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There are situations in our lives where old beliefs are confronted and challenged by experiences which impact how we view things, find discount keppra and how we look at the world overall.  Gaza moves a New York City mom from apathy to activism Debbie Mardon (left) and her Palestinian-American husband Mahmoud Bitar (center) attend a demonstration on 31 May demonstration in Times Square against Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Find discount keppra (Ellen Davidson) Alex Kane writing from New York City Last New Year's Eve, find discount keppra Debbie Mardon did not celebrate with noise makers or confetti -- instead, find discount keppra she headed to Cairo's main square to participate in the Gaza Freedom March with her daughter Jenna Bitar, find discount keppra 18, find discount keppra and son Joel, find discount keppra 23. Amid police violence aimed at protesters and Egyptian security forces blockading them inside their hotel, find discount keppra Debbie, find discount keppra 55, find discount keppra a native New Yorker, find discount keppra said that protesting in Cairo "was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life." It was an unlikely place to be for a previously apolitical mother who voted for George W. Find discount keppra Bush and as recently as three years ago relied on right-wing radio hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to help her make sense of the world. More than 1, find discount keppra300 activists from 43 countries traveled to Cairo to take part in the Gaza Freedom March, find discount keppra a demonstration aimed at bringing attention to the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. Since 2006, find discount keppra after the Islamist movement Hamas won democratic elections, find discount keppra Israel and Egypt have completely blockaded this besieged coastal strip on the Mediterranean, find discount keppra only allowing in basic humanitarian aid. Find discount keppra The situation worsened in December 2008, find discount keppra when Israel invaded Gaza, find discount keppra eventually killing about 1, find discount keppra400 Palestinians, find discount keppra the majority of them civilians. Debbie and her children, find discount keppra like the rest of the activists who participated in the Gaza Freedom March, find discount keppra were outraged at what many have labeled the "Gaza massacre." The three-year journey for Debbie, find discount keppra her husband Mahmoud and their two children from political indifference to passionate involvement in the Palestine solidarity community has brought them closer together as a family, find discount keppra and they now regularly attend demonstrations together. For Debbie, find discount keppra things came to a head during the attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-09. Find discount keppra It was a personally harrowing time -- both she and Mahmoud had lost their mothers and a good friend had been placed in a nursing home, find discount keppra and Debbie decided it was time to find out more about what was happening in Palestine. She started attending talks and lectures about Palestine, find discount keppra and one in particular, find discount keppra featuring Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at Columbia University, find discount keppra left an indelible impression. "It was jaw-dropping. Find discount keppra He showed us photos of dying and maimed children, find discount keppra children burned from the white phosphorous, find discount keppra and the photos had me in tears. Find discount keppra Then he said, find discount keppra this suffering is not caused by a natural disaster, find discount keppra it is political, find discount keppra it is foreign policy and you can no longer be silent while your government supports this. Find discount keppra After that I made an effort to find out how I could get involved, find discount keppra" Debbie said. Native New Yorker Debbie, find discount keppra tall, find discount keppra outgoing and buoyant, find discount keppra can be found in her fifth floor walk-up apartment on the Upper East Side. Find discount keppra She is welcoming and quick to offer dinner and drinks. Find discount keppra The apartment she shares with her Palestinian-American husband and two kids is snug, find discount keppra with enough room to feel comfortable but not enough to avoid each other if everyone's home. There are pictures of Jenna in a Halloween costume in the kitchen, find discount keppra plants around the living room, find discount keppra a comfortable couch and a black cat named Blossom. Find discount keppra Their bookshelf is filled with the works of Noam Chomsky, find discount keppra Chris Hedges and Norman Finkelstein and flyers advertising leftist events in the city are posted near the refrigerator. Three years ago, find discount keppra Debbie would have been on the couch watching Bill O'Reilly and reading conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. Debbie took comfort in Fox News' slant on the world. Find discount keppra "I wanted to know that someone out there was watching so our country wasn't torn apart by unpatriotic voices, find discount keppra" she said. But for most of Debbie's life, find discount keppra politics were not important. Find discount keppra One of five siblings, find discount keppra she grew up in the Bedford Park neighborhood in the Bronx and attended Walton High School. Find discount keppra Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked as an electrician. Debbie went to the City College School of Architecture, find discount keppra where she first met her future husband, find discount keppra Mahmoud Bitar, find discount keppra a Palestinian-American, find discount keppra at the end of their sophomore year. Find discount keppra Mahmoud was taken with Debbie starting with the first time they met. "We talked under a tree in the rain on campus. Find discount keppra I saw her heart and fell in love, find discount keppra" Mahmoud said. When Debbie first met Mahmoud, find discount keppra she did not understand what it meant to be someone from Palestine. Find discount keppra Mahmoud was uncomfortable with his heritage, find discount keppra and he let people, find discount keppra including Debbie when they started dating, find discount keppra think he was Jewish or Italian. Find discount keppra Debbie recalls how "people said things to him like, find discount keppra 'You're not a Palestinian, find discount keppra you're too nice.'" Born in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1958, find discount keppra Mahmoud was brought up immersed in the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Find discount keppra He lived in Jericho, find discount keppra a city in the West Bank, find discount keppra for the first ten years of his life after his family moved there because his father had set up a station in Jericho selling fruits and vegetables. Find discount keppra In 1967, find discount keppra when the war broke out, find discount keppra Mahmoud and his family returned to Jerusalem after Israeli bombs killed three of his relatives. As soon as Mahmoud and his two brothers were college-aged, find discount keppra their parents sent them to the United States. Find discount keppra Mahmoud, find discount keppra now a US citizen, find discount keppra arrived in the country in 1977 on a student visa. After getting married in 1980 and graduating from college three years later, find discount keppra Debbie and Mahmoud had their first child, find discount keppra Joel, find discount keppra in 1986, find discount keppra and their second, find discount keppra Jenna, find discount keppra in 1992. Find discount keppra Debbie worked part-time at an architectural firm while raising their children. Mahmoud, find discount keppra who has curly hair and seems to always have a twinkle in his eye, find discount keppra speaks in calm and at times airy tones, find discount keppra a contrast to Debbie's more forward and pointed way of talking. Find discount keppra He currently works as an architect for New York City's Administration for Children's Services. For most of their marriage and while raising Jenna and Joel, find discount keppra Mahmoud rarely talked about his childhood in Palestine. "I never got a greater picture, find discount keppra it was just bad things were happening to the Palestinians, find discount keppra or at least my family that was Palestinian, find discount keppra" Jenna said. Find discount keppra "I visited there before I knew what was going on, find discount keppra for three weeks, find discount keppra with my grandparents when they were alive. Find discount keppra I lived the life they lived for a bit, find discount keppra saw the checkpoints, find discount keppra but I didn't understand." 11 September 2001 The 11 September 2001 attacks jolted Debbie's political perspective, find discount keppra and made Mahmoud more nervous about his background as a Palestinian, find discount keppra especially as thousands of Middle Eastern men were profiled and arrested throughout New York City. Debbie had just dropped Jenna off at school when she returned home and watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center on television. Debbie turned to Fox News for clarity. "That was the first time I started learning about foreign policy, find discount keppra and why someone would attack us, find discount keppra" Debbie said. But Debbie and Mahmoud rarely discussed post-11 September politics. "We didn't discuss it, find discount keppra I just listened. Find discount keppra Debbie's a leader by nature, find discount keppra so she always led with the remote control, find discount keppra" Mahmoud recalled. Find discount keppra "She had the remote control with her so she would pick the information, find discount keppra and I would retreat when I had really had enough of it." Joel was apathetic about politics at the time, find discount keppra and Jenna stayed by her mother's side as she watched Fox. Debbie's close attention to post-11 September politics did not last for too long after the Iraq War started in 2003, find discount keppra though, find discount keppra as her trust in the government slipped when the US did not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. However, find discount keppra a series of events in 2008 would bring politics back into the family's life in a prominent way, find discount keppra and they have not turned back since. Injustice and transformation Debbie's family started attending the Redeemer Presbyterian Church almost twenty years ago. Find discount keppra While they were initially drawn to the church, find discount keppra which met at Hunter College, find discount keppra by a smart and interesting pastor, find discount keppra over the years the congregation became a second family for all of them. However, find discount keppra they were forced to leave this community in March 2008 after Mahmoud, find discount keppra who worked at the church on Sundays, find discount keppra was accused of stealing a CD of a church sermon. Find discount keppra He was arrested by a City University of New York security guard and charged with assaulting an officer, find discount keppra resisting arrest and misdemeanor theft -- charges that Debbie and her family say were ridiculous and were later dropped. "It was a small thing in the larger world, find discount keppra but it happened to us, find discount keppra" Debbie recalled. Find discount keppra "I thought that we would be immune to all this, find discount keppra and that the community we were a part of would care about truth and care about justice being served, find discount keppra but they didn't care about either of those things. Find discount keppra It opened my eyes to greater injustices. Find discount keppra I used to think that people who went to jail were probably guilty. Find discount keppra But now, find discount keppra I thought, find discount keppra 'Oh my goodness! There are all these people in jail that are probably innocent.' Michael could've gone to jail, find discount keppra but he had a private lawyer. Find discount keppra What happens if you're poor?" she said, find discount keppra using the nickname that Mahmoud had used when he first came to the US. Nine months later, find discount keppra on 27 December 2008, find discount keppra Israel invaded the Gaza Strip, find discount keppra beginning what would be a devastating assault. "It was during Gaza that we started to awaken, find discount keppra" said Joel, find discount keppra who at the time was first foraying into politics by joining an antiwar organization at Hunter College and reading books about US foreign policy and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Find discount keppra "Killing civilians indiscriminately with US weapons, find discount keppra paid for with our tax money, find discount keppra seemed to be so hideously wrong." During what Amnesty International called "22 days of death and destruction, find discount keppra" Debbie could not avoid the Gaza conflict, find discount keppra especially because Mahmoud's brother Farid, find discount keppra who was glued to Al-Jazeera's coverage of the assault, find discount keppra was emotionally devastated. Joel, find discount keppra who was reading books like Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle: The United States, find discount keppra Israel and the Palestinians, find discount keppra also started to talk with Debbie about the detrimental impact of US foreign policy on Palestine. After those 22 days were over, find discount keppra Debbie started going to lectures and protests about the conflict and soon found herself enmeshed in the world of Palestine solidarity activism. Find discount keppra Although described as the "leader" of the household, find discount keppra she was the last person to finally call herself an activist. The assault on Gaza also made Mahmoud become more engaged with the Palestine solidarity movement. "It's a natural conclusion to what happened in Gaza, find discount keppra" Mahmoud said. Find discount keppra "Our breath is being taken out of us. Find discount keppra I felt an urgency to start having a voice." In the last two years, find discount keppra the household has been transformed. Find discount keppra Jenna described how sometimes, find discount keppra before she goes to sleep, find discount keppra Debbie will run into her room and "just read me books out loud, find discount keppra" including passages from the work of Chris Hedges and Michael Parenti. Find discount keppra "She'll come and say, find discount keppra 'I have to read you this passage, find discount keppra it's so good' and it'll be something sad and depressing, find discount keppra" Jenna said, find discount keppra laughing. These days, find discount keppra it is nearly impossible to miss Debbie and members of her family at activist events related to Palestine. Find discount keppra The actions they frequent include protesting with Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, find discount keppra in the group's campaign against Lev Leviev. Find discount keppra An Israeli billionaire who owns a jewelry store in Manhattan, find discount keppra Leviev is involved with companies that invest in and construct illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. "She's really knowledgeable. Find discount keppra She has really educated herself on Palestine, find discount keppra" says Helen Schiff, find discount keppra a New York-based activist who has become close friends with Debbie over the past two years. Find discount keppra "She has a voracious mind, find discount keppra and she's very, find discount keppra very smart." However, find discount keppra her transition into political activism has not come without a cost for Debbie and her family. Find discount keppra Her passion for politics has "caused a lot of stress on our relationship, find discount keppra" said Mahmoud. Find discount keppra "There's always a cost to anything, find discount keppra and it's drawing from our reservoir." Some of her friends worry she is on the "wrong political track." One friend, find discount keppra Debbie said, find discount keppra told her, find discount keppra "I'm worried for your children." Debbie believes that this kind of reaction stems from the fact that the life she and her family have chosen to live is unconventional. "We're looking at the world from a whole different perspective, find discount keppra and it's a harder way to live. Find discount keppra Most people that I know would not want that -- they would want a pretty status quo type of life, find discount keppra" Debbie said. While some of Debbie's friends avoid discussing Mideast politics with her, find discount keppra Debbie is eager to talk with friends who are interested in learning more about Israel's occupation of Palestine. In 2009 Debbie took her brother to a talk by scholar Norman Finkelstein at the Brecht Forum, find discount keppra a political and social educational center on Manhattan's west side. Find discount keppra Her brother, find discount keppra a Democrat and strong supporter of Barack Obama, find discount keppra said he was "shocked" by the realities of the situation in Gaza. But for Debbie, find discount keppra knowledge is just the first step of many -- she helped raise money for students participating in the Gaza Freedom March in 2009, find discount keppra and helped organize a protest outside a Friends of the IDF fundraiser at the Waldorf-Astoria earlier this spring. With Jenna attending college in the fall and Joel working as a doorman in the Upper East Side, find discount keppra Debbie plans to continue her part-time job, find discount keppra as well as her involvement in the Palestine solidarity movement. "It is essential that the movement continue to grow. Find discount keppra Hopefully, find discount keppra in this economic climate, find discount keppra Americans will decide that there are better uses for their money besides supporting unending wars that will fuel terrorism, find discount keppra not end it, find discount keppra" Debbie said. She used to think individuals could not change anything in the world. Find discount keppra And she still thinks that. "Over a long time you can change [the world], find discount keppra but personally, find discount keppra me? Coming along and changing anything, find discount keppra it's unlikely, find discount keppra" Debbie said. "But I can have a part ... Find discount keppra I want to change things badly, find discount keppra but that's not even the thing that motivates me any longer, find discount keppra" she said. Find discount keppra "It's just that I can no longer sit by and watch things happen and not speak out and at least be a voice shouting out there." Alex Kane is a 21-year-old college student, find discount keppra journalist and blogger based in New York City. Find discount keppra He is a reporter for the Indypendent, find discount keppra and a frequent contributor to Mondoweiss. Find discount keppra His articles have also appeared in Common Dreams, find discount keppra Red Pepper (UK), find discount keppra and Palestine Chronicle. Find discount keppra Original article can be found at: