My book ends in 2007, but it’s a pity, because the fast times keep on coming.

On Saturday, October 3, I went to Taybeh’s annual Oktoberfest. Taybeh is a Christian village northeast of Ramallah, home of the Taybeh Brewery that produces Palestine’s beer, also called Taybeh. Legend has it that Salah al Din (Saladin), the Kurdish general who drove the Crusaders out of Palestine, visited Taybeh (Biblical Ephraim) and declared its people to be “Taybeen” (kind folks) due to their generosity and hospitality. The word Taybeh also means ‘delicious,’ which fits their golden, preservative-free beer perfectly.


One of countless stunning views from Taybeh, this one from the Christian cemetery

Taybeh, like most Palestinian villages, is made up of white stone houses, schools, businesses, and places of worship (churches rather than mosques in this case) built on top of a hill with stunning views of terraced hills and Biblical valleys all around. The picturesque ruins of a Byzantine church, capped by an ornate white stone cross, mark the center of the town, and nearby are the City Hall grounds, where a stage had been set up. Inside City Hall itself, local arts and crafts, colorful embroidery and olive oil soap, food and wine, honey and beer were being sold. I arrived too late to see a Japanese group give a martial arts demonstration on the main stage. The connection is that Taybeh has licensed its family recipe to producers in Japan and Belgium (though Belgium didn’t offer any martial arts demonstrations).



I went to the brewery first. I’d been drinking Taybeh beer for so many years, I was excited to take a pilgrimage to the source. I’m not sure what I expected exactly. Perhaps some picturesque cottage with golden skies and waterfalls of beer pouring carelessly from giant wooden casks. This is what’s on the label, anyway. Or at least a huge gift shop. It’s the global center of Taybeh beer! They even have this gratuitous but awesome slogan: “Drink Palestinian. Taste the Revolution.” Who wouldn’t want a T-shirt with this and their logo on it, especially knowing it came from mild-mannered Christian beer makers?

The brewery was located on a beautiful hilltop, a rather small factory with giant metal casks mixing and brewing and a small industrial-grade bottling machine. Even the sign that indicated you had reached the factory was rather amateurishly hand-painted on the wall. No wooden casks. But I guess the taste of the beer speaks for itself.

We were given a quick tour of the facilities and then invited to the gift shop, where we could buy beer, wine, olive oil, T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, and post cards. To my disappointment, they didn’t have any “Taste the Revolution” T-shirts. If anyone in Taybeh is reading this, I think they’d sell like hotcakes. You’ve got a great slogan. Milk it.



I went back to City Hall, which was crowded with Palestinians and foreigners from all over the Holy Land. I was particularly impressed by the number of Palestinian-Israelis (usually called ‘Arab-Israelis’ to downplay their Palestinian identity) who showed up from Jerusalem, Nazareth, Akka, and elsewhere. They’ve started coming to Nablus to shop on Saturdays, and they’re always in Ramallah on the weekends taking over our bars and dance clubs since we’re so damn hip. Whatever your political convictions, on the ground this place is turning more and more into one state.

Since it was explicitly a festival celebrating alcohol, it drew a self-selected crowd. There were a few women in hijab there to see the traditional singing and dancing, people-watch, and shop. But for the most part it was a super-concentrated subset of the most liberal and laid-back Palestinians, and the atmosphere was beautifully calm and happy. Eye candy stretched as far as the eye could see, with everyone dressed to see and be seen. It felt like the old days, when I used to walk around Ramallah and know just about everyone. It was such a friendly party atmosphere and such a good feeling.

After stocking up on Christmas presents and touring the Byzantine ruins, I ran into an old friend from Jayyous and his buddies, and we walked up to the stage, front and center, and danced for five hours to Palestinian hip hop, traditional Palestinian music (with drum riffs that practically shake your shoulders for you), German jazz/ska, and a Palestinian rock-rap band from Jerusalem called CultureSHOC whose sound was so unique, I don’t think the ‘rock-rap’ label does it justice (and whose lead singers were such a good-looking couple, it just didn’t seem fair).


Later I was at Zan bar in Ramallah with some friends, and the lead singers walked in and sat at the table next to us. I wanted to say hi but couldn’t figure out how to pull it off without seeming fan-ish. One the one hand, you don’t stand up on a stage if you don’t want to be known. On the other hand, sometimes you just want to enjoy your beers in peace.

Still, it’s another of the things I love so much about Palestine. It’s such a beautifully local scene, yet it has a strong international component. It’s a microcosm of intensely interesting life with global implications. You feel like you’re in a small town at the center of the world. There’s no place quite like it.

We caught a service taxi home to Ramallah late at night when the Beer Fest was over for the day. We agreed that we’d go back the next day for more, but we all woke up too hung over and exhausted. Oh well. Looking forward to Taybeh Oktoberfest 2010, inshallah

My Roots

As for my book, I’m about to finish drafting Chapters 9-12, after which I’ll be in editing mode for the rest of 2009—my favorite thing. I can edit happily for hours without coming up for air. It’s just collecting notes, outlining, and drafting that’s like pulling teeth.

But guess what? My grandfather beat me to the punch! At age 82, he finished his first book, Stories from the Pen of Melvin Reavis, and my mother published it on It’s a lot of hilarious stories and great pictures from his youth as a farmer’s son in eastern Oklahoma during the Depression. They didn’t have a car or electricity, but they had plenty of cows and creeks and cousins, and as I recall, that’s all it takes to make a childhood awesome. Check out the first few stories here.

Gaza Betrayed

There’s bad news, though, in Palestine. The Goldstone Report recently came out, a UN investigation by former South African judge Richard Goldstone (who happens to be Jewish), which detailed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza earlier this year. The Israeli army killed about 1,400 Gazans, most of them civilians, hundreds of them children, while Palestinians killed three Israeli civilians and six soldiers. (Four more Israeli soldiers were killed by ‘friendly fire.’) Due to the gross discrepancy between the death counts, the report focuses more on Israel’s crimes than on Hamas’, which the Israelis claim indicates a bias against Israel.

Really? How about next time, you kill only nine people, one-third of them civilians, instead of 1,400, two-thirds of them civilians. Then we’ll talk about equal coverage of crimes. And by the way, do you really want to hold yourself to no higher standard than Hamas?

Alleged crimes committed by the Israeli army include shooting people who were waving white flags, destroying factories, restaurants, museums, schools, UN buildings, power plants, and neighborhoods, denying medical treatment to dying women and children, and shooting deadly white phosphorus into civilian areas. The meta-crime is the idea of collectively punishing entire civilian populations, first with the blockade and mass imprisonments, then with shooting and blowing up people and their homes, schools, and businesses in shocking excess in order to ‘deter’ rocket fire.

As I wrote earlier regarding the Israeli assault on Lebanon in 2006, “Imagine if Northern Irish militants raided London and killed four British soldiers and captured two [or, in the case of Gaza, killed half a dozen civilians with home made rockets to retaliate for a deadly* and illegal blockade and several violations of a ceasefire], and in response Britain bombed Irish civilian areas and infrastructure from north to south including villages and cities, roads, bridges, ports, dairy farms, cell phone towers, homes, apartment buildings, and fleeing vehicles. Imagine if they flattened several suburbs in Dublin that were sympathetic to Sinn Fein. Imagine if, in the course of the attacks, Britain killed 1,200 Irish people, 90% of them civilians, one-third of them children. This is essentially what Israel is doing to Lebanon. It will be precisely as effective, and it is legal and moral to the same degree.”

The numbers are slightly different, but the overall thrust of what was done to Gaza is the same.

[* I say the blockade was deadly because aside from the workaday malnutrition due to the shut-down of the Gaza economy and blockade on humanitarian aid that stunts the growth of many children and sometimes results in death, scores of cancer patients and other sick people have died because the Israeli government refused to allow them to leave the Gaza Strip to seek medical treatment.]

You might ask, “But doesn’t Israel have a right to defend itself?” My answer is and has always been, “Of course.” But this is a red herring. The questions is not whether Israel has a right to defend itself — no one seriously disputes this. But imagine if your country drove thousands of people from their homes and concentrated them into a ghetto, and then imposed a hermetic seal on this ghetto so that even basic goods couldn’t get in or out. Imagine if a minority of these people decided to fight back using nefarious means such as targeting your civilians with home-made weapons that have a 0.5% kill rate (i.e., one in 200 finds its target). Would you be justified in storming into this ghetto and killing 100 random people, mostly civilians, for each of your people — civilian or soldier — killed in order to ‘deter’ the ghettoized people from fighting back? What about destroying their factories and further making a dignified life impossible for them?

This is especially ironic considering where the international laws forbidding collective punishment came from:

“Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions collective punishments are a war crime. By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and World War II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resort to ‘intimidatory measures to terrorize the population’ in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices ‘strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice.'”

Does Israel really think such outrageous collective punishments will bring peace and security? Imagine what Gaza kids grow up seeing and thinking. Imagine watching your mother suffer and die because she can’t get basic medicine or because she was shot while waving a white flag. Given their situation (which is nearly impossible to understand fully if you don’t see it for yourself, though my book tries its best to explain, starting from the beginning), the miracle is that so few turn to violence. The only way the Holy Land can ever have peace is if all people are allowed their basic rights to life and liberty.

If you don’t believe the Israeli army is capable of deliberately targeting civilians, well, I’m guessing you haven’t spent more than a year working as a journalist and detailing the circumstances surrounding every Palestinian death every single morning. But to get an idea of the cheapness of Palestinian life in the eyes of some Israelis, see this article in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which says among other things: “A T-shirt [made] for [Israeli] infantry snipers bears the inscription ‘Better use Durex,’ next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, ‘1 shot, 2 kills.’”


Or you can read this article, where an Israeli soldier says his overriding impression of Gaza operations was ‘chaos’ and the ‘indiscriminate use of force.’ “Gaza was considered a playground for sharpshooters,” he explained.

This article was written in 2005. Indiscriminate force is nothing new in Gaza. It was just the scale of the slaughter in 2009 that caught the world’s attention. After ten years of being treated like fish in a barrel, Goldstone finally gave Gazans a voice. This is what’s being done to us. The world ought to know.

The UN Human Rights Council was going to vote to pass the Goldstone Report to the UN General Assembly for further action, potentially leading to sanctions or prosecution for war crimes at the International Criminal Court if Israel refused to undertake a credible investigation of their own actions. (So far Israel has refused this step. They did a perfunctory ‘investigation’ and found themselves innocent of all charges, as usual, but to say it didn’t meet international standards would be a laughable understatement.) It’s hard to overstate how important this step was to the millions of Palestinians and their supporters who have been working for justice based on international law for decades.

And what did the Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas, do? Under intense pressure from the US, Abbas caved and supported a six-month delay of the vote, effectively thwarting and delegitimizing it. How can any other country stand up to the US and support justice for Palestinians when the Palestinian Authority itself won’t? Six months is plenty of time for Israel and it’s international team of lawyers to bury the thing entirely and the rest of the world to forget about it.

Why on earth would Abbas do this? Why would the Obama Administration demand it? Well, the Obama Administration needs a ‘peace process’ (and doesn’t need flak from the Israel lobby), and Netanyahu has threatened to withdraw from it if the Goldstone report gets a hearing. In order to keep good relations with the US, his European Union paymasters, and his Israeli prison wardens (who decide whether investments can come into the West Bank, many of which are incredibly lucrative for Abbas and his men), Abbas had no choice but to back down.

In the eyes of Palestinians, Abbas threw away his ace in the hole in return for… nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Israel had been threatening not to release the necessary frequencies to allow a second telecom company to open in the West Bank. There’s only one Palestinian cell phone company now, Jawwal, and its only competition is a handful of Israeli companies, such as Orange and Cellcom, which operate in the West Bank on behalf of the settlers but aren’t shy to take advantage of the captive Palestinian market.

According to Jonathan Cook, a British journalist based in Nazareth: “The only existing Palestinian operator, Jawwal, a subsidiary of PalTel, has been blocked from building communications infrastructure in the so-called Area C of the West Bank, comprising 60 percent of the territory, which is designated under full Israeli control… Typically, Palestinians traveling outside the major population areas of the West Bank find a limited or non-existent Jawwal service and therefore have to rely on the Israeli companies. A World Bank report last year found that as much as 45 percent of the Palestinian mobile phone market may be in the hands of the Israeli companies. In violation of the Oslo accords, these firms do not pay taxes to the PA for their commercial activity, losing the Palestinian treasury revenues of up to $60 million a year.”

The new company, Qatari-owned Wataniya, could bring in investments worth $700 million, provide jobs for hundreds of Palestinians, and further enrich the upper echelons of the Palestinian Authority.

Shalom Kital, an aide to defence minister Ehud Barak, said Israel would not release the frequencies unless the PA dropped its efforts to prosecute Israeli soldiers and officers for their actions in Gaza. “It’s a condition,” said Kital. “We are saying to the Palestinians that if you want a normal life and are trying to embark on a new way, you must stop your incitement. We are helping the Palestinian economy but one thing we ask them is to stop with these embarrassing charges.”

Aside from a pittance of cellular bandwidth, what do the Palestinians expect in return for not ‘embarrassing’ Israel over the massive bloodshed in Gaza? Most expect nothing more than another charade of a ‘peace process’ in which settlements continue to expand, Palestinian leaders continue to bend over backwards, Israel continues to say it’s never enough, and two or three or ten years down the line, we’ll have more settlements, a more thoroughly entrapped and powerless Palestinian population, and no peace—like now, only worse. Some kind of violence will be inevitable, and a fair two-state solution will recede ever further on the horizon. That’s been the trend since at least 1993.

Here’s one Israeli commentator: “The chronic submissiveness is always explained by a desire to ‘make progress.’ But for the PLO and Fatah, progress is the very continued existence of the Palestinian Authority, which is now functioning more than ever before as a subcontractor for the [Israeli occupation].”

Or as a Palestinian commentator put it: “The PA serves Israel by facilitating the occupation—which is why Israel invented it in the first place [with the Oslo Accords], just as, historically speaking, colonial powers have always attempted to create or coerce local elites into helping them deal with the population at large. This approach is perhaps most gracefully summarized in Macaulay’s Minute on Indian Education of 1835: ‘We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.’ Why would the PA want to bring to an end an arrangement from which it benefits? As the French scholar Regis Debray points out, the status quo provides the PA elites in Ramallah ‘with a living, status, dignity and a raison d’être.’”

And, particularly if the mobile phone contract story turns out to be true, some very decent scratch besides.

Palestinian supporters of Abbas’ decision (and they are few and far between) say the vote has only been delayed until March, and knowing this sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads might make both Netanyahu and the Hamas leadership more cooperative in the meantime. But there are lots of problems with this. First, you have to assume Netanyahu cares what the rest of the world thinks, or that global attention to and support for the Goldstone Report will remain the same until March. Second, you assume Abbas might actually defy his masters at that time.

Third, Hamas just released a video of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit showing he was alive and in good health. In exchange, Israel freed twenty female Palestinian prisoners. (Most Palestinian prisoners are either political prisoners or held without charge.)

So over in Gaza, Hamas captured a soldier and got prisoners released (and will likely get hundreds more released when they let Schalit go). In Ramallah, Abbas is groveling at the feet of Netanyahu and defying the will of his own people and the international human rights community in order to save a peace process that looks like it won’t go anywhere.

If Abbas hadn’t already lost the Palestinian street to Hamas, he’s doing a great job of it now.

(Incidentally, the most hilarious part of the whole debacle was Abbas’ reaction to the backlash on the Palestinian street against his decision to thwart the Goldstone report. He opened an investigation to find out what happened exactly and who was behind the decision to delay the vote. LOL! I’m totally going to do that next time I, for example, tell someone I’ll call them and then don’t call them. If they ask why I didn’t call, I’ll be like, “Oh, sorry, I’ll open an investigation to find out what happened and who was behind this serious breach of etiquette…”)

On the other other hand… Another Haaretz commentator thinks Netanyahu actually lost this last round in a big way, and that Obama fooled not only him, but the usual talking heads (on both sides) as well. He says Obama pushed the settlement freeze knowing Netanyahu would refuse, and set up the alternative as “urgent and unconditional permanent-status negotiations with the Palestinians on all issues, with active American shepherding”—something Netanyahu came into office trying his best to avoid. But now he’s embracing it since it seems like a victory for him to begin negotiations without preconditions (i.e., without ceasing to expand settlements). The Goldstone Report would have just muddied those waters.

It’s a tricky and tenuous argument, and again it assumes Netanyahu actually has an interest in negotiations based on international law, which he’s never given any indication he does, “given that his opening positions, on territory or Jerusalem for instance, fly in the face of U.S. and international consensus and previous Israeli precedents.”

But as one unnamed Jerusalem officials said, “U.S. assistance in curbing the effects of the Goldstone report will produce significant pressure on Israel by the Obama administration to move forward with the diplomatic process… After they [the U.S.] saved us from Goldstone, and our argument relied on the desire to advance peace, the Americans will want to see an Israeli move toward peace talks with the Palestinians.”

Hopefully by the end of the year, with the global economy (at least appearing to be) back on the rails and the increasingly manic US health care debate under control, we’ll start to see which direction we’re heading in here in the Middle East. Maybe Abbas and Obama are subtle geniuses, and the rest of us need to catch up. Or maybe it’s the same old khara.

We’ll find out fairly soon.


Whatever the case, we all felt sick about Abbas’ latest humiliating capitulation and especially distraught to think about the people of Gaza, who have already suffered so much, getting slapped in the face yet again by not only the world’s indifference, but the seeming indifference of their own President. People weren’t thrilled with Abbas in the first place, and now they’re becoming dangerously restive. The kindest of the demands I’m hearing are for him to resign. A demonstration was organized in Ramallah on Monday at noon to march on Al Manara (Ramallah’s central traffic circle) and protest the move.

I was a little nervous to go, because things aren’t like they used to be in 2005. Back then, you could march wherever you wanted and say whatever you wanted as long as you didn’t directly confront any Israeli soldiers, settlements, Walls, or army infrastructure. Well, that’s not really true—Israelis can invade whenever they want and arrest or beat or kill whomever they want. But you could say whatever you wanted amongst yourselves and protest in your own streets while the world ignored you, and the PA didn’t bother you.

Now the West Bank policemen are starting to get trained by the US. This may sound like a good thing, even a generous thing, until you remember that the Egyptian and Jordanian police are also trained by the US. And these aren’t exactly democratic regimes they’re protecting and propping up, and they have questionable human rights records to say the very least. Palestinians are wary that their country, which before sort of managed itself within its cage given that the Palestinian Authority never really had much authority, is being slowly turned into another dictatorial police state.

A European friend of mine who speaks fluent Arabic and has been here for years said the moment it really hit him what was happening was when his car was stopped by a Palestinian policeman in Al Manara. The policeman said, “Open your trunk.”

My friend laughed and said, “What is this, Qalandia?” Qalandia is the infamous checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, where Israeli soldiers check every vehicle and every person passing through. He expected the policeman to laugh and look sheepish. Instead he looked him in the eye in a way that clearly said, “Don’t mess with me, kid.”

That was when it hit him. This wasn’t just one policeman playing Israeli soldier. This was getting serious. At best, it means a victory for the rule of law, which, as we all know, means very little without some mechanism to enforce it. But the question is: Whose rule of law? If the PA represents the will of the Palestinian people, fine. But more and more it seems not to be doing this at all. The Palestinian people tried to react in 2006 by electing Hamas—anyone but Fatah. But the world said, “Bad Palestinian people! Wrong vote! No democracy for you!” and still won’t talk with more than half of their elected representatives. Not to mention the fact that Abbas’ term as President ended more than a year ago, but elections have been postponed indefinitely since the schism between the West Bank and Gaza. So to further entrench an unrepresentative authority smells pretty rotten to the Palestinian people.

(There’s another hilarious story I want to tell right now about a spontaneous and humorous but very telling demonstration of disgust for Abbas including by people who draw their paychecks from the PA, but I’m censoring myself because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice.)

Anyway, we marched on Al Manara, and the police stood on the sidelines and watched. Some people even waved to them. They are, after all, the friends and sons and brothers of the Palestinian people—just like all soldiers and all people, even the ones who commit human rights abuses. The demonstration walked around the block a few times and then congregated in Al Manara for a while. The Israelis ignored it. The international press ignored it. The police watched to make sure it didn’t get out of hand, and it didn’t. Gazans might get a momentary feeling of solidarity, but then it’s back to the smashed cinderblock grind.



The first picture above is a homeless family taking shelter in ruins in Gaza. I took the second picture of two friends of mine, a cameraman and a photographer—both Palestinian—filming each other. It’s kind of a metaphor of what goes on at these non-violent demonstrations. The only people who see them are the ones who already know.

Still, as useless as it was, it felt good to march with people who felt the same way about something important. And I ran into an old friend who has a new daughter, and I’m excited to visit him and his wife soon. And I went into Zeit ou Zaatar for lunch and had a fresh-baked musakhan sandwich and flirted with the cute waiters. So it wasn’t a totally terrible Monday.


There’s more bad news, though. A friend of mine, Mohammad Othman from Jayyous, was recently arrested on his way back to the West Bank from Norway. Israeli security nabbed him at the Allenby Bridge border crossing. His crime? We have no idea. He’s being held in ‘administrative detention,’ which means he’s in prison without charge or trial. His stay has already been extended while they gather evidence against him.

Um… aren’t you supposed to arrest people after you have evidence against them?

Anyway, it’s probably going to be a bogus process where they’ll tell another prisoner or collaborator that he can get out of jail, get a permit to work in Israel, or be given permission to take their sick mother to a hospital if he points a finger at Mohammad. Naturally, to protect the collaborator, this evidence will be top secret. Mohammad and his lawyer won’t be allowed to see it.

Who is Mohammad? One of the most active non-violent activists in the West Bank who works tirelessly to educate the world about the illegal theft and destruction of Palestinian life, land, and property by the Israeli army. For anyone who asks, “Where’s the Palestinian Gandhi?” (a back-handed way to blame the Palestinians for the entire situation, implicitly saying, “Israel wants peace but just doesn’t have a partner to make peace with”), well—here’s one. Among many. And how do the Israelis react? Mohammad is not the first, and he won’t be the last, non-violent activist to be arrested, beaten, seriously injured, or killed by Israel.

For Palestinians, activism is not a careless weekend activity like it is in California. They risk their lives and the further deterioration of their freedom if they dare speak up.

Mohammad was on his way home from an educational tour in Europe when he was arrested. Here’s more info. He’s a sweet guy with a great smile, a big heart, and brass… well, you get the idea. He doesn’t deserve this. He’s being held for days and days, interrogated repeatedly, and probably treated horribly. It makes my stomach hurt to think about it. People in the know predict he’ll be in jail for about six months and eventually released without charge. A little half-year vacation from educating the world about his people’s situation, courtesy of the Israeli army. I hope not. I hope he’s released soon.

Mohammad in Jayyous

Last we heard, he was being held in solitary confinement in filthy conditions, and his health was deteriorating.

Speaking of prisoners, there’s no change in the status of Rania and Sharif. He’s still in prison and she’s still completely without support other than what I can scrape together. I’m traveling to Tulkarem tomorrow to speak with the mayor and try to get insurance and a job or at least financial aid for her. It seems the only way you can get anything done is to know somebody who knows somebody. With the help of a German friend whose Palestinian friend is the best friend of a human rights advocate in the PA, we finally have a chance to get Rania the help she needs. (The PA, though it has its problem, also has amazing people who are doing their very best for the Palestinian people. Nothing’s ever perfectly black or white.)

I’m also taking her a trunk-load of baby clothes. I sent one email to the Ramallah email list asking if anyone had old baby clothes I could give to a friend in need, and within a week I had more than I knew what to do with. I could seriously start my own baby clothes store right now.

In the likely event we don’t find Rania a job or adequate financial aid, I’ll need to gather at least enough money to get her through the winter and the first three months of her baby daughter’s life. I’ll let you know what this turns out to be—probably on the order of $1,000. My PayPal account is Small donations of ten or twenty dollars add up very quickly. Thanks so much for all your help so far.