Society is often quick to pity those who have experienced suffering, but much slower to recognize their strength and resilience, Dr. Mads Gilbert said.
Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor at the Clinic of Emergency Medicine, gave a presentation yesterday on the resilience of Palestinians at “Eyes in Gaza,” which took place at the Red Lion Café on the College Avenue campus.
One resilient inspiration was a 14 year old named Khalil, the Palestinian boy who Gilbert met in 1982 after he had just lost his mother to an Israeli bombing raid. The boy himself had been dragged from the scene with an injured left arm, which was later amputated.
“A week later, I met the other side of Khalil,” Gilbert said. “Khalil had regained control, and he had taken full control in his own life.”
Khalil had insisted on dressing his own wounds without anesthesia and was up on his feet, helping and comforting patients around the hospital.
“We need all the time to look for the capacity to master, not only look for the failure,” Gilbert said. “Solidarity, not pity, will strengthen the patients.”
Half an hour before the event, the corridors outside the Red Lion Café were packed, and more than 50 people were unable to attend due to a high turnout.
Exhibition panels decorated in strings of lights displayed photos of injured Palestinian citizens, and guests received pamphlets from the Rutgers chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, which sponsored the event.
Luma Hasan, president of PCRF at Rutgers, said the presentation was meant to show students that they could make a difference. She had seen Gilbert speak last week and called it “incredible.”
“I know it’s going to be hard to watch,” said Hasan, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “I know it was for me, but at the end of the day, you know you can make a difference.”
Ammaar Ahmed, a sophomore in the School of Engineering, said he heard about the event on Facebook and was interested to hear about someone’s firsthand experiences on the ground.
Gilbert warned the audience that they would see a lot of man-made misery. Pictures of children in bandages and videos of a war-stricken zone were part of his slideshow.
The doctor said during the 1982 raid that took Khalil’s mother, the Israeli military cut off electricity, water and food supply.
“You are the change-makers,” Gilbert said. “The key to the change when it comes to the occupation of Palestine lies in the United States.”
Gilbert said he had great respect for the doctors who lived in Palestine and dedicated their lives to helping others.
To respect the traditions of the local community, Gilbert fasted along with his colleagues during Ramadan, despite working 24 hours on the day.
He said he was not a hero, but the doctors who worked in Shiva Hospital were. They are still at the location amidst the extreme difficulties.
Gilbert compiled his experiences in his book “Eyes in Gaza,” which has translations in Arabic and several other languages.
“One life is so valuable that we should use all the resources to save every life we can,” he said. “What we should never accept, of course, is to take life.”
There have been four successive attacks on Gaza by the Israeli government in the last eight years, Gilbert noted.
In the end, he stated what the people of Gaza need most is to be seen and treated as human beings.
“I just thought it was an interesting event because the doctor’s very famous,” Ahmed said. “I thought his experience is a very unique one.”
He showed the audience three pictures of Khalil. The first was a black-and-white photograph taken when Khalil was first injured. In the picture, Gilbert described the boy as “naked, unwanted and motherless.”
In the second, the boy is dressed and smiling, free of bandages. A third picture showed the hands of doctors as they taught him how to dress his own wounds.
“We were these anonymous hands facilitating the capacity of Khalil to manage himself,” he said.