In God We Trust -draft

Wednesday, November 10, 2010




























 


 


 


I’d like to thank the Interfaith Council for giving me the opportunity to share my interfaith experiences. I could not have had this opportunity without a Sabbatical from Berry and a generous grant from Rotary International.


I would also like to acknowledge the life and death of Professor Amber Prince, a good friend and colleague.


Harvey Hill in his Carden Award address several years ago raised an fascinating question. In higher education we teach critical thinking about science, mathematics, literature, history but what about religion? Do we teach you to think critically about what you believe?


All my life and I daresay the lives of most Jewish people the land and the nation of Israel were synonymous. It was simply the Promised land or the Holy Land. It was simply an unquestioned and unconscious truth. How do you question a truth you don’t know you have?


Why would such an educated group of people like the Jews a people who have earned more Nobel Prizes by percentage that any other people be part of an open and illegal theft? Stealing the land of another peoples? How could that be?


This is an article describing and analyzing my research beginning in 2005, culminating with four months of living and working in the Occupied Territories known as the West Bank, Palestine.


  Insert figures 1-7


 The paper will explain the occupation and theft of Palestinian lands as a  lethal cocktail of  Biblical, Zionist, Messianic and economic ingredients. While I am a reform Jew, prior to reading The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan, then spending a month in the West Bank and Israel followed by four months in 2010 I was a dove who sprouted Hawk wings when it came to Israel. I was raised Conservative; my parents were both presidents of Beth Israel Synagogue in Camden, New Jersey; I served two terms as president of my synagogue, Rodeph Shalom in Rome, Georgia; and I am a Professor of Psychology at Berry College in Mt. Berry, Ga., USA.


“Next year in Jerusalem” has been said by my family and Jewish people  all over the world  at the end of the Passover Seder and the Yom Kippur High Holy Day service for more than 2,000 years. I now understand how that phrase adds to the current illegal egregious Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, Palestine. When I sing the Israeli National Anthem, Hatikvah, I understand how that song adds to the occupation.




















התקוה בת שנות אלפים,


The hope of two thousand years,


להיות עם חפשי בארצנו,


To be a free people in our land,


ארץ ציון וירושלים.


The land of Zion and Jerusalem.


When I hear the phrase, “How do I know? The Bible tells me so.” Much of the Torah speaks to God’s imperative to claim the Promised Land. I understand.


When I sing the third verse of the Star Spangled Banner, “Then conquer we must for our cause it is just and this be our motto In (our) God is our Trust.”  I understand.


All of these verses and phrases explain how 10% of the population of Israel, the settlers population can dictate to the Government and Army the continued expansion of illegal  settlements in someone else’s country. We will talk about Lawrence Kohlberg’s model of moral reasoning later.


As a child, one truth and one tradition informed my understanding of “the holy land.” The tradition was vocalized in every Passover Seder: “Next year in Jerusalem.” The truth I grew up was that Israel was “a land without people for a people without a land,” a phrase coined by William Blackstone, a Christian Restorationist clergyman, in 1843.  My truth changed after five weeks in the West Bank and Israel in the summer of 2007. My new truth was” Israel was a thief –stealing land while systematically boxing in an indigenous people. My truth became more balanced after four months in the West Bank as I learned new information, e.g., Jordan allowed no universities whereas Israel allowed seven. I saw the 4,000 fired rockets and I stood in the bomb shelters in the Israeli city of Siderot.


                                    -insert figures 8-12


Israel has been attacked five times since 1948. Truths I heard: All Americans are from the United States. Zionists, Israelis and Jews are all the same. All Arabs are Muslims. Men are entitled to more rights than women. Going to prison is good. Openness is bad. Corruption is manly. All Terrorists are Arab.


We are all so busy. How do I get your attention when so many other legitimate needs demand your time and resources? Take the advice of Michael Corleone in Mario Puzo’s, The Godfather. “Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.” If you are a Jew or a Christian,  there are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world.  If you are Muslim, Israel has one of the most powerful armed forces in the world with a high probability of possessing nuclear weapons.


-insert figure 13


 At the invitation of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, I was to work in the Teacher Education Program at Berzeit University.


The Gross National Income (GNI) of the United States was $44,710, compared to the World GNI of $7,448, with the West Bank (and Gaza) having a GNI of $1,230. Complicating existing poverty was a lack of resources taken for granted in the USA. Infuriatingly, in the West Bank, there are many egregious, dedeveloping forces insidiously and systematically at work: a 47 year military occupation blocking free movement in a multitude of ways within the country, interfaith religious tension, and a government based on tribal rather than democratic principles and, of course, piled on – a drought.


One of the primary lessons I learned (the hard way) was that the culture in which I grew up was not the culture in which I found myself living and working. You may ask, did I not know I would be in a different culture and did I not prepare for that immersion. The answer is yes and yes. However, there is often a sad and surprising gap between preparing for something and actually doing it.


Cultures are typically divided into two somewhat discrete categories: Collectivist and Individualist. While relatively large numbers of individuals vary from the norm, generally, people in individualist cultures, such as ours in the USA emphasize personal achievement at the expense of group goals. In the USA, our deeply ingrained individualism can be illustrated by our aversion to car pooling – forcing us to reward it by creating High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in large cities.


In a Collectivist culture each person is encouraged to conform to do what is best for the group. The family’s obligations for the common good are seen as more important than the rights of individuals – in my experience the rights of mothers to have some private life away from family obligations. In extreme conditions wanting to be independent or stand out is seen as shameful. Everyone must rely on others (nuclear family first) for support.


I was working in the Collectivist culture of the Israeli Occupied Territories, getting my chance to be a full-time Counseling-School psychologist again.  Mostly, given the populations I was serving, I used sociodrama and a form of behavior modification (BMod) known currently as Applied Behavior Analysis.


 


During my four months, worked or lived in Beit Sahour, a suburb of Bethlehem.


Insert figures 15 and 16


I also worked Jericho, Ramallah,  East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem,. In fact as a result of an emergency dental procedure in the compact space of just 90 minutes I traveled thousands of years in the flash of 90 minutes – from the modern city of West Jerusalem, through the narrow (15 foot wide), 30 foot high walled streets of the Old City to the west Bank of Palestine’s Beit Sahour which looked like the early 1900’s USA: There was a Bedouin woman grazing her goats and sheep outside my bedroom window.


Beit Sahour has a population of 12,367; is 80% Christian and 20% Muslim.


Daily life


Compared with the day-to-day life of the Palestinians in Beit Sahour, I had it pretty good. For one thing, I could easily leave whenever I wanted. This awareness, I think is one of the principles that kept me there, for my host family could not leave.  During the dark, wet and cold January and February, I had no heat. This meant sleeping in most of my clothes. Some nights (it seems like a lot more) there was a single mosquito in my bedroom. In the morning there would be welts on my forehead (the only skin not covered!). I missed my wife and family.


-insert figure 17


Fortunately, Friday and Saturday’s by and large found me enjoying my one hot weekly shower while staying at the YMCA in West Jerusalem.


-insert figures 18 and 19


 


During the six day work week, I happily lived above a restaurant in the Beit Sahour which meant phenomenal meals.


-Insert figures 20-22


My activities.


1.      Helped create life skills center for Moderately Intellectually Disabled (MOID) adults (Al Malatha)


2.      Worked with West (Israeli) Jerusalem YMCA nursery schools to help with socialization of a three year old


3.      Consulted at the Al Zachra Medical Center, an East (Arab) Jerusalem Pediatric clinic with Autistic children


4.      Helped write the curriculum, lectured and created Internship program for the first Master’s Degree in Special Education at Hebron and Ber Zeit Universities


5.      Worked with three families using behavior modification to increase language and self help skills


6.      Served as Psychologist setting up task analyses and doing group therapy (sociodrama) for the 30 clients at the Al Basma Vocational Training Centers


        


-insert figures 23 And 24


 


Law and Infrastructure. The Municipality of Beit Sahour made a Christian owned businessman place the walls of his establishment four meters from the road but allowed a Muslim builder to construct his only one meter from the road. Governance: According to Viktoria Wagner’s (2000) analysis of the Palestinian Judiciary while there is serious external threat to the Palestinian desire for autonomy and national sovereignty that equally there is much work to be done internally namely a functioning judiciary, and a security/police force which serves the rule of law. It seems family and tribe trump democracy, with no recourse through the courts. I was told “in so many words” by neighbors that “money and resources are misdirected from the needs of everyday Palestinians to individuals in power or their loyalists.”


I had no car, so mostly walked, had friends drive me or took taxies. Mostly, I kept my eyes shut while in the taxies. One-way and stop-signs are ignored. Speed limits are enforced only by staying just slightly below the axle-breaking speed of cement humps in the roads. The primary method of communication is “standing on the car horn.” My host stay father summed the traffic situation perfectly: “We should be living 200 years ago riding camels and donkeys.”           


I saw no post offices. My host stay family received no mail. There were no water tanks.


Yet, who’s the dinosaur? A comment was made to me by the Palestinian Arab principal of while standing on the school’s roof surrounded by multiple solar panels connected to their water tanks. “Here,” he said wryly, “everyone uses the sun. In Texas, they use oil.


Personal safety. At no time traveling, working or living in the West Bank did I ever feel unsafe. Here is an example. I spent several hours among thousands of people at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Nativity – in one place I saw, smelled and heard more different expressions of cultures: dress, music, and language than in my entire life. At no time did I feel fearful of the Arabs. Contrarily, at check points and walking behind heavily armed settler teens and geriatrics in the German Quarter of Jerusalem at night some trepidation was present.


Religion. I continually heard stories about the friction between the Muslim and Christian communities; being awakened at 5:00 AM every day by loud speakers on five minareted mosques chanting the Call to Prayer. This Call will loudly echo four more times during the day.


The tension between the Muslim and Christian communities is putting additional pressure on the Orthodox Christians. The military occupation’s stranglehold of commerce and education creates a tension and  loss of continuity between older generation’s steadfastness (samud) and the younger generation’s desire for identity and individuation (similar of the Hmong discussed in Mary Pipher’s (2002) The Middle of Everywhere. A Palestinian father told me if his two sons wanted to immigrate to a country like the USA where they might be paid ten times the salary they make in the West Bank, he would forbid them to leave!


Amazingly, last year, the Islamic leaders made a remarkable decision. Before they would sign off on a marriage document, the prenuptial couple was obliged to have a blood test. From a political perspective, this totalitarian religious power can make really good things happen quickly for the population. Consider the value if the religious leaders could be persuaded to also make obligatory, banning marriages between first cousins! Employing such preventative approach would eliminate so much suffering.


Education.  The Government school in which my neighbor’s eldest grandson attends 11th grade has little or no access to computers, in fact, his computer teacher uses the blackboard. Sections of the Koran are regularly studied even in Math classes. Even in some private schools the science labs meet only one time a month. The town of Beit Sahour has over 12,000 inhabitants and no library. I saw inadequately trained preschool staff as seen in the large recreation area with hard, 25 foot long roped, heavy plastic swings in middle of a play room.: a concussion waiting to happen as toddlers wove in and out of the swinging maze.


 


Special education. Unlike the United States, there is no public law requiring school systems to offer educational opportunities or rights for handicapped children to even attend school.


There are next to zero services for the disabled in the Bethlehem area. The Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation is professional with a well trained but highly overworked, staff. The only “public” opportunities I saw were for some speech and language, and few self-contained classes for intellectually disabled children within which autistic children were placed as well. The only systematic services focused on the Moderately Intellectually Disabled from 14 to 35. Before 14 and after 35 these folks go back to their families for full time care.


There were some excellent private programs but most were underfunded with poorly trained staff and an unrecognizable curriculum. Many looked good on paper (for external donors) but failed to deliver on their promises.


The top special education category is Moderate Intellectual Disabilities, next is Vision with 5% and Hearing also with 5%: these rates are amazing considering in the U.S. the incidence is about one-tenth of a percent! How can the difference for Vision and Hearing be 50 fold? The answer, intermarriage! Given the choice of marrying a first cousin or another male from outside the family; the cousin “gets the nod.” Why? Intermarriage keeps the money in the family and the family can trust the cousin! As dismal as this sounds, there is hope.


Attitude toward handicaps. 


During an eight or so hour field trip from Bethlehem to Jericho to a public amusement park filled with teenagers (mostly male) I neither saw nor heard one disparaging remark or gesture toward the 30 or so Al Basma adult Moderately Intellectually Disabled clients. Our clients’ handicaps included very obvious physical and verbal disabilities: walking and running awkwardly and haltingly, yelling, stuttering and taking much longer getting in and out of the crowded bumper cars.


A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an OK diagnosis because something was done “to” you; but disabilities intrinsic to the individual such as physical handicaps or Moderate Intellectual Disabilities (MOID) are to be hidden because it is a black mark on the family’s honor, genetic strength and pedigree which could affect marriage ability. Similar problems exist in the world of Orthodox Jewry as seen in Naomi Regan’s Sotah.


Health. Typical medical treatment in the West Bank for any ailment is—pain killers; for a tooth ache: extraction. There are no appointments, it is first come first serve which means arriving at 6:00 in the morning. There is no healthcare.


Food. I remember the 12 different salads at the Tent Restaurant, Shabbat in Jerusalem at the Seligman’s and last but not least, my host stay mother’s dishes: quartered spiced chicken cooked in an airtight: (door is covered with wet clay) Zarb, spinach pastry, humus dripping with home- pressed olive oil, egg plant soup, stewed tomatoes and garlic, a whole cabbage soaked in brine for 10 days, and finally homemade Arak made from grains and anise seed. My upper lip then nose and lower lip were completely numb in the first 25 seconds!


Culture.  No va”


The collectivist culture in Palestine has many wonderful qualities, for instance: The old and very young live with their family; pita bread made on glowing embers; long conversations; gardens and home cooked meals; manual labor; wisdom of the elderly, breast feeding and board games with their families.


Arabs have the notion of Common land owned collectively or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect firewood, or to cut turf for fuel. This notion tends to conflict with the Western idea of marking off and fencing in “my land.”


The issue can be seen just across the valley north of Beit Sahour in the Israeli settlement built in 1997 by clear cutting the top of  one of the last forested hill-tops called Har Homa (in Hebrew). The International Community sees the illegal settlement of Har Homa as a barrier between the southern West Bank and East Jerusalem surrounding the city with Jewish neighborhood.


-insert figures 25 and 26


As of 2008, there were approximately 4,000 families in Har Homa. This publically supported and militarily protected  upper middle class neighborhood has 12 kindergartens, 6 day care centers, 2 elementary schools, 3 medical clinics, and 3 shopping centers. While sitting in the “Biblical” Shepherd’s Field, the acoustics were so perfect I could hear the disconcerting and intrusive hammering and drilling as if they were a few feet away. When one adds to the many “calls to prayer” from the mosques the Christian- Arab-Palestinian ears must have been ringing.


The conflict between the two cultures centers on this difference of cultural traditions . It is true from a Western perspective that the land was unoccupied and undeveloped prior to the current construction; it is also true that both Jewish and Arab landholders (80%) were compensated for the land. Yet, this huge settlement is a microcosm of a large part of the Palestinian anger with Israel. My family host father was telling of his childhood. He said he would spend afternoons playing and hunting in the heavily forested hillside of Jabal Abu Ghneim. His collectivist concept of common ownership conflicts with the individualistic Western concept of specific owners. In the first photo you see Har Homa today, and in the second, the view and the memory of the father of my host family. The Western concept of polite conversation allows for one person to talk while the other remains silent. In the Arab world conversation includes interrupting and yelling. There is a selective (when in the West) concept of waiting in line either with respect to a group of people or a group of cars. I never saw a “line” of either cars or people.


.  In “their culture” going to jail is equivalent to attending an Israeli college with jail time a p[lace to learn Hebrew; and  a mark of manhood critical to joining the leadership of the culture. There is the Tacitus Roman idea that “he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day”. As the Israeli, Meir Feinstein said “it is better to die with a weapon in hand than to live with hands raised.”


The Religious settler’s creation of the Military Occupation of the West Bank  


Zionism, a secular vision was kidnapped by Messianism of which it has little interest. Travel in or out of Palestinian is controlled by the Israeli military requiring passes which often take weeks (or denied). Travel within Palestine can be blocked for 15 minutes or all day. The unpredictability negatively affects education and commerce – leading a gradual, systematic, egregious dedevelopment of this country. The settlers believe themselves to have a mandate from God to liberate the Land of Israel (remember their national anthem?) allowing them to rise above International law (which by the way created the nation of Israel in the first place.


 


I spent a day on a field trip with my Al Basma Center from Bethlehem through Ubeidya and Eizariya to Jericho and back. We had to pass through two (going and coming) Israeli military check points (the Arabs call them “containers” manned by uniformed, heavily armed Israeli soldiers.  These check points are within the West Bank. They are not border check points; therefore, those living (or as they would say, “Imprisoned”) in the West Bank call it a military occupation. It took us two hours to travel 20 miles.


-insert figures 27 and 28


Here’s a photo I took of the “booming” Hebron Market. You may ask, “why the cyclone fencing above the street”. And, “what is in the bulge”? The answer is the fencing was put up by the Arab merchants. Why, to keep all the garbage being thrown on the market store fronts by the illegal religious Zionist “settlers” living above.


 


-insert figures 29-31


 


Daily, I walked past neglected and half empty olive orchards filled with debris. I saw empty palatial stone villas with the owner’s copper sulfate blue tarp-covered cars still in the driveway. The homes were owned by Christians who chose to abandon rather than sell their houses to Muslims. I worked with agencies whose primary source of income was focused on the unpredictable tourist trade. I saw huge swathes of the best land walled off by some of the Churches.


The Palestinian West Bank is slowly and systematically being taken over by what Jeff Halper calls, The Matrix of Control. This matrix includes house demolitions, Israeli only highways, check points and the wall which in 2006, was 436 miles. In 2008, construction had not yet begun on the remaining 33% of the barrier.


-insert figures 32-36


Who is the enemy? In this Middle Eastern womb tensions between the Abrahamic three faiths and the two nations struggle inside her. There are extremists on both sides constantly blaming the other side with broadsides and barrages of generalizations: all the Jews…all the Arabs. There is a silent majority trying to live their day-to-day lives and a one-sixth doing what they can do to make their society stronger. It is the one-sixth fanatics of both populations which are keeping the peace process from moving forward toward justice for both nations. I believe there are totalitarian Arab regimes in the greater Middle East and the American Israeli lobby here in the USA who are keeping the Israeli-Palestinian pot boiling for their own benefits and fears. Both Israel and Palestine are victims of the repeated tactic of fueling animosity among indigenous peoples by purposely favoring one over the other to provoke fear or envy weakening them both as was seen in India by Britain-Muslim and Hindu; and with the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda by Belgium.


Conclusions.


Israel. In many ways Israel has been a good neighbor: opening her medical centers and allowing the development of universities to name a few. Further, I am not saying Israel has no reason to be wary. Quoting Lew (2003, p 49) “Israel was attacked first, in 1948, 1967, 1973 and in each of the recent Intifadas. They want acknowledgement that they only took the lands from which they were attacked during these conflicts, and offered to return them on one and only one condition-the acknowledgement of their right to exist. And they want acknowledgement that there are many in the Palestinian camp who truly wish to destroy them, who have used the language of peace as a ploy to buy time until they have the capacity to liquidate Israel and the Jews once and for all. They want acknowledgement that they have suffered immensely from terrorism, that a people who lost six million innocents scarcely 70 years ago should not have had to endure the murder of its innocent men, women and children so soon again. And they want acknowledgement that in spite of all this, they stood at Camp David prepared to offer the Palestinians everything they claimed to have wanted – full statehood, a capital in East Jerusalem – and the response of the Palestinians was the second Intifada, a murderous campaign of terror and suicide bombings.”


Palestine. Neither Fatah nor Hamas always have the People’s best interests at heart. The Palestinians would like the world to acknowledge that they lived in the land now called Israel for centuries that they planted olive trees, shepherded flocks, and raised families there for hundreds of years. They would like the world to acknowledge that when they look up from their villages, their trees and their flowers, their fields and their flocks, they see the horrific, uninvited monolith of western culture-immense apartment complexes, like Har Homa, shopping centers and industrial plants on the once-bare and rocky hills where the voice of God could be heard and where Muhammad ascended to heaven. And they would like the world to acknowledge that it was essentially a European problem that was plopped into their laps at the end of the last Great War, not of their own making. And they would like the world to acknowledge that there has always been a kind of arrogance attached to this problem, that it was as if the United States and England told them: Here are the Jews, get used to them. And they would like the world to acknowledge that it has been a great indignity, not to mention a significant hardship, to have been an occupied people for so long, to have to submit to strip searches on the way to work, and intimidation on the way to the grocery store, and the constant humiliation of being subject – a humiliation rendered nearly bottomless when Israel, with the benefit of the considerable intellectual and economic resources of world Jewry, made the desert bloom, in a way that had never been able to do. And they would like the world to acknowledge that there are those in Israel who are determined never to grant them independence, who have used language of peace as a ploy to fill the West Bank with settlement after settlement until the facts on the ground are such that an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank is an impossibility. They would like the world to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a gentle occupation -that occupation corrodes the humanity of the occupier and makes the occupied vulnerable to brutality.”


Rabbi Alan Lew, 2003 in This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared.


-Insert figures 37-39


 


If you would like to see the accompanying figures please let me know through the comments section

Published in: on November 12, 2010 at 5:38 pm  Comments (3)  

murder of therapy

 

The Murder of Therapy: Why Clients Don’t Get Better

Dr. Steven Bell

Berry College

Abstract

This is an article describing and analyzing my four months working as a

psychologist using behavior modification in the Occupied Territories known as the

West Bank, Palestine. While I speak of two families and two children, this is done

to make the story easier to tell. Actually, I worked with several families and

multiple children. I discovered the power and challenge of a collectivist culture to

applying learning theory principles. The work of Professors Nathan Azrin (Azrin,

1974), Richard Foxx (Foxx, 1982), and Marc Gold (Gold, 1974) was basic to my

therapeutic approach.

Introduction

Why don’t folks get better? If one takes Herbert Spenser’s advice and

modifies for psychologists working with folks from very different cultures you get:

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which will keep you in

everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” In my

case the Murder of Therapy was partial unawareness of the Arab culture.

How do I get your attention when so many other legitimate needs demand

your time and resources? Sadly one option might be to take the advice of Michael

Corleone in Mario Puzo’s, The Godfather. “Keep your friends close. Keep your

enemies closer.” If you are a Jewish or Christian: there are 1.57 billion Muslims in

the world.  If you are Muslim, Israel has one of the most powerful armed forces in

the world with a high probability of possessing and the capability to deliver over

100 nuclear weapons. This is an area of the world about which you might wish to

know a little bit more.

One of the things which did not get my attention was my concept of Truth. It

was the greatest barrier to my understanding what appeared to me to be completely

irrational behaviors on the part of Palestinian families, namely, blocking

therapeutic plans to change children’s inappropriate behaviors. I learned more

concretely about the power of culture to be a counter force to a successful

therapeutic continuum.

Culture

Cultures are typically divided into two somewhat discrete categories:

Collectivist and Individualist (Grief, 1994). While relatively large numbers of

individuals vary from the norm, generally, people in individualist cultures, such as

ours in the USA emphasize personal achievement at the expense of group goals.

Collectivism and individualism deeply pervade cultures. I simply took my culture’s

stance for granted as the standard of Truth. In the USA, our deeply ingrained

individualism can be illustrated by our aversion to car pooling – forcing us to

reward it by creating High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in large cities.

In a Collectivist culture each person is encouraged to conform to do what is

best for the group. The family’s obligations for the common good are seen as more

important than the rights of individuals – in my experience the rights of mothers to

have some private life away from family obligations. In extreme conditions

wanting to be independent or stand out is seen as shameful. Everyone must rely on

others (nuclear family first) for support.

During my Sabbatical and Rotary International Grant period I was working

in the Collectivist culture of the Israeli Occupied Territories, getting my chance to

be a full-time Counseling-School psychologist again.  Mostly, given the

populations I was serving, I used a form of behavior modification (BMod)

(D’Zurilla & Goldfried, 1971) known currently as Applied Behavior Analysis

(Gresham, Gansle, & Noell, 1993). It varies from other therapeutic methods by

emphasizing the visible and measurable over the psycho dynamically oriented

emphasis on the invisible. Given the limitations of the two individuals’ insight and

associational ability, I decided to change the behavior rather than the thoughts.

Besides, as has been demonstrated with Cognitive Maps (Eden, 1992), if you

change the outer behavior, the brain’s associations change as well.

Behavior Modification principles

  • The Law of Readiness (Herrnstein, 1970), which says there are

 

optimal times to teach and learn new behaviors; for example, using

 food as reinforcers during meals.

  • The Law of Effect (Thorndike, 1927), wherein the consequences

 

of a behavior strengthen or weaken the probability of its

reappearing. If a behavior is reinforced, the likelihood that it will

reoccur increases; for example, getting a snack after using the

appropriate language by naming it.  If a punishment follows a

behavior, the likelihood of the behavior reappearing is lessened;

for example, getting the silent treatment after you hit your brother

  • The Premacke Principle (Danaher, 1974), where first, one

 

withholds the things or opportunities the person normally finds

rewarding. Then getting them is made contingent on the desired

behavior, for example, Fadi loved walking with his grandmother

and sitting on the porch swing with his grandfather.  So we allowed

going for a walk with grandmom or swinging on the porch with

grandpop only when he asked using the appropriate language.

  • Task analysis (Gold, 1974), wherein a complicated multistep

 

process is broken down into manageable increments. For example,

getting dressed.

The rationale for my using behavior modification rather than a cognitive

behavioral approach is that the participants were essentially nonverbal; were not

cooperative and had little insight. Also Behavior modification is more than twice

as effective as psychotherapy in general: with a success rate as high as 80% –

(Stern, & Golden, 1977) symptom substitution notwithstanding. In traditional

therapy 1/3 of the people are likely get worse or to put it another way: you are as

likely to get better if left alone.

Role of family

It is well know that any form of therapy is enhanced or inhibited by the

cooperation or noncooperation of the “family”. Yet, my Individualistic orientation

blocked my complete understanding of the power of family in the Collectivist

culture. And herein lay the root of my challenge:  to focus my time and skill –

teaching primarily the mothers – how to change her child’s behavioral repertoire.

This challenge was made even more insidious because I took for granted my

Individualistic culture and was thus not familiar enough with the ground rules of a

Collectivist culture. It was not until I realized the entire family – – which is a lot of

people in this fecund society – – had to be brought in as stakeholders for success to

begin and be sustained. Imagine a room full of parents, both sets of in-

laws/grandparents, a smattering of uncle, aunts, nephews, nieces and cousins all

yelling and interrupting each other in a language I barely understood.

Role of Mother

Complicating behavioral therapy was a lack of resources taken for granted in

the USA. Infuriatingly, in the West Bank, there are many egregious, dedeveloping

forces insidiously and systematically at work (Ilan, 2006): a 43 year military

occupation blocking free movement in a multitude of ways within the country,

interfaith religious tension, and a government based on tribal rather than

democratic principles and, of course, piled on – a drought. The lack of a strong

central government has meant there are no public laws allowing the education of

handicapped children and youth.

Therefore, these disabled individuals must stay at home. Thus, the

responsibility for education, counseling, therapy and for behavior change falls on

the family – namely, the mother, but as I was soon to discover – the power was

distributed into the nuclear and even extended family. Often times the mother

found herself overwhelmed with the duties to her husband, aged parents, aged in-

laws, unmarried children, married children, grandchildren, extended families ties

and then all the responsibilities of running the home. Consequently, she became

estranged from the best interests of her handicapped children. Much like the adage:

“it’s hard to remember you were sent to drain the swamp when you are up to you

neck in alligators,” the mother often was simply unable to carry out the therapeutic

intent of a well developed straightforward behavioral plan – – defaulting to giving

reinforcers intermittently often without the child’s compliance and doing for her

children rather than making them do for themselves.

While using Applied Behavior Analysis with two families and their children

I eventually realized the power of the Collectivist cultural of which I (coming from

an individualist culture) was virtually unaware, in spite of two years studying Arab

culture and language with face-to-face tutors. The fact that in spite of daily Rosetta

Stone lessons, which drove my colleagues and wife out of their minds, my Arabic

wasn’t terrific and their English (which was many times better than my Arabic)

confounded our plans. On one occasion I told a mother that she should ask for

compliance only three times before removing the reinforcer. The mother heard

“the child should say the target word three times before getting the reinforcer.”

Imagine how frustrating that was for the mother and the child.

The fact that there were no schools to help meant I was working in each

family’s home two times a week for several hours per session. I was able to see the

mother, often the father and occasionally some members of the extended family

interact with the two children.

Culture

In the Collectivist culture of the Arabs in the West Bank, one can easily find

multiple generations of a family living in a layered “wedding cake” of a

multistoried house. The first floor would house the in-laws, the second the nuclear

family and the third the unmarried bachelors. There are certainly some wonderful

advantages to this intergenerational living arrangement of grandparents and

grandchildren living together. Our individualist culture could relearn a lot about

honoring our senior citizens. I saw no nursing facilities or retirement homes in the

West Bank.

A disadvantage in this culture is that Mom is often by-passed, ambushed and

undercut by the well meaning father, siblings, grandparents and extended family –

creating a major therapeutic challenge to the required tight behavior-reward

system. These other stakeholders routinely ignored the rule of withholding

reinforcers, e.g. snacks, walks, etc. contingent on behaviors such as language to

express wants. It was not until I realized the power of the nuclear and extended

family that my work with two moderately disabled adults began to be successful.

Fadi’s Language

Fadi is a five-year-old boy who lost language at about a year and a half. He

is solitary by choice and demands a high degree of order and consistency (he must

walk on a certain side of the side walk to a certain distance). If one of his steps

crosses “his” line in the cement, an ear piercing tantrum could last 20 minutes. He

seems incapable of communicating with other people even when dire events are

impinging on his life. Over a period of about five minutes, I saw him completely

defenseless and silent as he was pummeled by two-year-old half his size.

His mother, Ghada, had agreed to only allow him to have a biscuit or a cup

of tea when he used words to ask for them. The grandparents nodded in agreement

that going for a walk or swinging would also be contingent on Fadi asking. We

even were willing to accept “bidi” (I want) for any of the three reinforcers namely:

going for a walk, swinging and/or getting snacks. After two weeks of restricting

these “luxuries”, no breakthrough occurred. One day his sister reported Fadi said

“duda (ant)” so following the principle of “take what the client gives you” we

surrounded him with: a jar of ants, pictures of ants to color, clay to mold into an

ant. Yet, no progress beyond the one occasion of one word – “duda” was made. I

was befuddled. No snacks, walks or swings for two weeks, yet no words were

being said. The Law of Effect was not working.  Or so it seemed. Where were

Edward L. Thorndike and B. F. Skinner when I needed them? Low and behold, at a

family gathering, with head down, Grand mom admitted how badly she felt for

poor Fadi so she was going for walks anyway. Emboldened, Grand pop revealed he

was pushing Fadi on their outside swing without Fadi having to ask! The plan was

going down in flames.

One of the rules of parenting, teaching and counseling is this: if a desired

behavior is within the repertoire of the person then push. If it is not within the

repertoire it would be cruel to withhold rewards. The trick is to know whether you

have before you a “can’t” client or a “won’t” client. The mother and I we betting

and hoping Fadi was a “won’t”.  As of this writing, now three months later, my

efforts to discover if Fadi’s case was a “can’t’ or a “won’t” have been stymied by a

lack of communication.

Jamla’s activities of daily living

The next cultural issue is highlighted by the second family with a twenty-

six-year old moderately disabled adult daughter. Here, in this case, beside the ever

present, extended-family-ambush is the increased amount of grieving a mother in a

collectivist culture experiences. In this highly matriarchal society, she believes

herself to be responsible for the entire family throughout their life spans (and

before) or so it seems. Their failure is her failure and shame.

Basma and I worked on two issues: language development and creating

multistep task analyses for: getting dressed; doing laundry; taking the dinner plate

from table; not hitting her brother or niece; and using the toilet independently. We

were using real power and leverage: favorite foods, having dessert, a drive in the

car or watching TV. Further, we got rid of her childhood puzzles and beads

replacing them with magazines appropriate to young adults (fashion magazines,

make up, sport and muscle magazines).We used traditional learning principles:

Focus on tomorrow, not yesterday (Boker la ams). Accepting successive

approximations (Skinner, 1963) toward the terminal goal, then demanding more.

And most importantly – being consistent.

Basma is not the first parent experiencing guilt, anger, exhaustion, and

misplaced sympathy (Kubler-Ross, 1972), ; unknowingly handicapping her grown

daughter by allowing inappropriate behavior.. Yet, by the absence of consistently

applied consequences the family was creating a young adult who resisted training

and responsibility. Jamla was allowed to point and grunt to get any foods outside

of her reach. Her dinner plate was removed for her. Her laundry was done for her.

She was often helped up the steps from her basement apartment to the dining area

on the second floor. In both instances I was to discover the family was

handicapping her growth by doing for her what they should have been

encouraging her do for herself. Here’s an example: one day, Dad spent (wasted?)

an hour trying to get her up the steps to the second floor for dinner including

manually moving her legs up the first few steps. We were in the process of setting

up a laborious, intensive, many-step task analysis when I suggested we all go

upstairs for dinner and leave her alone leaving the natural consequence of being

hungry to work. Mom and Dad (while being watched by the mother-in- law) were

concerned (near hysteria) that if they didn’t get her upstairs immediately, she

would literally starve to death. I pleaded for their forbearance asking them to wait a

few minutes more (several times) and it was reluctantly given (each time). Hearing

Jamla’s cries, a glum and silent dinner began. Ten minutes later, lo and behold, on

her own she came up the steps and joined us. “Bravo, Jamla rang out!! What else

can she do if we don’t do for her?” Once they realized it was a “won’t”, here’s

what else

  • progressing from grunts and points to a first word and in two weeks,

 

five word sentences

  • taking her plate, silver ware and glass from the table

 

  • staying seated at the table throughout dinner

 

  • not hitting her three-year-old niece

The mystery unmasked: Conclusions

Why don’t folks get better? There are many challenges to being a counselor,

teacher or psychologist with any person. One of the greatest challenges working to

change anyone’s behavior including your own, is reflecting over and over:

  • Jumping to conclusions

 

  • Is the problem behavior it a “can’t” or a “won’t”?

 

  • Are the steps in the plan too great thereby overwhelming the person?

 

  • Is the plan working?

 

  • Could outside forces be blocking change? I am fifty pounds overweight. I eat

       while watching TV. I tried to move the TV from the kitchen. My kids

       objected.

You must understand (and understanding is the hardest part) we all live in a

culture…it could be family, their extended family, their community, church,

mosque, synagogue, country or even Facebook. This environment if collective can

have more power to shape someone’s behavior than their own the best intentions.

A sad example is the culture of Generational Poverty (Payne, 1996), which can

crush the hardiest spirit. Remember the peer groups with whom you experimented

as a teenager. When your parents told you, “birds of a feather flock together”, they

may have been rightly worried as they understood the power of the group.

When I came to the Arab culture with only my truths, neglecting theirs, I met the

enemy and he was me.

References

Azrin, N. (1974). Toilet training in less than a day (3rd ed.). Simon & Schuster.

Greif, A. (1994). Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical

and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies. The

Journal of Political Economy, 102 (5), 912-50.

Danaher, B. (1974). Theoretical Foundations and Clinical Applications of the

Premack Principle: Review and Critique. Behavior Therapy, 5 (3), 307-24.

D’Zurilla, T. J., Goldfried, M. R. (1971). Problem Solving and Behavior

Modification. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 78 (1), 107-26.

Eden, C. (1992). On the Nature of Cognitive Maps. Journal of Management

Studies, 29 (3), 261-65

Foxx, R.M. (1982). Increasing Behaviors of Persons with Severe Retardation and

Autism. Research Press, Champaign, IL

Gold, M. (1974). Overview: Try another way. (Video). Retrieved from

http://www.mnddc.org/extra/marc-gold1.html.

Gresham, F. M., Gansle, K.A., Noell, G. H. (1993). Treatment integrity in applied

behavior analysis with children. Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 26

(2), 257-63.

Herrnstein, R. J. (1970). On the Law of Effect. Journal of the Experimental

Analysis of Behavior,13 (2), 243-66.

Kubler-Ross, E. (1972). On Death and Dying. Journal of the American Medical

Association, 221 (2), 174-79.

Pappe, I. (2006). The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford, England:

Oneworld Publications Limited.

Payne, R. K. (1996). A Framework for Understanding Poverty (4th ed.). Highlands,

TX: aha! Process Inc.

Skinner, B. F. (1963). Operant Behavior. American Psychologist, 503-15.

Stern, M. R., Golden, F. (1977). A Partial Evaluation of an Introductory Training

for Psychiatric Nurses. American Journal of Community Psychology, 5 (1),

1-22.

Thorndike, E. L. (1927). The Law of Effect. The American Journal of Psychology,

39 (1), 212-22.

Published in: on November 12, 2010 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

blog refined not quite an article

Thursday, August 26, 2010\

Dedication: For Justice, for Yossi, for Dov, for Basma, for David, for Farar, and of course, for Linda.

Living and Working in the West Bank of Palestine

This is an article describing and analyzing my research beginning in 2005, culminating with four months of living and working in the Occupied Territories known as the West Bank, Palestine. I am a reform Jew; raised Conservative; my parents were both presidents of Beth Israel Synagogue in Camden, New Jersey; I served two terms as president of my synagogue, Rodeph Shalom in Rome, Georgia; and I am a Professor of Psychology at Berry College in Mt. Berry, Ga., USA.

 

Figure 1 Me at the Orient Restaurant in Beit Sahour 

How do I get your attention when you have so many other legitimate needs demanding your time and resources? One response might be to take the advice of Michael Corleone in Mario Puzo’s, The Godfather. “Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.” If you are a nonMuslim: there are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world If you are Muslim, Israel has one of the most powerful armed forces in the world with a high probability of possessing nuclear weapons.  

Truth. What we think is true can be our worst enemy and even a sign of insanity (because it keeps us from changing). One evening the family was watching some truth: an Al Jezera film clip from the Israeli attack on Gaza in 1970. At first it seemed to me that dredging up “old news” was only stirring the waters of hatred, and then I realized a true of ours as U.S. TV routinely show 1960’s Civil Rights marchers attacked by water cannon, police dogs or hung by robed Klan’s men.  The truth I grew up with was that Israel was “a land without people for a people without a land,” a phrase coined by William Blackstone, a Christian Restorationist clergyman, in 1843.  My truth changed after five weeks in the West Bank and Israel in the summer of 2007 Israel was the villain. It became more balanced after four months in the West Bank as I learned new information, e.g., Jordan allowed no universities whereas Israel allowed seven. I saw 4,000 fired rockets and I stood in the bomb shelters in the Israeli city of Siderot. Israel has been attacked five times since 1948. Truths I heard: All Americans are from the United States. Zionists, Israelis and Jews are all the same. All Arabs are Muslims. Men are entitled to more rights than women. Going to prison is bad, openness is good. Corruption is shameful. All Terrorists are Arab.

Figure 2 . At one of the many (every 15 seconds apart) of bomb shelters in Siderot

you have 15 seconds

Figure 3.  Some of the four thousand rockets fired into Siderot

Here’s an interesting cultural difference. What does this mean in the USA? Is it positive or negative?

Figure 4. OK! Maybe, not?

Where I was. I visited, worked or lived: In the Occupied Territories of Beit Sahour, a suburb of Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem, Jericho, and Ramallah from January to May 2010 on a Berry College Sabbatical and Rotary University Teaching Grant. In fact as a result of an emergency dental procedure in the compact space of just 90 minutes I traveled thousands of years in the flash of 90 minutes – from the modern city of West Jerusalem, through the narrow (15 foot wide), 30 foot high walled streets of the Old City to the west Bank of Palestine’s Beit Sahour which looked like the early 1900’s USA: There was a Bedouin woman grazing her goats and sheep outside my bedroom window.

West Bank demographics. The gross national income (GNI) is $1,230. The GNI of the USA’s $44,710, Rome, GA’s $32,000, and the World at $7,448. There are 2.4 million people with 95% being Muslim.  Beit Sahour has a population of 12,367; is 80% Christian and 20% Muslim.

Figure 5 Beit Sahour is a suburb of Behlehem

 

My activities.

  1. Gave two parenting workshops
  2. Helped create life skills center for Moderately Intellectually Disabled (MOID) adults (Al Malatha)
  3. Worked with West (Israeli) Jerusalem YMCA nursery schools to help with socialization of a three year old
  4. Consulted at the Al Zachra Medical Center, an East (Arab) Jerusalem Pediatric clinic with Autistic children with language delays
  5. Helped write the curriculum, lectured and created Internship program for the first Master’s Degree in Special Education at Hebron and Ber Zeit Universities

 

Figure 6 Explaining the differences between Intellectual and Learning disabilities in Ramallah

  1. Helped create a Birth-to-Six Diagnostic and Treatment Center for Developmentally Disabled Children
  2. Worked with three families and their children:

a) A four-year-old with Autism. Abdula is a four year old girl who lost language at about a year and a half. She is extremely solitary and demands a high degree of order and consistency (must walk on a certain part of the side walk to a certain distance). We have been using Applied Behavior Analysis yoking words for going for a walk, swinging and snacks. After two weeks of restricting “extras” we are still waiting for a breakthrough. She said “Duda (ant)” to her brother the other day so following the principle of “take what the client gives you” we’re surrounding her with: a jar of ants, pictures to color, clay to make. This coming week the Mom and I will meet with Abdula’s speech therapist to see what more language intensive services she might need. The prospects are bleak for two reasons: we have not been able to elicit language; and there are few if any services available.

b) Two families have with Moderately Intellectually Disabled (MOID) adult off spring. We created multistep step task analyses for: putting on pants; doing laundry, taking plate from table, getting up from toilet, and using a quiet voice. We are using real power and leverage: favorite foods, having dessert, swinging, going for a walk, a drive or watching TV. Further, we worked on getting rid of the puzzles and beads and replacing them with magazines appropriate to young adults (fashion magazines, make up, sports and muscle magazines).We used traditional behavior modification principles: Focus on tomorrow not yesterday (Boker la ams). Accept approximations of terminal goal then demand more. Say it once. Do what’s best for them in the long term. Take care of yourself and your marriage. Everyone must be part of team and consistent. These are not the first parents experiencing guilt, ignorance, exhaustion, and misplaced sympathy; unknowingly handicapping their grown off spring by treating them like children;  and by the absence of rules, standards or consequences thereby creating young adults resist training and responsibility. Here’s an example: one day last week one of the Dads spent (wasted?) four hours trying to get their son up the steps to the second floor for dinner including manually moving his legs up the first few steps. We were in the process of setting up a many-step task analysis when I suggested we all go upstairs for dinner and leave him alone. They were so concerned if they didn’t get him upstairs he would starve. I asked for their forbearance and it was reluctantly given. We began dinner. Ten minutes later on his own he came up the steps and joined us. “Bravo Farah” rang out!! What else can he do if we don’t do for him!! Another issue was sibling rivalry acted out by some pretty strong punching and elbowing. Because of Fana’s hitting (her brother, nephew, and care giver) we worked on the principle of “it’s easier to teach an incompatible behavior than extinguish an existing and highly reinforcing behavior.” We created several levels of intervention: reinforcing her whenever she exhibited natural affection; when she hits reinforcing stoking others; stroking her teddy bear; at the highest  level of intervention: “the silent treatment.” After Fana hit a six year old grandchild; unfortunately and fortunately, the family had a chance to try “the silent treatment”. They reported it was powerful and effective.

  1. Served as a School Psychologist at a Center for Emotionally Disturbed children: 1) teaching the staff to administer and interpret developmental assessments and 2) recommending a Behavior Modification strategy known as a “token economy” wherein the teacher would print “money” and give it to the students contingent on their appropriate behavior. Further, he could use the amount of money each student earned to teach math: analyzing data and creating graphs for each student and each class.
  2. Served as Psychologist (setting up task analyses and doing group therapy (sociodrama) using The Giving Tree, The Good Uncle Farhan and Little Red Riding Hood) for the 30 clients at the Al Basma Vocational Training Centers for MOID adults.

Figure 7 and Figure 8.

Law. The Municipality of Beit Sahour made a Christian owned businessman place the walls of his establishment four meters from the road but allowed a Muslim builder to construct his only one meter from the road. Governance: According to Viktoria Wagner’s (2000) analysis of the Palestinian Judiciary while there is serious external threat to the Palestinian desire for autonomy and national sovereignty that equally there is much work to be done internally namely a functioning judiciary, and a security/police force which serves the rule of law. It seems family and tribe trump democracy, with no recourse through the courts. I was told “in so many words” by neighbors that “money and resources are misdirected from the needs of everyday Palestinians to individuals in power or their loyalists.”

One-way and stop-signs are routinely ignored. Speed limits are enforced only by staying just slightly below the axle-breaking speed of cement humps in the roads. The primary method of communication is “standing on the car horn.” My host stay father summed the traffic situation perfectly: “We should be living 200 years ago riding camels and donkeys.”

Personal safety. At no time traveling, working or living in the West Bank did I ever feel unsafe. Here is an example. I spent several hours at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Nativity – in one place I saw, smelled and heard more different expressions of cultures: dress, music, and language than in my entire life. At no time did I feel fearful of the Arabs. Contrarily, at check points and walking behind heavily armed settler teens and geriatrics in the German Quarter of Jerusalem at night some trepidation was present.

 

Religion. Islamic law…husband kills adulterous wife, 5 months; wife kills adulterous husband, 20 years. I continually heard stories about the friction between the Muslim and Christian communities; being awakened at dawn every day by loud speakers on five minareted mosques chanting the Call to Prayer. This Call will loudly echo four more times during the day.

The tension between the Muslim and Christian communities is putting additional pressure on the Orthodox Christians. The military occupation stranglehold of commerce and education is loss of continuity between older generation’s steadfastness (samud) and the younger generation’s desire for identity and individuation (similar of the Hmong discussed in Mary Pipher’s (2002) The Middle of Everywhere.

Education.  The Government school in which my neighbor’s eldest grandson attends 11th grade has little or no access to computers, in fact, his computer teacher uses the blackboard. Sections of the Koran are regularly studied even in Math classes. Even in some private schools the science labs meet only one time a month. The town of Beit Sahour has over 12,000 inhabitants and no library. Jean Piaget would cry if he saw this equation on the chalk board of a kindergarten classroom in Beit Jala: 000000=00+00+00

Special education. Unlike the United States, there is no public law requiring school systems to offer educational opportunities or rights for handicapped children to even attend school. There are next to zero services for the disabled in the Bethlehem area. The Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation is professional with a well trained but highly overworked, staff. The only “public” opportunities I saw were for some speech and language, and few self-contained classes for intellectually disabled children within which autistic children were placed as well. The only systematic services focused on the Moderately Intellectually Disabled from 14 to 35. There were some excellent private programs but most were underfunded with poorly trained staff and an unrecognizable curriculum. Many looked good on paper (for external donors) but failed to deliver on their promises. 

The top special education category is Moderate Intellectual Disabilities, next is Vision with 5% and Hearing also with 5%: these rates are amazing considering in the U.S. the incidence is about one-tenth of a percent! How can the difference for Vision and Hearing be 50 fold? The answer, intermarriage! Given the choice of marrying a first cousin or another male from outside the family; the cousin “gets the nod.” Why? Intermarriage keeps the money in the family and the family can trust the cousin! As dismal as this sounds, there is hope.

Last year, the Islamic leaders made a remarkable decision. Before they would sign off on a marriage document, the prenuptial couple was obliged to have a blood test. From a political perspective, this totalitarian religious power can make really good things happen quickly for the population. Consider the value if the religious leaders could be persuaded to also make obligatory, banning marriages between first cousins! Employing such preventative approach would eliminate so much suffering.

Attitude toward handicaps. 

In one incident showing a pre 1930’s USA diagnosis a Master’s level special education teacher called a Down’s child a Mongolian idiot.

During an eight or so hour field trip to a public amusement park filled with teenagers (mostly male) neither saw nor heard one disparaging remark or gesture toward the 30 or so Al Basma adult Moderately Intellectually Disabled clients. Our clients’ handicaps included very obvious physical and verbal disabilities: walking and running awkwardly and haltingly, yelling, stuttering and taking much longer getting in and out of the crowded bumper cars.

A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an OK diagnosis because something was done “to” you; but disabilities intrinsic to the individual such as physical handicaps or Moderate Intellectual Disabilities (MOID) are to be hidden because it is a black mark on the family’s honor, genetic strength and pedigree which could affect marriage ability. Similar problems exist in the world of Orthodox Jewry as seen in Naomi Regan’s Sotah.

Health. Typical medical treatment in the West Bank for any ailment is—pain killers; for a tooth ache extraction. 

Food. I remember the 12 different salads at the Tent Restaurant, Shabbat in Jerusalem at the Seligman’s and last but not least, my host stay mother’s dishes: quartered spiced chicken cooked in an airtight: (door is covered with wet clay) Zarb, spinach pastry, egg plant soup, stewed tomatoes and garlic, a whole cabbage soaked in brine for 10 days, and finally homemade Slivovitz based Arak made from grains and anise seed. My upper lip then nose and lower lip were completely numb in the first 25 seconds!

Culture.  The collectivist culture in Palestine has many wonderful qualities, for instance: The old and very young live with their family; pita bread made on glowing embers; long conversations; gardens and home cooked meals; manual labor; wisdom of the elderly, breast feeding and board games with their families.

Arabs have the notion of Common land owned collectively or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect firewood, or to cut turf for fuel. This notion tends to conflict with the Western idea of marking off and fencing in “my land.” The issue can be seen just across the valley north of Beit Sahour in the Israeli settlement called Har Homa. As of 2008, there were approximately 4,000 families in Har Homa. The neighborhood has 12 kindergartens, 6 day care centers, 2 elementary schools, 3 medical clinics, and 3 shopping centers. While sitting in the “Biblical” Shepherd’s Field, the acoustics were so perfect I could hear the disconcerting and intrusive hammering and drilling as if they were a few feet away. When one adds to the many “calls to prayer” from the mosques the Christian- Arab-Palestinian ears must have been ringing.

Who’s the dinosaur? A comment was made to me by the Palestinian Arab principal of Yesua, Yesua while standing on the school’s roof surrounded by multiple solar panels connected to their water tanks. “Here,” he said wryly, “everyone uses the sun. In Texas, they use oil.

The conflict between the two cultures centers on this difference of cultural traditions . It is true from a Western perspective that the land was unoccupied and undeveloped prior to the current construction; it is also true that both Jewish and Arab landholders (80%) were compensated for the land. Yet, this huge settlement is a microcosm of a large part of the Palestinian anger with Israel. My family host father was telling of his childhood. He said he would spend afternoons playing and hunting in the heavily forested hillside of Jabal Abu Ghneim. His concept of common ownership conflicts with the legal Western concept of specific owners. In the first photo you see Har Homa today, and in the second, the view and the memory of the father of my host family. Since Palestinians are barred from entering this walled area, you can see why they might be upset and angry. These emotions without a healthy outlet can produce apathy. Thus, the section on culture is connected to the section of the military occupation and dedevelopment.

 

Figure 9.  NOW

Figure 10. then


Other differences include etiquette, political power and bravery. The Western concept of polite conversation allows for one person to talk while the other remains silent. In the Arab world conversation includes interrupting and yelling. There is a selective (when in the West) concept of waiting in line either with respect to a group of people or a group of cars.
 I heard many stories of money and resources being misdirected from the needs of everyday Palestinians to individuals in power or their loyalists.  In “our culture” going to jail (an Israeli “college”!) is a shameful event. But in others jail time is a mark of manhood critical to joining the leadership of the culture. There is the Tacitus Roman idea that “he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day”. This can be contrasted with the Emiliano Zapata’s concept of, “better to die on your feet than to live on your knees” and the Israeli, Meir Feinstein’s “it is better to die with a weapon in hand than to live with hands raised.”

The Military Occupation’s dedevelopment:  Travel in or out of Palestinian is controlled by the Israeli military requiring passes which often take weeks (or denied). Travel within Palestine can be blocked for 15 minutes or two hours. The unpredictability negatively affects education and commerce.

I spent a day on a field trip with my Al Basma Center from Bethlehem through Ubeidya and Eizariya to Jericho and back. We had to pass through two (going and coming) Israeli military check points (the Arabs call them “containers” manned by uniformed, heavily armed Israeli soldiers.  These check points are within the West Bank. They are not border check points; therefore, those living (or as they would say, “Imprisoned”) in the West Bank call it a military occupation.

Here’s a photo I took of the “booming” Hebron Market. You may ask, “why the cyclone fencing above the street”. And, “what is in the bulge”? The answer is the fencing was put up by the Arab merchants. Why, to keep all the garbage being thrown on the market store fronts by the Zionist “settlers” living above.

Figure 11. Hebron Market, 2007

 

Many vocational and educational institutions rely primarily on the tourist trade of the largess of “friends.”  The outcome of this model is an unpredictable cash flow with all the corollary ramifications, e.g. having to go to a donor on the spot literally waiting for her to take money from her purse.

Daily, I walked past neglected and half empty olive orchards filled with debris. I saw empty palatial stone villas with the owner’s copper sulfate blue tarp-covered cars still in the driveway. The homes were owned by Christians who chose to abandon rather than sell their houses to Muslims. I worked with agencies whose primary source of income was focused on the unpredictable tourist trade. I saw huge swathes of the best land walled off by some of the Churches.

Who is the enemy? In this Middle Eastern womb tensions between the Abrahamic three faiths and the two nations struggle inside her. There are extremists on both sides constantly blaming the other side with broadsides and barrages of generalizations: all the Jews…all the Arabs. There is a two-thirds silent majority trying to live their day-to-day lives and a one-sixth doing what they can do to make their society stronger. It is the one-sixth fanatics of both populations which are keeping the peace process from moving forward toward justice for both nations. I believe there are totalitarian Arab regimes in the greater Middle East and the American Israeli lobby here in the USA who are keeping the Israeli-Palestinian pot boiling for their own benefits and fears. Both Israel and Palestine are victims of the repeated tactic of fueling animosity among indigenous peoples by purposely favoring one over the other to provoke fear or envy weakening them both as was seen in India by Britain-Muslim and Hindu; and with the Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda by Belgium.

Conclusions.

Israel. In many ways Israel has been a good neighbor: opening her medical centers and allowing the development of universities to name a few. Further, I am not saying Israel has no reason to be wary. Quoting Lew (2003, p 49) “Israel was attacked first, in 1948, 1967, 1973 and in each of the recent Intifadas. They want acknowledgement that they only took the lands from which they were attacked during these conflicts, and offered to return them on one and only one condition-the acknowledgement of their right to exist. And they want acknowledgement that there are many in the Palestinian camp who truly wish to destroy them, who have used the language of peace as a ploy to buy time until they have the capacity to liquidate Israel and the Jews once and for all. They want acknowledgement that they have suffered immensely from terrorism, that a people who lost six million innocents scarcely 70 years ago should not have had to endure the murder of its innocent men, women and children so soon again. And they want acknowledgement that in spite of all this, they stood at Camp David prepared to offer the Palestinians everything they claimed to have wanted – full statehood, a capital in East Jerusalem – and the response of the Palestinians was the second Intifada, a murderous campaign of terror and suicide bombings.”  

Palestine. Neither Fatah nor Hamas always have the People’s best interests at heart. The Palestinians would like the world to acknowledge that they lived in the land now called Israel for centuries that they planted olive trees, shepherded flocks, and raised families there for hundreds of years. They would like the world to acknowledge that when they look up from their villages, their trees and their flowers, their fields and their flocks, they see the horrific, uninvited monolith of western culture-immense apartment complexes, shopping centers and industrial plants on the once-bare and rocky hills where the voice of God could be heard and where Muhammad ascended to heaven. And they would like the world to acknowledge that it was essentially a European problem that was plopped into their laps at the end of the last Great War, not of their own making. And they would like the world to acknowledge that there has always been a kind of arrogance attached to this problem, that it was as if the United States and England told them: Here are the Jews, get used to them. And they would like the world to acknowledge that it has been a great indignity, not to mention a significant hardship, to have been an occupied people for so long, to have to submit to strip searches on the way to work, and intimidation on the way to the grocery store, and the constant humiliation of being subject – a humiliation rendered nearly bottomless when Israel, with the benefit of the considerable intellectual and economic resources of world Jewry, made the desert bloom, in a way that had never been able to do. And they would like the world to acknowledge that there are those in Israel who are determined never to grant them independence, who have used language of peace as a ploy to fill the West Bank with settlement after settlement until the facts on the ground are such that an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank is an impossibility. They would like the world to acknowledge that there is no such thing as a gentle occupation -that occupation corrodes the humanity of the occupier and makes the occupied vulnerable to brutality.”

Rabbi Alan Lew, 2003 in This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared.  

 

Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 7:40 pm  Comments (1)  

Bell: Few driving West Bank conflict (Rome News-Tribune, 04 Aug 2010, Page 3A)




Bell: Few driving West Bank conflict
By Doug Walker Associate Editor DWalker@RN-T.com
Rome News-Tribune
04 Aug 2010

Less than one-sixth of the population in the West Bank Palestinian territory is driving the fragile politics of the region. Berry College professor Steve Bell told members of the Seven Hills Rotary Club on Tuesday that the vast majority of West Bank…read more…
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Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 8:17 pm  Comments (3)  

Last data and a wish fulfilled

Saturday, April 17, 2010

This is the last entry which includes raw data taken from interviews and observations.

Yes, Benj, Analysis and order will be a project for this summer.

The work whirlwind. Last week, I wrote about winding down and winding up. The schedule for Friday,  the 16th is a typical example of  this last week’s “winding down.”  7:00 AM…breakfast with Farah, 8:00…meet with Director of Al-Basma Center…8:30 With the founders of Al-Malath society, meet with Occupational Therapy representative at University of Bethlehem, then discuss plans for the Center, …11:30 sit with Farah’s family for the taxi…12:30 leave Beit Sahour, West Bank, Palestine for the last time..arrive in Jerusalem at 1:00…debrief my Rotary Sponsor…3:00..tea with Yossi…6:30-12:00 Shabbat dinner with Seligman’s.

Day trip to Old City with David S. We visit the main symbols of each of the Abrahamic based faiths: The Western Wall (Kotel), The Temple Mount (Dome of Rock) and The Church of Holy Sepulcher. I learned (again) that often each succeeding culture, a) steals from the former, and b) tries their best to wipe the memory and message of the former: At the Dome of the Rock, Caliph Hakim steals from Omar; In Jerusalem, Arab street names are replaced by Jewish oriented ones; Mithra is born of a virgin on December 25th; Jewish National Fund trees are planted over Arab villages. Chicanery abounds: if all the so called pieces of the cross carried by Jesus were collected and reassembled it would weigh four tons. In the afternoon, I exeprience a sand storm of moderate dimensions!

How long will it take me to get from one place to another? Isn’t this something you would want in your travels? The Al-Basma staff and Moderately Intellectually Disabled clients take a day trip from Bethlehem to Jericho and back. On a trip which could have taken 45 minutes each way, we are forced to stop at three checkpoints. Besides Machsom and Barrier, I learned a new term, horrible in its implication: CONTAINER. Are these for security purposes to keep possible terrorists from coming into Israel? No. Who is being contained? Palestinians. Where are they being contained? Inside their own country. That’s right. These containers are not on the border of the two “states” or “green line”. They do not separate the Palestinian from the Israelis. The Israeli soldiers manning these barriers effectively separate the Occupied Territories into three regions or cantons: north, middle and south.

All day at the Park we eat, ride bumper cars, play and dance. Usually, I am very self conscious about dancing but one after another, in small groups and long lines we all danced together. The “boundary” of which Jean Vanier so eloquently speaks which too often separates the “disabled” from the “normal” disappeared evaporated.

In fact, all day at this public part, I saw not a single case of rudeness from the many teens around us.

Ah, the bumper cars. If haven’t ridden one of these “whip lash” vehicles at a County Fair, you haven’t lived. Essentially, there are eight or so of these open cars are in a 75 by 75 foot ring. You go at relatively high speeds (15 miles an hour?) either away from or more often directly into other cars.

A Noah story. Yes, this is another Noah story (a good one), so hold on. Imagine, getting the chance to spend three minutes with some you loved (and had died) doing anything you wanted. This is right out of a story by Tuesday’s with Morrie author, Mitch Album.

Well this was my chance.

As I said last week, there is a young man at the Center who looks just like Noah looked in his final few months. This young man and his mother didn’t have the five shekels to get a ticket to ride the bumper cars so they were watching. Basma, the Director of the Center purchased a ticket for me. I slipped it into his mother’s hand. Soon, he was sitting alone in the two seater bumper car. I was compelled (by God?) to get into the car with him. As soon as the buzzer rang, he floored the car, gaining speed ramming a wall head on! I crashed forward, slammed back and hit my shin on the rail.

Now you need to know, of all my memories of Noah, the ones which most evoked riotous laughter from him were when I had some minor physical misfortune: falling through three steps on a rickety step ladder, hitting my head on a tree limb, or riding a front porch hammock swing (yes, three times in one day) off its mooring into the waiting thorny rose bushes.

As I crashed into the rail, all I could think of was how funny Noah would think my accident. It was great! It was healing.

While waiting for our turn at the “container” between Abu Dees and Bethlehem, one of clients plays on a drum. I am invited to dance in the aisle of the bus with a Muslim staff member head scarf and all!

One of the towns whose main street we followed can best be described as a two mile long garbage dump festooned with many colors of plastic bags, cardboard boxes, food refuse, tires, all matter of trash . One of my colleagues on the bus, looked at the Israeli settlement Maile Adomim remarks, “looks nice!

Generalizations.  In Beit Sahour a Bedouin Sheppard’s goats eat some of the flowers growing in front of a restaurant. The Christian Arab calls Bedouins “all savages”. I am reminded that a member of my Synagogue called all Arabs “savages.” Arabs call Jews, all “savages.” 

Language, language. Dad got a six word sentence from Jwad this week. “I want a sweet cake, please.” Using food as a reward…demanding language…earning snacks has worked in this case. Odesa and Fana are also producing much more language. It is a matter of consistently and mindfully overcoming the guilt and sympathy which had ended up as overprotection and learning helplessness.

What do the Palestinians need to do?

  1. Forgiveness and compassion. Last week when the sirens sounded for Yom Ha Shoah all the Jews on the highway to Jericho pulled over and got out of their cars. The comment was made, “now we know who the Jews are.” This idea does not move reconciliation forward.
  2. While the Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust, recognizing it’s power on the thinking and feeling of Israelis.
  3. Infrastructure: paving, street signs, traffic signs, dependable electricity, law enforcement, accessible courts
  4. Become a nation rather than a family confederacy at best and feud at worst
  5. Work for peace between the Christians and Muslims. Sulha or arbitration might be necessary.
  6. To rely on themselves more rather than tourists and NGO’s
  7. Israel is Israel. Nearly alone, she bravely fought to be born and stay alive. She is here to stay. Wishing it would go away or be swept away is futile and unhealthy thinking. Appreciate all Israel’s Medical and Educational communities are doing.
  8. Continue to make their very legitimate case for a sovereign state by letting the U.S.  know their valid story: The Israeli in country “containers” and land theft by the Army and  settlers is not moving reconciliation forward.
  9. Risk reaching out to Peace and Justice Groups in the U.S. Calling organizations like International Rotary a secret Zionist organization is not moving reconciliation forward.

Sustainability. When I calculate the success and failure ratio of this whole adventure, it yields a batting average of a healthy .560. But, as my Jerusalem Rotary sponsor asked, “What is the probability the initiatives will continue?” Here’s my best guess.

  1. The Master’s in Special Education proposal continues to make its way through the various University Committees.
  2. Abdul’s mother is facing the diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder from his treatment team. Jami and Helwa are two mothers who have walked this path (I believe successfully). They will help Abdul’s mother through the stages of grief. I have asked them to share the articles (A mother’s trip to Holland (from Dear Abby) and Stanley Muirs’ If I Need Someone to Hold My Hand, Will You Be there). Meanwhile, language, language.
  3. The Early Child Development and Learning Center proposal has gone through its 7th draft with a detailed CV from its founder and connections with two American Centers also using Arena Assessment. It will take a lot more ground work to get the center feasible.
  4. The Al-Malath Society will be accepting its first clients soon. The Center’s concept and curriculum is unique in Palestine and has lots of potential. The founders have become my colleagues and friends.
  5. I did not get feedback from the family of my “power seeker.” I expect she will remind them (all too powerfully) when they stray from ignoring inappropriate and reinforcing appropriate behavior!
  6. The Al-Basma Training Center remains a fine example of leadership, staff devotion and work analysis. They are a functional family…clients included. Being proactive, planning, letting go of small irritations will win the day.
  7. I haven’t gotten feedback on all the patients with whom I consulted at the Shuafat Medical Center.
  8. I haven’t gotten feedback on the Denver Developmental or the Peabody Math test.
  9. The parent workshops were well attended with lots of good questions

10.  The Ber Zeit and Yesua, Yesua Center for Emotional Disturbed Children projects, (which were to be the two main foci) did not workout at all. Although, I am working on a letter to the Director of YY.

Best Moments.

  • Bep’s comment on Super Nanny:

I wrote: “I did all I could.” Bep wrote, “Read it over and over.”

  • Dancing on the bus
  • Bumper cars
  • All the SKYPE’s especially Mr. Gavin’s
  • Simon’s idea to stay in Jerusalem Friday and Saturday
  • Benj’s comments on my blog
  • Drinking Compari
  • Ten salads at the Tent Restaurant
  • Fixing the paper shredder
  • Yossi meeting me at the Air Port
  • Seeing Linda and Benj pull into the parking lot in Barbados
  • Watching Chef Antawnet’s  face and hearing her laugh
  • The fig and grape leaf buds
  • Writing a website and inserting photos
  • Daily meditations
Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm  Comments (11)  

sustainability and unpredictability

Last Week—focusing the  on sustainability of initiatives

From being a professor of psychology to a practicing psychologist. Most interesting phenomena: Mothering a Special Education Son or Daughter in a Collectivist Society: grief, guilt and overprotection.

What am I learning from this adventure?

  1.  
    1. I can do this by myself with “virtural” help from family and friends
    2. It can override a Carkhuff Matrix (first time in 33 years!)
    3. It would be a lot easier (but would I have learned as much?) with Linda here
    4. So far not a single problem with all the multitudes of mundane details like dealing with weather, travel connections, meeting people, money, laundry, language, border crossings, diet, health, medicine, messages, communications
    5. Making friends makes this work: Yossi, Basma, Norma, Farah, Fais, Ghada, David S., Jad, Khaled, Kaleel, Sami, Dima, Usam, Osama, Amjad, David L., Ruthi, Omaya, Vered, Muna, Georgio (the souvenior vendor), John, Timna, Eddie, Souod, Irene, Nicholas, Moshe, Amir and Jamla
    6. The “two narratives” are complicated by the lack of knowledge and negative perceptions between the two neighbor peoples. Folks on both sides need to be heard nonjudgementally.
    7. Homesickness can be ‘worked through”
    8. Support from home is critical: Linda, Simon, Shellie, Gavin, Bep, Benj, the Catholic Duo: Sister Shellie and Sister Melissa Faye, Vic, Wade, Glenda, Aaron, Lyons, Erin (the Igloo Maker) Lauren (the Lawyer), Nancy, Leslie, Dan, Mary, Brian, Douglass, Caitlin (the cook) , Elisabeth (the electrician), and Ann
    9. Prayer keeps deep connection
    10. Email, Blog and Skype technology keeps current connections connecte
    11. I couldn’t prepare adequately enoug
    12. Setbacks (Ber Zeit University, Holy Child, Kol Ha Nishama) must be worked thoug
    13. There is a learning curv
    14. The increasingly powerful sweet anticipation of “going hom
    15. Everyone has their own suffering and anguish which often keeps them from seeking out other’s suffering and anguis
    16. I am so fortunate to live in the USA
    17. I have tried to create sustainable skills and systems:

                     a. Applied behavior analysis for language development

                     b.   Assessment instruments: Denver  Developmental and Peabody

                    c.       SKYPE

                    d.       Meeting the needs of attention and power seekers

I met 91 year Abu George. If I see him this week, I’ll get a photograph. He wears the traditional Arab dress; has a clipped mustache; and could easily pass for my friend and teacher, Sam Peller. I would love for each of these wise elders to hear each other’s stories of Israel and Paletine.

Biggest challenge for administrators of Special Education programs seeking funding is the ability to write English well.

The Al-Malath Center continues to take shape. The directors discussed:

  1. governance issues
  2. management
  3. creating services for Moderately Intellectually Disabled individuals on one large Campus: a birth to six center, life skills, work skills, half way house and a senior center
  4. nesting under a larger and established organization to provide resources like occupational therapy  
  5.  a more detailed floor plan both inside and out – looking at saftey issues, and space allocation
  6. planning the activities each area would provide: flower, vegtable and herb gardens, bowling, jewelery, caomputers, meditation, bed making, clothes washing, using a bank and a store, creating a restaurant, leisure, athletics, and morning assembly

Abdula is a four year old girl who lost language at about a year and a half. She is extremely solitary and demands a high degree of order and consistenty (must walk on a certain part of the side walk to a certain distance). We have been using Applied Behavior Analysis yoking words for going for a walk, swinging and snacks. I have discussed the possibility of a Spectrum Disorder which Mom is understandably very reluctant to consider. We talked about the problem with labels but reminded her that in order to access services (either here in Palentine or with her parents in Germany) Abdula would need a medical diagnosis . After two weeks of restricting “extras” we are still waiting for a breakthrough. She said Duda (ant) to her brother the other day so following the princile of “take what the client gives you” we’re surrounding her with: a jar of ants, pictures to color, clay to make. This coming week the Mom and I will meet with Abdula’s speech therapist to see what more language intensive services she might need.  

At the En Gedi Center I spent more time with the clients using Jean Vanier’s (founder of L’Arch) attitude of “what can they teach me”: I saw joy, open displays of affection and tolerance of public failure after a “good try” with bowling. Remembering my Soccer coaching days seeing some “normal” youngsters being furious (turned inward as well as outward) when they failed to score or allowed a goal. I remembered needing the advice of the great golf philosopher, Andrew Hastings Bemis reminding me “I’m not good enough to get mad.”I have seen no relationship between a person’s IQ score and their levels of compassion, happiness, generosity, desire to help, empathy, work ethic or friendliness.I also saw Tameer – a 26 year old man who was hit my a bus when he was a child. This young man looks so much like Noah could have been:  rotund wearing the same green long sleeve sweater everyday, mute, distracted, round faced, with short hair, blue eyes and shaking hands.  I looked at him for a long time. But he is not Noah and Noah was not him. And the moment passed.

Teaching Language to a Moderately Intellectiually Disabled Adult: It’s a Family Affair. Tonight Helwa and Jwad’s mother (Jamla) joined us for dinner. I found out she spends between one and two hours everyday with 27 year old Odesa.  It turns out that Jamla was giving Odesa snacks without demanding languiage because she “felt bad ” for her. That was the way Helwa was just seven weeks ago. We explained our plan, i.e., “if you want snacks you have to earn them.” Several minutes later Odesa pointed and grunted for a bisquit which Grandmom was all too willing to give.We again reviewed our plan. Odesa was required to say, “bidi bisquit” (I want a bisquit) which graefully she did! Grandmom was amazed!

While last weeks blog was entitled Winding up, winding down…I am busier than ever. These months have been just what I needed and wanted.

Unpredictability.Whether it is the abiliity to drive between cities in the West Bank or wait for a bus in Siderot, Israel, both peoples live is a state of unpredictability. Arbitrarily, an Arab and her  stopped on the road or at a checkpoint. Arbitrarily, sirens go off and a rocket falls in your back yard. There is victimization of both sides. While no one is in any way happy with the Occupation’s increasing stranglehold on the West Bank. The distribution of  Palestinian’s optimism-pessimism assumes a Bell Curve with some eschewing whining; looking to the future with pride, strength and optimism. Most live their lives concentrating on family and working day to day work. What drives some Palestinians crazy is the arbitrariness of life producing a type of learned helplessness:

  • access to higher education
  • special education services
  • access to consumer goods
  • employment opprotunities
  • the limited health care for the poor
  •  travel within their country
  • Ability to visit other countries
  1. Imagine the inability to deterermine whether it will take you 20 minutes or two hours to get from  Rome, Georgia to Rockmart, Georgia.
  2. Imagine all of your family gets permission to visit  for a religious Holy day but you. Why have you been left out?  
  3. I hear statements like: “every day is like the last…we have no where to go, where will I take my boys for a vacation? We have no hope.We can’t even travel within our own country…from Bethlehem to Ramallah was 15 minutes, now it could be two hours because we are stopped all the time…my father needed medicine for his chemotherapy and I need it for my asthma. Israeli doctors say, why do you come here? Get help in your own country. I say you must treat all who suffer…the American Media is controlled by Jews (I pass on Rupert Murdoch’s virulant Fox ‘News’)…if anything happens to Israel all the world knows. Why don’t American’s know what happens to us (a very good question)?”

   He thought we knew but just didn’t care.

The two narratives in photographs. The below photos are not mine…but do represent what I have seen.The first shows one of the several turnstiles Palestinains must traverse usually only two or three at a time. After as many as two hundred men, women and childrenwalking some one hundred yards under the sheltered walkway one encounters just one requring a wait of more than a hour or two. The second photo is the entry way into the three gates of the Bethlehem Machsom (barrier/check point). The photo is of the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza onto the men, women and children Sderot, Israel

Published in: on April 10, 2010 at 1:38 pm  Comments (3)  

winding up, winding down

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Winding up, winding down –I can feel the time remaining slipping bye

The level of work here continues to rise…

  1. Project # 1. A four year old with SDD who lost all verbal language at 1.5 years. We set up a family focused Behavior Modification plan to facilitate language. I taught The Denver Developmental to his mother and an ICU nurse/translator to see if his overall aptitude is normal. If so this will make the language instruction a lot easier than if he were Intellectually Disabled. Upon returning in a few days I’ll find out if this is a “can’t speak or a won’t speak” child. Hopefully, she’s a “won’t speak”, in which case earning snacks, going for a walk with Grandma and being pushed on a swing by her big sister will elicit language. At one point after several hours of work, I noticed the Mom kept asking the youngster to say, “ I want…” In Arabic, “bidi, bidi, bidi” When I questioned her why she asked for the child to say “bidi” three times, she replied that I told her to say it three times. I incorrectly assumed that she understood my directions (since she said she did!). Fortunately, this time we had a translator with us. What I said was, You may ask her to say “bidi” only three times then walk away (rather than giving her attention by repeatedly begging). What the mother heard was ask the child to say bidi three times. Oops.

 

  1. With the two interim directors, we create a floor plan and Center functions for the Al-Malath Society’s Life Skills Center for Moderately Intellectually Disabled Adults. This program, Dear Readers is worth your financial support. Ask me for their Email if you are interested. For guidance and counsel, we visited with the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation Director of Program Development.
  2. I was told “We need you to stay” and “I will give you and your wife an apartment to live in for free.”
  3. Mr. Fixit returns. When our four kids attended the Berry Lab School, often go a chance to go to their classrooms and fix something: a chicken yard, a bicycle, a can crusher or make Mr. B. Behavior Modification Board. This week with my Andy Bemis’ multi purpose tool and a box of nuts and bolts, I got a chance to fix Engedi’s paper cutter. What fun!
  4. The second Parenting workshop – Can I make your child smarter? How do I keep my child seated? Why does my child apologize? How can I get my child to talk more? How do I make my child behave?
  5. M trying to decide to do an observation  day in Gaza
  6. My West bank host family has said “We already ate” several times. I worry that I am eating their dinner and they are too proud or too embarrassed or too enculturated to share.
  7. Yossi, “Israelis scream”, Maher, “Arabs scream”

Our Passover Seder: Amazingly filled with Russian, Yemeni, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, and Americans. Menu includes: Chicken soup spiced with turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom.  Charoset made with dates. Hebrew read by speakers who know the language. Finally, I get to say “this year in Jerusalem!”

15. Teeth. I had a feast on Shabbat this week in Jersulem. Our menu included: whole wheat Rosemary bread, marrow bones, octopus legs (yes, I know, not Kosher), roasted leg of lamb, roasted Asado (Latino sheet steak), wine,  lemon carrot chicken soup, more wine, hot chocolate with chunks of semisweet chocolate on the bottom…ten year old Irish Whisky. As I sat at the table in the restaurant something (the effects of the alcohol, some might suggest) seemed odd. What was it? I looked intensely and my host family and restaurant patrons. As I scrutinized the teenager’s face across from me I realized. Teeth. A mouth with a complete set of teeth. A room full of people with full sets of teeth. Thinking back to Mona in my Beit Jala, West Bank host family, I remembered. During “dental” procedure, her tooth was broken. It was not capped or crowned but pulled. I remembered Faise and Sasha have no teeth. Many middle class Palestinians have few, or no teeth.

I began thinking back to my days teaching in north Camden at Pyne Poynt Middle School in the 1960’s. I remember a Halloween apple eating contest won by Robert, a bright 8th grader. On close examination, I was shocked to see he had no teeth. An eight grader with no teeth? Then, I remembered Bernie Cutler, the one Dentist brave enough to stay in practice in this the poorest section of the city. When a Black or Puerto Rican child went to the public clinic for a toothache, it was pulled. When the neighboring teeth began leaning into the space exposing the roots they too were pulled.

Here I am 50 years later in Palestine reliving the poverty and/or lack of competent services.

Published in: on April 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm  Comments (4)  

Easter and Pesach

 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pesach and Easter

An apology. In this piece, I am addressing my concerns for the Christians living in the West Bank. The men, women and children I live and work with; know and love. This is not to say there is not also a whole other story to be written about the Muslims in the West Bank. I do not know that story. It will have to be told by someone else. Why have I been placed among Christians families in Greater Bethlehem rather than Moslems at Ber Zeit  and in Ein Ya brood?  I do not know. I do know gamzu le’tovah (this also is for the good).

How little I knew. Before coming to the West Bank, I assumed everyone there was Muslim. Yet, living these last three short months in Beit Sahour, everyone one with whom I have established a close relationship is Christian. Many of them look just like many of you…blue eyes, light brown straight hair; white skinned…Others, also look like you with olive skin, brown eyes and black hair. When I close my eyes, I am back at Rodeph Shalom (pursue Peace); my synagogue in Rome.  

Imagine being a devoted Christian living right next door (roughly five miles) from the city where Jesus entered on palm branches. The place where their Bible says he sacrificed himself and was resurrected. Then imagine you will not be allowed to visit for Easter. You see and hear that nearly anyone from nearly any other country can wander and wonder through the streets of the Old City. Five miles. In recent memory the devoted ones and pilgrims would walk it. How would you feel if this spiritual joy was denied? How you feel toward those who correctly or incorrectly were the barrier to you satisfying your deep religious need?

In many ways Israel has been a good neighbor: opening her Medical Centers and allowing the development of Universities to name a few. Further, I am not saying Israel has no reason to be wary. Or that in many cases the Palestinian leadership has not let real opportunities slip from its hands. Or that innocents on both sides have not been murdered. Or that Fatah and Hamas always have the People’s best interests at heart. Or that it might benefit totalitarian regimes in the greater Middle East. I am not saying Israel or any country does not have the right to control its borders. I am saying entry into Israel can be friendlier and easier for 99.5% of our Palestinian Neighbors.

For the past 3,000 years each Pesach (Passover) Seder (festive prayerful meal and teaching opportunity) Jews all over the Diaspora wish for “next year in Jerusalem.” We helped every country in which we lived to prosper then we were faced with onerous anti-Semitic laws. While in Barbados, I learned when we were expelled from Brazil, we brought the science of sugar cane transformation into molasses. Soon thereafter England passed a law restricting slave holding (we were only allowed one) by Jews (they did our souls a favor!). Historically, we were forced to convert or were expelled penniless from country after country…simply for being Jews. Expelled at best, and Inquisition at worst. For the past 66 years after each Seder my family would say, “next year in Jerusalem.” From 1948 until 1967 we were denied access to Jerusalem – the city of David; of the site our Holy Temple. Can we not understand the longing of other people?

Perhaps we don’t understand because we don’t know about the conditions in the West Bank. A dear friend of mine who is Israeli wrote that the economy in Palestine was booming. I think he wrote this with the best intentions and there is some development in Ramallah.  But he was overwhelmingly wrong about the West Bank in general. Here’s a photo I took of the “booming” Hebron Market. You may ask, “why the cyclone fencing above the street”. And, “what is in the bulge”? The answer is the fencing was put up by the Arab merchants. Why, to keep all the garbage being thrown on the market store fronts by the Zionist “settlers” living above. Did I miss the “love your neighbor”??

Why? Perhaps a fellow air line passenger’s remark might shed light on his lack of direct knowledge. She said her Israeli husband enters Palestine all the time. When I said I thought that was illegal, she replied, “Oh, he’s in an armored vehicle.”

Can we not understand, then, the longing of our neighbors to return home for their Easter? When we restrict or make so difficult for ordinary Palestinians to come to Jerusalem; Is this peacemaking? Can we not say, “Welcome to Jerusalem”?  

Of course, at the border each person can be checked. Do this through multiple gates with friendly security. By making it so cold and so difficult we only exacerbate tensions between the Palestinians and Israel: this a problem which could be soothed. Let Israel be the “good guy” and whatever Arab leadership which is supporting agitation be the “bad guy.”

“Next Year in Jerusalem” What does that mean to me as a Jew? It used to mean a physical place. Does it? Wasn’t that God’s point in the conflict between Abraham, the monotheist and Terah, the idol maker? God’s presence is not restricted to a place, a makom. Also, couldn’t that mean that the Messiah isn’t a male within the Davidic line? Couldn’t it mean, we by our behavior bring a Messianic age? Abraham Joshua Heschel speaks of Holiness in time: Shabbat.  Not a Holy language, or a Holy place or a Holy person. Judaism in not about a place or person it is about mitzvoth (good deeds without attachment). It is about gimelot hasadem (acts of loving kindness). It’s about a direct, intimate, standards based relationship with a loving, merciful and just God who cares about us.

Let our house be open wide for all people. The cup for Elijah. Welcoming strangers.

March 23

Don’t waste pain. It is a wonderful dinner (at least eight different salads!) with one the families. I am trying to convince (again) the mother of an adult offspring with Moderate Intellectual Disabilities that “it is not your fault.”We speak about not wasting pain and guilt; about its power to give us energy to persevere and to help others. She turns the tables on Super Nanny, asking me about my own guilt. Did I do all I could with Noah? I cannot speak. Here, alone on Noah’s birthday. I stammer though tears…”I did all I could.”

 It was not enough.

A door closing. No more Yesua, Yesua. Gam zu l’tova. While leaving there was not my idea, it is a reminder: I am not here to focus on my needs but the needs of Palestinians.

Four doors opening.

1 & 2.

I am working with two more families here in Beit Jala. One had a four year old who lost her language at one and a half. I observed her at her school then again at home. We (all of the family) agreed we would get her going with language by having her say (at least a part of the word) what she wanted to eat or do in order. The second family has a classic Adlerian “power seeker.” After a family council (of course at a terrific dinner) we agreed we would ignore his angering behavior: screaming and door slamming. When his behavior was more appropriate the family and extended family members would each spend quality time with him. Our goal is to make appropriate behavior more rewarding than inappropriate behaviors.

3. I spent the day at L’Arche. This is an intentional community of people which began with the insights and experiences of Jean Vanier. In this Center, handicapped and nonhandicapped individuals are in horizontal relationships: everyone goes by their first name, and they sit and work together. I have never been in a “Training Center for Moderately Intellectually Disabled persons quite like this one in all my years of practice. As the pompous Dean in the story of Patch Adams says, “there is an excess of happiness.” It is amazing. This adventure has found me in three such Centers all of whom have been outstanding…as good or better than those in the USA.

4. Parenting workshop. FAQ’s: How are children different from adults? How do I keep my child from annoying me when I’m on the phone, when friends visit? When I have other work to do? How can I make my child behave? How can I make my child smarter? Why should I breastfeed my child? Should my child sleep with me? How can I make my husband be more of a father? We covered about half of the agenda. Another is scheduled for this coming week.

OK.

Here’s an interesting cultural difference. What does this mean in the USA? Is it positive or negative?

Tune in next week to find out what a tiny variation in the three fingers means in the Middle East. What do you think? Positive? Negative?

3/23 Dental Care for the indigent in Beit Jala. Mara goes to the dentist for work on her tooth. He breaks the tooth then pulls it.

Why I keep a blog.

  1. Melissa Faye told me to!
  2. To keep me company
  3. To remember
  4. To deeply analyze the adventure or an event
  5. To share
  6. To maintain connections
  7. To boast (boo)
  8. To kevtch
Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 6:57 am  Comments (9)  

Goodbye January, Hello February

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Goodbye to January

Here I am, still. Four full weeks of January and onto February. It’s kinda like hiking the AT. The first weeks are really hard, then the trail captures you. Early on as you pass folks they ask, “How many miles have you walked? How many days?” You have not much to report early on, and then you reach a point where you’ve walked for ten days and 100 miles. Ah, that is a good feeling.

In spite of a thoughtful and detailed Carkhuff decision making matrix significantly favoring returning to work on a South Rome/Anna K. Davie Elementary School project! What was it that kept me from running home having already written the letter to Jackie (the Dean) and Kathy (the Provost) and another to Rotary?

Perhaps Linda’s question, “what changed.”? Melissa’s Goethe quote? Seeing small changes in the two Centers? Simon’s suggestion to stay in Jerusalem for Friday and Saturday? A warm, sunny break in the otherwise dark, wet, dreary, cold (will I ever get warm?) weather (boy, can I sympathize with Simon). The life-lines that are technology like Skype, Facebook and email? Shellie, Wade, Vic and Pam’s support? Figuring out the million details of life and travel between Israel and Palestine? The first joking with the Awwads. Some sense of a tiny but growing Arabic. Miss Bep’s Skype. Benj’s news and views? Videos of Gavin. The South Bend contingent having a much better Winter? Rabbis Abraham Joshua Heschel and Alan Lowe? Being able to journal on the BLOG (three entries of which will need to have new names to protect the confidences). Sensing God’s presence?

OK, this week.

En Gedihas adjusted to the fuel making new assembly line. The Center uses a form of Sociodrama wherein they play out fairy tales like The three little pIgs. I suggested a message from the story is to be careful around strangers. This notion is a good idea when it comes to Moderately Retarded Adults as they are vulnerable and easy targets. We’ll see how that plays out this week.

At Yesua, Yesua we are translating a parent permission letter and teacher referral form into usable Arabic. Sound easy? Try explaining “paying attention.” I’m also teaching the Piagetian assessment of logical thinking. I like its cross cultural power and nonverbal elements. Also cognition is a powerful friend assisting in social relations with skills like understanding consequences, predicting outcomes and being able to see both sides of an issue. I had a chance to construct a pendulum and a series of five minibridges to measure the ability of a child to separate variables. For those Berry folks reading this, the task traditionally uses the picture of a man walking along a diving board. Remember, from the developmental workup? I also had the chance to tape Moonlight Sonata and Ode To Joy for two of the kids who budding piano players. If Berry techies, Psych lab workers or Psych Department student workers would burn them on to a CD, give it to Glenda Helms in the Psych Dept to mail. Let her know your intent so we don’t get 50 copies.

Tomorrow (Sunday) morning, I’ll be working with my pediatrician colleague, Dr. Namir on a continuing and a new case. The proposal for a Birth to Three Child Development for children with PDD, mild neurologically impaired and/or speech and language disorders is continuing to develop now at its third draft.  Some sources of funding have been identified with more on the way. On Friday his uncle, he and I visited Mar Saba Orthodox Monastery. Mar Saba was a 5th century Monk whose ascetic followers numbered in the thousands.

I visited two Interfaith projects in Beit Jala: The Padeia program with volunteers rebuilding a ropes course just two blocks from Faisel’s. Faisel  and I walked there last week and donated a ball of twine to help lay out a walkway. (For Simon…when you hear Faisel think Peter John). Also in the Old City of Beit Jala is the real Information Center disseminating though their website  news, opinion and analysis from a more balanced perspective that one would find in Google News not to mention CNN. Souod was amazed to hear that American Television doesn’t cover the Middle East thoroughly!

I wonder if a parallel can be made between the effects of AIDS and the effects of the Occupation decimating the collective power of an extended family, the overall economy and education structures of the society. The tension between the Muslim and Christian communities is also putting pressure on the Orthodox Christians. The loss of continuity between generations (similar of the Hmung discussed in Mary Pipher’s (2002) The Middle of Everywhere.

Sasha’s cooking would be a story of its own. This week in addition to all the other specialties like quartered spiced chicken cooked in an airtight (door is covered with wet clay) Zarb we had:

  1. Spinach pastry
  2. Clove and sugar filled tarts
  3. Fresh hot Pita
  4. Tea with sage, or peppermint
  5. Cauliflower and rice
  6. Eggplant soup
  7. A stewed tomato and garlic dip
  8. Whole cabbage soaked in brine for 10 days
  9. Slivovitz based Arak –usually it is made from anise seed.

My upper lip then nose was numbed in the first 25 seconds!

Part of my overall project here is to examine how a “continuum of services” could be created in the Greater Beit Jala area. Right now huge gaps are present, namely no services for kids under three and none for Moderate/Severe Intellectual disabilities after 35-40. There is a Ministry of Education, Regional Directors, and an assortment of NGOs but no formal coordinating consortium of providers, partners, parents and clients.

Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 8:43 pm  Comments (1)  

for Noah on his birthday

Published in: on March 20, 2010 at 7:05 pm  Comments (7)