To them, this was a serious outing after a long holiday
break which was spent mostlyat home. The restaurant they had
as first choice was closed due to the holidays, so they reverted
to their favorite popular place, "Angelo's Pizzeria", for those
that know it.

"Angelo's Pizzeria" is on the main street in Ramallah, a few
hundred meters from Lion's Circle, the smack middle of town
where you saw on the the news Israeli bulldozers destroying cars
last night. I parked on the "Friends Girls School" road which
is behind the restaurant. As soon as I exited the car I felt
something was wrong. As we walked into the restaurant I looked up
and could see an Israeli gunship helicopter hoovering overhead
firing at some unknown target. We thought it would be safer to
enter the restaurant rather than return home.

The restaurant was full with most tables nervous at the sound
of gunfire from overhead. The waiters, who have been through
this dozens of times, visited the tables and played and joked
with the kids. They knew that things were not right and went
out of their way to make life normal, at least while we were
their customers. The restaurant manager, a friend, came to
our table and asked me for my car keys. He wanted to move my
car because word camethat the Israeli jeeps and armored vehicles
that were operating in town were crushing carsparked on the
side of the road. He found my car already in a safe spot and
reassured us thatthis will pass soon. He knows, he has lived
this reality every day for 40 years now!

We ordered a pizza and salad and Nadine insisted that
"Angelo's Pizzeria" has the best hamburgers in town and wanted
one as well so she ordered one herself. As we sat, things
outside were clearly deteriorating. I got a call on my cellular
hone from my dad back in Youngstown, Ohio. He asked where we are
because no one answered at home. He briefed me on the live
reports he was watching about what was happening outside the
restaurant door. After talking with my father, I made frequent
visits to the restaurant door to view people rushing away from
the city center. While I was standing at the door, a friend of mine
had finished eating with his wife and 4 kids and stood at the door
contemplating to leave to cross the street to his car. I kept a
lookout and gave him the all clear as he rushed his family across
the street to his car and he was off. At this stage, I knew it
was not only military activity overhead but something very close by.

The salad showed up in no time and we enjoyed it. Then the
famous hamburger followed and then our pizza. All the time my wife
was trying to make phone contact with her sister who we invited to
join us but never showed up. She wanted to make sure she was ok
given all the shooting and commotion outside. My older daughter, Areen,
was a bit nervous,wondering how we were going to get back home.
We reassured her thatall would be fine. In reality, we had no idea.

Forty minutes later, my wife, Abeer, Areen and I had finished
eating and were ready to go. Nadine, was happily, and very slowly,
enjoying her world-class hamburger and fries while every so often
reassuring us. " They come, shoot, arrest, and leave ... so what's
the problem?When they leave, we will go home, right dad?"

"So what's the problem?"! The problem is how can a 6 year old
calmly sit through a mini-war happening outside the restaurant
while enthusiastically devouring a hamburger without the slightest
hint of being disturbed?

Nadine finally finished and we headed home. Luckily we were
parked in the opposite direction of the shooting, so we drove the
wrong way down a one way street and headed home. On the way,
taxis were rushing about, driving worse than usual, shuttling people
awayfrom the center of Ramallah. When we got near our home we
had to cross the Jerusalem-Ramallah road. Looking left about
200 meters away my girls yelled out that the IDF was blocking
the street. I glanced and it was a mess. Jeeps all over,
rocks filled the street, behind the jeeps I could see the
open market was full of soldiers.

We finally got home. Turned on CNN, nothing! Switched to
Al Jazeerah and they had live pictures of what was happening
and the extent of it - another Israeli invasion into Ramallah.
An undercover Israeli hit team tried to arrest someone and were
exposed and came under Palestinian fire. They called in
reenforcements and all the lone rangers came running (and
shooting and plowing).

I was contemplating with my wife if I should risk heading to
Jerusalem later in the evening. We agreed to wait and see how
it develops given the news reports started to say the IDF was
completing their operations and leaving the city center (only
to move back to their permanent position of surrounding our city).

I went to check my email and cancel a radio interview
appointment with CBC that I missed because of this mess.
This is when Nadine came and asked if I could accompany her
to the bathroom. She never asks to be accompanied. The bathroom
in our small flat is literally 1 meter from my computer and 3 meters
from the living room where Abeer was watching the news and
Areen was letting Grandma Sarah in Youngstown know we were all
home and ok.

I immediately understood and gladly accompanied Nadine and
even made it a fun trip. Then I cancelled all my appointments
that evening and spent the rest of the night doing exactly
what Nadine asked for - to play UNO. We played alone, with
Areen, as a family, and then alone again, multiple times.
When bedtime came she kissed me good night and headed to
her room along with her sister as usual - no escort. I felt
that UNO therapy had worked. I may even claim for a new deck
of UNO on my health insurance policy.

My friends, I write this not to bore you with one family's
experience during 2 hours of occupation, but rather to scream
to the world that we need your help!

4 Palestinian civilians were killed last night in this attack,
20 were injured, 5 of them seriously.
I have no statistics on the number of children, like Nadine,
whose skin become thicker during this latest Israeli adventure.

Israel has lost her way and the US is Palestinian-blind.
Israel is creating yet another generation of Palestinians
that are more numb to their military occupation than any other.
Likewise, it is creating a generation of Israeli occupiers
that see my city as the wild, wild, west. It is stripping
children, Palestinian and Israeli, of their childhood.
It must stop and NOW.

We need your active support:

1- Organzine locally, at your church, community center, union, etc.

2- Support Jimmy Carter's stance against Israeli Apartheid. Read his book.

3- Write letters.

4- Visit and engage your representatives. Demand public statements.

5- Sponsor a Palestinian student.

6- Invest in Palestine.

7- Request Angelo's Pizzeria start exporting hamburgers by express mail.

8- ... and most importantly, play UNO with your kids.

Braced for the 4 funerals that will start in 3 hours,


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