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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, order discount celexa 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. Order discount celexa (Ellen Davidson) Alex Kane writing from New York City Last New Year's Eve, order discount celexa Debbie Mardon did not celebrate with noise makers or confetti -- instead, order discount celexa she headed to Cairo's main square to participate in the Gaza Freedom March with her daughter Jenna Bitar, order discount celexa 18, order discount celexa and son Joel, order discount celexa 23. Amid police violence aimed at protesters and Egyptian security forces blockading them inside their hotel, order discount celexa Debbie, order discount celexa 55, order discount celexa a native New Yorker, order discount celexa 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. Order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa300 activists from 43 countries traveled to Cairo to take part in the Gaza Freedom March, order discount celexa a demonstration aimed at bringing attention to the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. Since 2006, order discount celexa after the Islamist movement Hamas won democratic elections, order discount celexa Israel and Egypt have completely blockaded this besieged coastal strip on the Mediterranean, order discount celexa only allowing in basic humanitarian aid. Order discount celexa The situation worsened in December 2008, order discount celexa when Israel invaded Gaza, order discount celexa eventually killing about 1, order discount celexa400 Palestinians, order discount celexa the majority of them civilians. Debbie and her children, order discount celexa like the rest of the activists who participated in the Gaza Freedom March, order discount celexa were outraged at what many have labeled the "Gaza massacre." The three-year journey for Debbie, order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa and they now regularly attend demonstrations together. For Debbie, order discount celexa things came to a head during the attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-09. Order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa and Debbie decided it was time to find out more about what was happening in Palestine. She started attending talks and lectures about Palestine, order discount celexa and one in particular, order discount celexa featuring Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at Columbia University, order discount celexa left an indelible impression. "It was jaw-dropping. Order discount celexa He showed us photos of dying and maimed children, order discount celexa children burned from the white phosphorous, order discount celexa and the photos had me in tears. Order discount celexa Then he said, order discount celexa this suffering is not caused by a natural disaster, order discount celexa it is political, order discount celexa it is foreign policy and you can no longer be silent while your government supports this. Order discount celexa After that I made an effort to find out how I could get involved, order discount celexa" Debbie said. Native New Yorker Debbie, order discount celexa tall, order discount celexa outgoing and buoyant, order discount celexa can be found in her fifth floor walk-up apartment on the Upper East Side. Order discount celexa She is welcoming and quick to offer dinner and drinks. Order discount celexa The apartment she shares with her Palestinian-American husband and two kids is snug, order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa plants around the living room, order discount celexa a comfortable couch and a black cat named Blossom. Order discount celexa Their bookshelf is filled with the works of Noam Chomsky, order discount celexa Chris Hedges and Norman Finkelstein and flyers advertising leftist events in the city are posted near the refrigerator. Three years ago, order discount celexa 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. Order discount celexa "I wanted to know that someone out there was watching so our country wasn't torn apart by unpatriotic voices, order discount celexa" she said. But for most of Debbie's life, order discount celexa politics were not important. Order discount celexa One of five siblings, order discount celexa she grew up in the Bedford Park neighborhood in the Bronx and attended Walton High School. Order discount celexa Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked as an electrician. Debbie went to the City College School of Architecture, order discount celexa where she first met her future husband, order discount celexa Mahmoud Bitar, order discount celexa a Palestinian-American, order discount celexa at the end of their sophomore year. Order discount celexa Mahmoud was taken with Debbie starting with the first time they met. "We talked under a tree in the rain on campus. Order discount celexa I saw her heart and fell in love, order discount celexa" Mahmoud said. When Debbie first met Mahmoud, order discount celexa she did not understand what it meant to be someone from Palestine. Order discount celexa Mahmoud was uncomfortable with his heritage, order discount celexa and he let people, order discount celexa including Debbie when they started dating, order discount celexa think he was Jewish or Italian. Order discount celexa Debbie recalls how "people said things to him like, order discount celexa 'You're not a Palestinian, order discount celexa you're too nice.'" Born in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1958, order discount celexa Mahmoud was brought up immersed in the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Order discount celexa He lived in Jericho, order discount celexa a city in the West Bank, order discount celexa 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. Order discount celexa In 1967, order discount celexa when the war broke out, order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa their parents sent them to the United States. Order discount celexa Mahmoud, order discount celexa now a US citizen, order discount celexa arrived in the country in 1977 on a student visa. After getting married in 1980 and graduating from college three years later, order discount celexa Debbie and Mahmoud had their first child, order discount celexa Joel, order discount celexa in 1986, order discount celexa and their second, order discount celexa Jenna, order discount celexa in 1992. Order discount celexa Debbie worked part-time at an architectural firm while raising their children. Mahmoud, order discount celexa who has curly hair and seems to always have a twinkle in his eye, order discount celexa speaks in calm and at times airy tones, order discount celexa a contrast to Debbie's more forward and pointed way of talking. Order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa Mahmoud rarely talked about his childhood in Palestine. "I never got a greater picture, order discount celexa it was just bad things were happening to the Palestinians, order discount celexa or at least my family that was Palestinian, order discount celexa" Jenna said. Order discount celexa "I visited there before I knew what was going on, order discount celexa for three weeks, order discount celexa with my grandparents when they were alive. Order discount celexa I lived the life they lived for a bit, order discount celexa saw the checkpoints, order discount celexa but I didn't understand." 11 September 2001 The 11 September 2001 attacks jolted Debbie's political perspective, order discount celexa and made Mahmoud more nervous about his background as a Palestinian, order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa and why someone would attack us, order discount celexa" Debbie said. But Debbie and Mahmoud rarely discussed post-11 September politics. "We didn't discuss it, order discount celexa I just listened. Order discount celexa Debbie's a leader by nature, order discount celexa so she always led with the remote control, order discount celexa" Mahmoud recalled. Order discount celexa "She had the remote control with her so she would pick the information, order discount celexa and I would retreat when I had really had enough of it." Joel was apathetic about politics at the time, order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa though, order discount celexa as her trust in the government slipped when the US did not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. However, order discount celexa a series of events in 2008 would bring politics back into the family's life in a prominent way, order discount celexa and they have not turned back since. Injustice and transformation Debbie's family started attending the Redeemer Presbyterian Church almost twenty years ago. Order discount celexa While they were initially drawn to the church, order discount celexa which met at Hunter College, order discount celexa by a smart and interesting pastor, order discount celexa over the years the congregation became a second family for all of them. However, order discount celexa they were forced to leave this community in March 2008 after Mahmoud, order discount celexa who worked at the church on Sundays, order discount celexa was accused of stealing a CD of a church sermon. Order discount celexa He was arrested by a City University of New York security guard and charged with assaulting an officer, order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa but it happened to us, order discount celexa" Debbie recalled. Order discount celexa "I thought that we would be immune to all this, order discount celexa and that the community we were a part of would care about truth and care about justice being served, order discount celexa but they didn't care about either of those things. Order discount celexa It opened my eyes to greater injustices. Order discount celexa I used to think that people who went to jail were probably guilty. Order discount celexa But now, order discount celexa I thought, order discount celexa 'Oh my goodness! There are all these people in jail that are probably innocent.' Michael could've gone to jail, order discount celexa but he had a private lawyer. Order discount celexa What happens if you're poor?" she said, order discount celexa using the nickname that Mahmoud had used when he first came to the US. Nine months later, order discount celexa on 27 December 2008, order discount celexa Israel invaded the Gaza Strip, order discount celexa beginning what would be a devastating assault. "It was during Gaza that we started to awaken, order discount celexa" said Joel, order discount celexa 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. Order discount celexa "Killing civilians indiscriminately with US weapons, order discount celexa paid for with our tax money, order discount celexa seemed to be so hideously wrong." During what Amnesty International called "22 days of death and destruction, order discount celexa" Debbie could not avoid the Gaza conflict, order discount celexa especially because Mahmoud's brother Farid, order discount celexa who was glued to Al-Jazeera's coverage of the assault, order discount celexa was emotionally devastated. Joel, order discount celexa who was reading books like Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle: The United States, order discount celexa Israel and the Palestinians, order discount celexa also started to talk with Debbie about the detrimental impact of US foreign policy on Palestine. After those 22 days were over, order discount celexa Debbie started going to lectures and protests about the conflict and soon found herself enmeshed in the world of Palestine solidarity activism. Order discount celexa Although described as the "leader" of the household, order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa" Mahmoud said. Order discount celexa "Our breath is being taken out of us. Order discount celexa I felt an urgency to start having a voice." In the last two years, order discount celexa the household has been transformed. Order discount celexa Jenna described how sometimes, order discount celexa before she goes to sleep, order discount celexa Debbie will run into her room and "just read me books out loud, order discount celexa" including passages from the work of Chris Hedges and Michael Parenti. Order discount celexa "She'll come and say, order discount celexa 'I have to read you this passage, order discount celexa it's so good' and it'll be something sad and depressing, order discount celexa" Jenna said, order discount celexa laughing. These days, order discount celexa it is nearly impossible to miss Debbie and members of her family at activist events related to Palestine. Order discount celexa The actions they frequent include protesting with Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, order discount celexa in the group's campaign against Lev Leviev. Order discount celexa An Israeli billionaire who owns a jewelry store in Manhattan, order discount celexa Leviev is involved with companies that invest in and construct illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. "She's really knowledgeable. Order discount celexa She has really educated herself on Palestine, order discount celexa" says Helen Schiff, order discount celexa a New York-based activist who has become close friends with Debbie over the past two years. Order discount celexa "She has a voracious mind, order discount celexa and she's very, order discount celexa very smart." However, order discount celexa her transition into political activism has not come without a cost for Debbie and her family. Order discount celexa Her passion for politics has "caused a lot of stress on our relationship, order discount celexa" said Mahmoud. Order discount celexa "There's always a cost to anything, order discount celexa and it's drawing from our reservoir." Some of her friends worry she is on the "wrong political track." One friend, order discount celexa Debbie said, order discount celexa told her, order discount celexa "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, order discount celexa and it's a harder way to live. Order discount celexa Most people that I know would not want that -- they would want a pretty status quo type of life, order discount celexa" Debbie said. While some of Debbie's friends avoid discussing Mideast politics with her, order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa a political and social educational center on Manhattan's west side. Order discount celexa Her brother, order discount celexa a Democrat and strong supporter of Barack Obama, order discount celexa said he was "shocked" by the realities of the situation in Gaza. But for Debbie, order discount celexa knowledge is just the first step of many -- she helped raise money for students participating in the Gaza Freedom March in 2009, order discount celexa 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, order discount celexa Debbie plans to continue her part-time job, order discount celexa as well as her involvement in the Palestine solidarity movement. "It is essential that the movement continue to grow. Order discount celexa Hopefully, order discount celexa in this economic climate, order discount celexa Americans will decide that there are better uses for their money besides supporting unending wars that will fuel terrorism, order discount celexa not end it, order discount celexa" Debbie said. She used to think individuals could not change anything in the world. Order discount celexa And she still thinks that. "Over a long time you can change [the world], order discount celexa but personally, order discount celexa me? Coming along and changing anything, order discount celexa it's unlikely, order discount celexa" Debbie said. "But I can have a part ... Order discount celexa I want to change things badly, order discount celexa but that's not even the thing that motivates me any longer, order discount celexa" she said. Order discount celexa "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, order discount celexa journalist and blogger based in New York City. Order discount celexa He is a reporter for the Indypendent, order discount celexa and a frequent contributor to Mondoweiss. Order discount celexa His articles have also appeared in Common Dreams, order discount celexa Red Pepper (UK), order discount celexa and Palestine Chronicle. Order discount celexa Original article can be found at: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11349.shtml